I recently had the privilege of sitting down with my 2 of my best friends and talking into the wee hours of the night. These are the best nights of my life. We spoke of a great many things, but the biggest discussion surrounded the topic of manliness.
All three of us are young males, with fathers who worked hard and made a decent amount of money in their lives. Each of our fathers started at very different positions and places, each varied in their religious beliefs and practices, and each one was currently at a place in their own life that was unique to themselves. Despite their differences though, they all impressed the same two values into us: Security is found through financial stability; and men don’t cry.
When I told my father that I wanted to get married, he gave me a prerequisite: Make sure that I had a full-time, well-paying job to support my family.
This is not a horrible idea. In fact, it’s a criteria that I have always held for myself, and I had even told her father that I wouldn’t even be asking his permission to marry her, until I had something to present him with: a job that showed that I could take care of his daughter financially. To his credit, my future father-in-law once told me in conversation that he was okay if I didn’t have a job. He related to me that he had once couch-surfed, and known hard times, and encouraged me, saying that he knew I would do what it takes to take care of his daughter properly. That’s one conversation that I will never forget in my life.
I’m actually quitting my current job and do not plan on working for a month. I came to the conclusion that this was the best option after talking it over with my Dad. My father was much more supportive than I thought he would be, but his impression of what he wants me to do keeps bleeding through every conversation.
The other night, like many nights, was “Love you; Goodnight; Drive safe; And you’re going to miss that money.”
Inside, I thought, “I love you too; thank you; I will; and Not as much as you think I am.”
My father did well for himself. He worked hard for many years, often forsaking the time with his family, and ended up adopting many children after his retirement. That’s all well and good, but at no point in my life did I ever desire to sacrifice the time I spend with my family now, so that I could save up for time with them later. He speaks of saving money, but I want to be a good Husband, not a good financial adviser. He speaks of doing something you hate so you can do something you love, but why do those have to be exclusive? Even if the pay isn’t as good.
One of my friends is a huge theater buff. Not just movies, but acting as well. He loves theater. And despite not being the best and usually not getting lead roles, its a hobby that he enjoys.
His father called him the other night with a message. “You’re not going to like what I have to say, but you need to hear it. You need to quit theater. You need to get a job and focus on work, like I did.”
My friend was appalled. First off, he has a job, one that he enjoys. Sure, it’s not the greatest paying, but he doesn’t dread going in to work. Second, Theater is usually a night gig, so what his father is implying, among other things, is that his night-time hobby is interfering with his ability to be working during those hours. And third: that he needs to do the same thing his father did.
My friend is not his dad. His dad is divorced, lives alone in a small apartment, and still works more than full-time despite his age. My friend does not want this. He doesn’t want to sacrifice family for money, he doesn’t want to work hard towards something he has no interest in, and he doesn’t want to give up the hobby he loves in order to keep doing something he hates.
I tell you these two stories because they demonstrate a frustration both of us have. We are expected to provide for ourselves and, more importantly, for our families, but neither of us believe that financial support constitutes being a good husband or father. Anyone can pay child support, and anyone can pay alimony. If you are seeking to provide solely money for your family, then you might end up being forced to do just that after your family dissolves.
Obviously money is important. It pays the bills; its buys the food; it keeps us alive in a sense. And I will do as much as I can to provide for my family. I will take a job doing something I hate; I will sell anything that isn’t necessary to our survival; and I will ask others for help. But if I can afford to, I will do none of those things. The only time I’ve even thought about working a dreadful job was to support my wife’s writing career, so that she could hit it big and then I could become the trophy husband I’ve always wanted to be.
Which brings me to my next point: I’m expected to be the primary provider, while my wife is the primary nurturer of our children. But what am I providing? Money? What if she’s way better at making money than I am? What if she likes her job, and her job can support us? What if I am the care-giver to our children? Have I failed my duty as a husband?
Women abstaining from the work force is an antiquated idea that comes from when all the labor was hard, and miscarriages were more likely to happen. You don’t have to take those labor-intensive jobs now, and while I think that women are typically both physically and emotionally equipped to take care of the newborn child, she is not the required person to take care of the baby. Family, Wet-nurse, Nanny, and myself are all capable of raising the child. We’ve moved past the need for her to stay home. I have worked with a lady who was pregnant the whole time I worked with her and only took off two weeks from working in order to recover from giving birth. She still works and her sister takes care of the baby. I’m not saying its perfect, but I’m saying that my wife is not excluded from being the potential financial provider for our family.
So where does that leave me? What do I “provide”?
I provide my family with my time, my presence, my emotions. I provide my wife a place to be emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and sexually nourished. I’ll provide wisdom for my children and the memories of time spent with them, and not just for a select few memories. I want to be there for their whole life. And you know what? My wife can do the exact same thing.
I am a husband, and I provide. She is my wife and she provides. Our provisions are not based on what gender we are; It’s not exclusive to finances or care-giving. I’m not going to make money a priority in my life so that I can make family a priority later. Maybe some people really enjoy their jobs, and if I enjoyed my job it would be a different story, but the only reason I even work is to provide for my family. Even if I enjoyed my job, it still would not take priority over my family.
One thing that my Fiance values is security. Her definition of security is that we do not starve to death, and that we do not separate from one another. I will try my hardest make sure that she not only knows that she is secure by looking at the balance of our bank account, but I will never neglect to provide her the security of feeling that she is the only one for me and I’ll never leave her or undervalue her.
P.S.- There is a part two on men and their emotional expectations.