Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No, I Don't Stand By That

I'm reading Susan Mitchell's book Stand by Your Man. It has short biographies of three Prime Minister wives....Sonia McMahon, Tamie Frasier, and Janette Howard.

Now I'm not a militant feminist.

I don't think women need jobs outside the home to be complete.

I wear a bra.

I like pink frilly things sometimes.

I believe in choice. If a woman wants to be a corporate executive, she should do her best to live that life. If a woman wants to stay home and raise three kids, that's lovely too.

With that in mind, I have to TRY to respect McMahon, Frasier, and Howard. They made the choice to be the kind of woman that stands behind her husband. Well, maybe I don't have to respect it. Maybe I just need to accept it....accept that other people make choices that I wouldn't make.

I'm all for spouses and partners supporting each other. I believe they should be there for each other as much as possible. But I don't believe one should stand by the other. I believe BOTH should stand beside each other. They should be mutually supportive.

I've read only half the book so far....all of Sonia McMahon, and half of Tamie Fraser. Both seem totally fine with the life they lived; making sacrifices for their political husbands. It's hard for me to relate to them.

One passage in the book has especially unnerved me. It talks about Malcolm Fraser's relationship with his children.

....Malcolm's routine did not allow him much time to enjoy them. When they were in Canberra, he left home at eight am, returned for dinner between six-thirty and eight pm. But he didn't want the children jumping all over him during this time as he wanted to have a chat with his wife, and relax.
That annoys the hell out of me. I don't care how busy you are. If you have free time, dedicate at least a portion of it to your children.

I think not doing so is both mistreatment of the children and the wife.

The children aspect is obvious. Most children love their parents. They want to spend time with them. They get sad when mom or dad is constantly saying I'm busy. We'll do it another day. Not now. Maybe tomorrow.
Yes. I know you're exhausted. I know you had a busy and stressful day at work. I understand you want to just sit in front of the TV for two hours. But first play with your children for a few minutes. It doesn't have to be a long time. Twenty-thirty minutes is probably enough.

We might say Fraser is lovely in that he wants to spend his time chatting with his wife. What a nice husband! But I don't think you can be a good husband if you're not being a good father. The two go hand in hand.

First of all, Tamie had been working all day too. She had three kids. I imagine that's very hard work. Both parents have spent the day working. Malcolm comes home and has the nerve to request peace and quiet. What does Tamie do when she is overwhelmed and wants peace and quiet?

Now I think we ALL have some days where we need our extra space. I don't think it's wrong for a parent to come home every so often and say Look. I had a horrible day. I can't deal with the kids right now. Do you mind if I shut myself in the den?

That's fine, in my opinion. But then the favor needs to be returned. If the stay-at-home parent is especially stressed, ill, or depressed, the other parent should try as hard as possible to provide that parent with a break. Perhaps the job-parent could take a day off...likely to be too difficult. But they could come home early perhaps. I think sometimes all that might entail is skipping the after-work chit-chat with coworkers.

They could at least skip the evening poker game, book club meeting, or scheduled work-out session.

I can't admire marriages in which one parent feels they are entitled to come home and have child-free relaxation. Well, I guess I'd make an exception for couples who don't actually have children. Then they DEFINITELY have the right to expect a child-free evening.

The second thing is Tamie was very supportive during her husband's career. She made sacrifices. Despite her shyness, she made speeches and did interviews. She answered lots of mail. She appeared as the woman-behind-the-man at various political events. Tami supported her husband's career.

A stay-at-home mother's career is her, not just HER children....THEIR children. To me that's reason enough for Malcolm to have spent time after work playing with the kids. He needed to support his wife's career as she supported his. Playing with the kids is a way of saying. Hey, what you do is important. I'm going to do it too.
Susan Mitchell does say that Malcolm spent time with the kids on the weekends.  Tamie arranged family picnics. That's nice, I suppose. It's better than nothing. To me it's not enough though. Well, maybe it would be okay if he or she spent a huge percentage of the weekend bonding with the children. That would make up for the neglect during the week. But if it's just one or two short games of tag during the picnic, that would not be enough for me. I feel twenty-thirty minutes of undivided attention should be the minimum one gives their kids PER day, not per week.

Maybe I'm just too picky.

I think I'd be horrible playing the part of a politician's wife.