This is hard for me to write. Not because I don't find deep truth in it, not because I don't think it needs to be said, but because it's a strikes a very real cord with people. We carry so much baggage from the families we grew up with and maybe even the families we create and I'm not here to speak lightly about that. But I do want to speak some life into the sacred space of parenthood in a way that our culture kind of stopped doing.
Somehow it seems to have become the norm for women to take sole ownership of raising children. Maybe it's stems from past generations, from societal expectations, from gender specific roles pushed onto us as children. The source is complicated and I know carries a lot of weighty emotions but the reality still stands. Since having a child myself, I have heard mothers speak over and over again about their husband's inadequacy and their all-encompassing role as a mother.
It's my body.
It's my baby.
It's my pregnancy.
I'm the one responsible for nursing.
What does he know about raising kids, he's a guy."
If you think it's bad for you, you have NO IDEA what she must be going through!
That last one is the famous one-liner, right? We love to dish this one out to new fathers who's wives just accomplished the incredible feat of giving birth.
// I want to say before I continue that the structure of family and our past experiences or beliefs about what that looks like are all huge topics. I am in no way here to shame, judge, or make off the cuff comments that are harmful. All I am here to say, really, is that we need dads! Fatherhood is so important! Men can be incredible caretakers and leaders of children. Okay? Okay. Let's continue. //
Here is the reality: if we continue to exclude men from the parenthood experience, then we should continue to expect their absence. I immediately felt needed in the motherhood role. Being pregnant and nourishing our baby is something only my body could do. I really was responsible for the feeding. My body really was the one that experienced the pregnancy. It really did feel like my baby. And she was. But she was also very much his.
I see my husband with that little girl and can't think of a better example of the gospel; just buckets of grace and love poured out all over the place. I see him reading stories, playing games, running around the yard, having the hard conversations, and teaching her what it means to be a respectful and loving human being. The relationship he has with our daughter will never be one I can relate to as her mother. It's unique, earned, and very much needed.
No, he will never understand what it's like to give birth. He won't ever understand how hard it is to start nursing, how painful our bodies feel after the whole ordeal, how crazy connected we feel to that little tiny human being in a very physical way. BUT we will never know how he feels watching the person he loves the most in this whole wide world be in so much pain. And what it feels like to stand on the sidelines during those first few weeks of excruciating attempts at nursing and feel completely helpless. What it must feel like for his instincts of fiercely providing and protecting his family to be in jeopardy. We won't know. And we continue to discredit those things, how will they ever feel like an integral part of the process? How will they ever want to stay equally involved?
As women, we have the opportunity to stand alongside men and encourage them in that role they have. We can help them feel needed in the process because, oh, they are so needed! I can remember very specific nights (or early mornings) where I looked at Jeremy square in the eyes and told him how much I needed him. Not necessarily to do anything or say anything -- I just needed him there. I needed his presence and his arms to hold that child when I called mercy. It's a two person gig, that's for sure. And it can totally be our job to speak that truth out loud instead of claiming the parenthood title for ourselves only.
So what do we do about that?
We stand alongside each other. We speak good things about one another. We stay on the same team and avoid making enemies out of one another because this parenthood thing is not something you can stand alone in. We uphold the role of fatherhood just as we do motherhood. We can't continue to push it away or act like it's less important.Yes, they are different. Yes, at times it feels like one bears the load more than the other. But in the end, we were created to do it together with our own strengths and in our own roles. This is family. This is the gospel being played out in a very real way. And ultimately, that's what this whole thing is really about.
// photo cred to my dear friend Clare