So I was researching something the other day and came across a Marie Claire article (don’t ask). Dated 15 September and titled Warning Working Moms: Your Partner Is Your Glass Ceiling, it had the following to say:
“Literally every inch of success that I’ve got is directly correlated to how much my husband was willing to be an amazing parent.”
The writer of the article, Jo Glass, was saying (in essence): many women, be they in the workforce or at home, can only rise so far as they are allowed to, in terms of the space and time made available to them by their spouses or partners. Now before you jump all over me, I am going to acknowledge that there are single moms out there working, raising children, and schooling them. And they’re doing a great job and deserve awards. What the article is saying, and what I have also seen, is that sometimes woman aren’t allowed the space, by their husbands, to truly shine. Now I think there is a lot of truth in that, although perhaps from a different angle. Let me explain with an example from my own home.
My wife runs the household. No one will dispute that. When the kids are hungry, or sore, or happy, or have lost a pen or toy, they go to mom. She seems to know what to do about those things. She organises dinners, and lunches, and makes sure everyone is comfortable. A typical conversation might go like this:
Mom: (no answer)
Kid: mom? (louder)
Mom: (no answer)
Kid: where’s mom?
Not so long ago my wife went away for little over a week. I was responsible, for one whole week, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I was responsible for bedtime stories and plasters on owwies and fishing things from under furniture. I realised that food didn’t come from cupboards (because, after all, when I open a cupboard stuff is there) but from shops. I discovered that lists are great ideas. I also had to juggle which kid got what meds in the morning and which in the evening, what type and in what quantities. I also had to work, at my job. Oh, and did I mention that by “school” I meant homeschool? Yes, both kids, one ten and one 12, are homeschooled. So that had to be fit into the daily calendar. Did I mention that I kept losing my tea? I would make a cup of tea, put it down somewhere because I got called for something, and forget it. So I would make another and lose that one. And another. At the end of the day I might find three or four cups of cold, murky tea. And let’s not even talk about finding time for the bathroom.
For some reason, my wife manages these things. And well. Very well. All of them. All the time. Without rest. And yet, at night, she will hop into bed all perky-like and still have the energy left over for a decent conversation.
Me? I was dead at the end of each day.
So reading that article made me wonder. A lot of us homeschool guys call ourselves Homeschool Dads. We’re the first to frown when a Facebook post on a homeschool group starts with the words “Hey moms, looking for some advice.” We feel compelled to answer and show our feathers in a tantalising way, as if to say “haha, homeschool dad here, watch me do my stuff and offer advice.” We make sure to mention the dad bit, hoping for a digital pat on the shoulder. I think that Affirmation may be 90% of men’s Love Languages: who knows?
And the mental road the article took me down was to ask the question: is the term Homeschool Dad more correctly Homeschool Husband? Because let’s face it: we help out with maths, or English, or history, and drive around, and email things, and help with lesson plans, and do all the things necessary to make sure that the kids are sorted and happy and don’t embarrass us in public – from an academic standpoint, anyway – when maybe the focus should be a little different. Not that those things are not important. They are. But…
If my wife’s role is naturally that of the nurturer, what is mine? Does it follow that the most important thing I can do, as a Homeschool Husband, is to ensure that Little Sally has a sharpened pencil? No, probably not. Maybe my role is a little more primal than that.
Maybe my role is to make sure that my wife – in amongst her roles as wife and mother and homeschool mom, sharpening pencils and reciting times tables and saying “no, Henry didn’t kill ALL his wives” – maybe my role is to ensure that my wife, my kids’ mother, has the space she needs to be herself, as well.
Maybe my role is to remember that, when all is said and done, homeschool-motherhood is a darned hard job. I tried it for a week and almost didn’t make it. It could be that I am not wired that way. But she is. She’s wired that way.
Maybe my role is simply to remember that she needs care and nurturing just as much as the kids do. Perhaps more so. Definitely more so. Because it’s easy to lose your own identity amongst the hustle and bustle. No, she isn’t a “homeschool mom”. She isn’t the “mother of my children.” She’s my wife. She’s my partner, best friend, and confidant. She’s my Queen. And she knows where the stuff in the cupboard comes from.
Maybe my role is to say: “I see you.” Not “I see all you do”, but “I. SEE. YOU.”
And as her King, my job is to remember that her throne is alongside mine, not below.
So the question is, for me and for the other homeschool dads out there: what can I do, today, to be a Homeschool Husband instead?