I have always wondered about the role of husband and wife as parents.
How does one decide if they are taking equal responsibility of the child? That they are both contributing equally to run the family? How do we know that both are loving the child equally and nurturing him or her equally? How do we equate the capacity to earn money outside home with the capacity to be a homemaker without pay? How do we equate the work when the husband and wife both are working outside the home? How do we equate the work if the homemaker has a nanny to help him/her?
This is one of the many perplexing questions I have in my mind and like always I turn to nature to guide me for answers… I find that the answers are always found in the undisturbed rhythm of nature which God has designed himself…
So I thought of studying the animal at the top of the food chain, the lions. What I found is very interesting and does give us some BIG answers.
You might know that the male lions’ role is to defend their territory, be it open woodland or shrub, through urinating to mark the area, roaring to promote fear and literally chasing off any intruders. They protect their pride which consists of 75% female lions and cubs from other male lions who are interested in killing the head of the pride and taking over the pride themselves. They also dominate and promote fear in other animals, such as cheetahs and leopards, so that they do not prey at the same time that lions do.
Female Lions are the prime hunters and work together to prey. They do this by splitting into groups. One group chases the animals to a certain area whilst another group waits to ambush the victims. Their technique and skill is highly praised for its complexity and precision. Each lion begins to develop their own unique role that’s specific to contributing to the success of killing the intended prey. They also nurture and bring up their cubs and teach them life skills.
So do you think that the male and female lions are equally contributing parents ? The female lion does most of the hunting while the male lion gets to rest for upto 20 hours a day ! And to top it all the male lions get to eat first after the hunt !! Would you call this equality ?? Would you even call this a fair division of work ?? Maybe not until you understand why this happens?
Nature works on the concept of ‘STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES’ rather than equality of work!! This is where our answer lies too. Allow me to explain.
- The lion has a distinctive mane which is beneficial in showing their dominance and fitness. But this strength becomes their weakness when they go out to hunt as the mane is conspicuous and can give them away. At the same time the female bodies are built for hunting as they are more agile than the male lions.
- The other reason for the males not going out hunting often is that the main role of the male is to protect the pride – he must conserve his strength for fighting off other male lions who will often try to overthrow him in order to gain access to the females and resources (even at times eating young cubs). Again the reason the male lion protects the pride is not because he is a ‘male’ but because his body is bigger than a female and built for combat. Their mane even protects them from bites on the neck!
- However, male lions do sometimes join in on a hunt. They will join the females sometimes, particularly when prey being hunted is quite large or strong such as buffalo. So when the situation needs the male lions, they help out instead of saying ‘Its not my job’ ! or ‘Hey, now I am doing more work’ !!
What’s wrong with humans?
If God can give lions specific strengths and weaknesses to automatically know their parenting roles, don’t you think he would have done the same with us? After all, we are also part of nature. Only difference is that we are ‘more intelligent’, ‘more lazy’ and ‘more out of sync with our inner self’ .
Many of us are doing things because someone else is doing it or it’s expected of us by our society or we are afraid of judgement and want to play by the rules of ‘gender’. For e.g. a husband who refuses to do housework for fear of being seen as ‘domesticated’ and a wife who refuses to be a just a home maker at the fear of being seen as ‘unintelligent’ or ‘incapable of earning money’ !
So how do we bring equality in parenting ? The truth is that we CANNOT bring equality in parenting as no two humans are made equal by god to be able to contribute equally to anything let alone parenting!! Even in a team of architects, in spite of having the same education and job experience, their contribution to a project can never be equal!
But what we CAN bring is ‘PEACE’ to parenting. These are some of the ways we can do so!
- Stop calling each other husband and wife ! I find that there is a lot of baggage associated with these terms! There are heavy-duty stereotypes associated with these terms and somewhere there is a dominance of the term husband over the wife ! The new term is ‘PARTNER’ and I love this term. It has a very positive aura to it. Immediately you feel like you have a friend and a teammate when you say ‘partner’! Also, it is more inclusive of gay and lesbian partners as well.
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Opposites attract for a reason. The reason is that between the two of you, you have enough strengths and weaknesses to survive parenting ! Just ‘kidding’ ! But on a serious note, it almost always so happens that if one of you hates loading the dishwasher, the other will most probably like doing it and so on and so forth! So understand your own likes and dislikes and divide the work accordingly! So the career minded person gets to go out and earn while the more home oriented person gets to take care of the house irrespective of the gender! And if both are earning then divide the remaining work based on strengths and weaknesses again!
- Understand the other person’s goals/ wishes in life and try to help them achieve it! Now that you are a team, understand your partner’s goals . For e.g. your partner might want to scale huge heights at her career which requires her to put in long hours at work or travel. You have a choice here. Either you can put up your hands and say ‘Hey you want to be successful, so you figure out a live-in nanny to take care of the kids. I have my own work to do!’ or you could say ‘Honey , I understand that it’s important for you to be promoted and I am part of your team. Don’t worry about the kids. I will be home by five every day to take care of them and offer them extra kisses on your behalf till you return. ’ In the first scenario, you are individualistic and easily replaceable by a nanny while in the second you offer a peace of mind to your partner which makes him/her fall deeper in love with you and you become an indispensable part of her life !
- Get on the same page ! A major cause of conflict between parents can be different parenting styles. Discuss your parenting styles and if possible attend some parenting workshops together either online or offline to match your parenting style. The children get the same message and it saves your energy when you agree with each other!
- If you are unhappy, Talk ! When we are unhappy about the way our life is going, it’s important to talk to our partners just like you would discuss with your friends or your parents or with God ! Talk to them and find a solution together! For e.g. one of my friends was finding it hard to be a working mother and wanted to quit her job. She discussed it with her partner and they came up with a solution together to manage home on single salary. She could have just announced to her partner that ‘I am quitting my job and now you need to earn more’ but she chose to involve him in her decision-making !
- Respect a home maker. If you or your partner is a home maker, give them respect for it. Its also a very complicated job they are doing . Only difference is that there is no salary involved in it. I find that a homemaker’s job is more often than not discounted by the partner, by the society and many times by the homemaker himself/ herself. This brings in conflicts in parenting as the children also start discounting the home maker. It becomes a downward spiral. To quote Dee Dee Myers – “I am endlessly fascinated that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t. Hey, it made me a better leader: you have to take a lot of people’s needs into account; you have to look down the road. Trying to negotiate getting a couple of kids to watch the same TV show requires serious diplomacy”!!
- Continue the dates ! Hire a baby sitter or have family come in to allow you private time with each other… Its worth all the money because its so much fun to be a couple again after you have become a family !
Hope these help to add some Peace to your Parenting with your Partner! What do you do for the same? Do write in the comments section. Will love to know what you think .
Warm Regards !