Everybody knows them.
The men that bring their laundry home for their mom to wash—when they’re 30. The men that walk into the house starving and ask, “What’s for dinner?” These men come home from work to a child’s mess on the floor and ask, “What have you been doing all day?” The men that eat and drink everything that you cook and pour them and proceed to leave dishes all over the house with the unquestionable expectation that you will clean it all up. And you do.
I am not a psychologist, so this is simply a rambling of my own thoughts. I’ve been a member of many an online moms group. And I read the posts and comments. (OH, the comments!) Those men described above are a very common breed—and their expectations were set when these men were boys.
Helicopter mom with her cape.
This mom never questions laundry brought home to wash. Because she never taught him to use a washing machine. These moms work full-time outside the home and still do all of the housework and childrearing because the culture (STILL) has not shifted yet to considering the needs of women entering the workforce at full speed. She has dinner on the table every night after work for her family, clothes out and ready for the next day, lunch bags packed. The moms that follow behind partner and child, cleaning behind them constantly without a peep. They’re everywhere and do everything. (They must have a cape somewhere.) Part of me envies these moms for their patience and unselfish sacrifice to their families.
But is it healthy?
I see you, mom, sneaking a smoke in your car with it hanging out the cracked window so nobody smells it. I see you, mom, barely keeping your head above water, so you drown yourself in wine after everybody goes to bed. I see you, mom, overweight and sick because you never seem to have the time to care of yourself. I see you, mom, throwing back caffeine at the kitchen counter in the morning just to get through the day.
And not only is it unhealthy for mom, it breeds a certain type of man. The “man-boy” – the most discussed topic on internet moms groups — probably even more so than the children that they are on there to talk about. The man-boy has certain expectations based on the actions of his own mom. Women cook, clean, work, feed babies, change diapers, wash laundry, dry laundry, fold clothes, grocery shop, make sure everyone has clothes that fit, pay the bills, and should never, under any circumstance, whine or complain about it. Because the man works and provides more money for the family. And that’s enough, right?
She doesn’t need time to herself. His mother never did, right?! So why would his wife? Women don’t need to follow their dreams. His mother never did, so why would his wife? Women don’t need a shower without a child at their feet either. I mean, his mother never did, so why would his wife? Women don’t need to be taken care of either, of course. Because his mother never did, so why would his wife?
Promises to my sons:
I hereby solemnly swear to:
Teach you how to clean up after yourself.
As soon as you are able, you will be able to show a washing machine and dryer who’s boss. I know you’re only 1 and 2 right now, but as soon as I think you could push the buttons without breaking the dryer, you will know what setting to press, and you will be an active participant in the laundry. When you can reach the sink, your dishes will go into it to rinse, and directly into the dishwasher. If the trash can is full and your muscles are big and strong, you will pull the bag out, tie it up, and carry it out to the street. When you can handle the weight of him, you will take the dog on walks.
Teach you financial responsibility.
When you are old enough to understand numbers, I will make you an active participant in our family budget. This will help you understand why you can’t have the PlayStation until Christmas – it’s not in the budget this month. I will teach you how to write checks, pay bills, and send mail. And you will come with me when I file our family’s taxes. You will earn your money, and I will teach you how to save and spend wisely.
Take care of myself.
I want to be an example to you. I will run that Tough Mudder while you’re at nana and grandpas without guilt — and tell you all about it when I get back. “Mommy ran a long race that was hard, but she finished and feels great!” I will continue to run, lift weights, practice yoga, and eat healthy. Because I know you are watching me and noticing my behaviors. Even if this means spending 3 less hours a week with you, it is worth it for you to witness a wife and mother taking control of her health and well-being.
Follow my dreams.
I will continue to have a career because I love what I do. Writing articles and books continues to serve as my outlet. I will travel. I will bring you on trips with me to see parts of the world that I’m dying to see. Playing piano, learning new music, and playing for others continue because I love it. I will have two pianos, so you can sit next to me and play too. I will run a 5K in less than 24 minutes again just like I did in high school, and you can run the kid’s fun run beside me. Bearing the title of “Mommy” does not have to mean you set your dreams aside and become a slave to all of your family’s needs.
Ask for a helping hand when I need it.
There is a pressure to wear the cape, because other women do it and appear so successful at it… and happy about it. And all you see is their Instagram-filtered, perfect life and assume that it’s possible to do everything and not snap. I need to show you that a woman asking for help is normal – for the sake of your future wife. She will not be able to do it all, and I must raise men that are active participants in family life and that expect to bear responsibilities that our fathers and grandfathers may not have borne. This isn’t 1950 anymore, and a man who comes home from work, eats dinner, reclines with a glass of whiskey and football, and checks out should absolutely not be an expectation.
To follow through with the promises I have just made to my sons will take deliberate effort. In the end, the hope is that I will have raised boys that become men who appreciate the women in their life — not just with words, but with measured action. It is so easy for a man to blurt out, “You’re the best. I don’t know what I would do without you.” But to take careful actions carried out with joy that ease the burden of a mother? Not as easy. My hope is to raise men that have a respect for their partner’s needs as much as their own. Men that expect responsibility as a part of life — and follow through with delight.
Take off your cape
Fellow mom: do all of the future wives and mommies a favor, and take off your cape. Our daughters will thank us one day.