by Archie Wortham –show me more like this
“You don’t want to get married just because you need a mother,” Cheryl Gorhum tells her students as she teaches them about home economics in a class that’s no longer called that.
It’s amazing how things change over the years. My wife and I wonder about the women our boys one day will marry, as we both agree that neither of them should expect their wives to do what men used to think was a wife’s duty: cook, clean, and take care of the children. Most men today, are no longer the Neanderthal thinkers who think women should be kept ‘barefoot and pregnant.’ Thank God, we’ve gotten away from those Stone Age ideas, though there are some who might relish the day when children were seen and not heard, and women were stay-at-home mothers. Nevertheless, times change, and unless we change, things won’t be different!
Well, when what it meant to be a mother changed, so did what it meant to be a father change. Everyday I learn how inadequately society prepared me for the rigors of fatherhood. It was as if I was put on a battlefield with nothing but my bare hands to face a multi-faced, multi-faceted societal enemy who was just waiting to eat me alive.
Today’s society expects men to be more than breadwinners and wives expect men to be more intimate partners, and more involved in the parenting children. Yet, no one has indicated who is going to teach these skills, or where these skills will be taught? It’s a real problem. A problem Lewis Epstein addresses in his book “Coaching For Fatherhood,” as he states “the problem many men have in adapting to the pressures of being husbands and parents is rooted in the love and nurturing they did or did not receive in their family and in their relationship with their own fathers.”
So if we know the problem, can we correct it? Yes, but it ain’t easy! Especially when the very society that damns us for being ineffective, shirks its responsibility to help men get where society wants men to be. It’s malignant the way men are sometimes treated as second-class citizen when we go to our children’s schools. This cancerous indifference also surfaces when we are seen doing something that might be somewhat construed as womanly, or unmanly, like taking the children to the doctor or taking them to the park without their mother. It’s as if we’re not supposed to do these things, yet on the other hand, men are pried and poked with innuendos about, when are you going to come off your high horse and be a real man by being a real parent. What about a little help here? We try, and would be better at it, if some of the gate-keeping that’s done at home and at school was modified.
If we are not allowed to change, how can we change? So rather than fight the gate-keepers, many men just give up. These men decide they’ll just marry someone who can continue to a mother, and let her do all the things their mother did. And if a man happens to marry a woman who is sensible? [I said sensible, not liberated.] He winds up looking like a dunce! He wonders how he got so ignorant so soon, when he doesn’t know how to boil water without it scorching? He has no concept that color clothes are washed separately from whites, or his idea of a home cooked meal is popcorn, ice cream or a frozen pizza. Not a good start!
So how is the pattern broken? Fathers break it, especially fathers with sons. We set examples. We learn to cook, if we don’t know. We vacuum, wash dishes, separate and wash clothes, even iron them. We encourage our sons to not only help, we encourage them to take classes that will prepare them to be better men, like the ‘Family and Consumer Science’ course Cheryl teaches, or is taught at Reagan High School
In the past, fathers have constantly emphasized to their sons to think about what they are going to be when they grow up or what job they will have to support their families. We often forget that part of that support is inside the house! Simply because our fathers didn’t provide us an in-home model, doesn’t mean we can’t do that! Dads, encourage your sons to be self-sufficient and they’ll probably surprise you with the daughter-in-law you help them pick. If we teach our sons right, encourage them properly, they won’t feel compelled to marry a mother, rather they’ll look for a partner they can call ‘wife.’