My son has had household chores since he could walk. I’ve always tried to have age-appropriate expectations of him — a toddler chore, for example, amounted to him putting his clothes into the laundry basket– but I wanted my son to learn the value of helping out around the house early on. See, I’m not just raising a son. I’m raising someone’s future husband.
When I explained this logic to a friend, a light bulb went off inside her head. She had never thought of her own children as future grown-ups. Most of us don’t. Sure, we may ponder where our children will go to uni or what career they may someday choose, but we rarely think of our children as somebody’s future spouse. It’s equally hard to imagine that most of our children will even grow up to be somebody’s parent!
My husband is a fantastic partner and dad, but the partner part took some work. He grew up in a household where mum was responsible for every domestic responsibility. Even if she was sick, she was expected to prepare a home-cooked meal for my father-in-law’s dinner. She ironed the sheets and walked the dogs and did the laundry, and got no help from her husband.
It was her job to raise the children, too. She didn’t work out of the home so I can understand why more of the child rearing responsibilities fell on her, but kids still need their fathers. And women need to feel like they are married to a partner, not another child. I want my son to grow up to be somebody’s partner, not someone else’s chore or responsibility.
So when I look at my son, who can rarely find his shoes even when they’re on his feet, who’d rather die than pick up after himself versus his sister who thinks chores are fun, I think about what kind of man he’s going to be. I wonder what kind of partner he’ll be.
I realise he’s going to learn to be a partner to his spouse and a willing participant in raising his own children, if he sees his own parents as partners to one another. And he’ll expect to change nappies in the night, and get up early with his children, and clean the sticky spot on the floor if he is raised with the expectation that gender doesn’t define helpfulness. Boys can do laundry too. Then maybe they’ll grow up to be men who do laundry too.
I can’t guarantee that my future daughter-in-law will like me, but she will thank me. She won’t be alone in parenting or the partnership of marriage, at least not if I have anything to do with it.
More for ‘boy mums:’
- I Never Thought I’d Be a Boy Mum (& Then I Became One)
- 3 Incredibly Inspiring Boy Mums Share Their Secrets
- ‘Man Up’ & Other Things I Hope I Never Say to My Sons