I’ve spent the last couple of days talking about the appropriateness of questioning people’s choice to parent or not parent. You can read the previous entries by clicking the link on the Blog Series menu to the right. There are so many off-shoots of this, and I could spend many more days going through the rest of them. Today, though, I want to talk about men.
I’m not a guy, so I don’t know what men really think about this. My husband assures me that “So, when are you going to have kids?” is not a typical staff room conversation among men. I’m not sure that he was never asked that question before we had children, but he doesn’t recall anyone prying that way. Probably some men have to field those queries, but my guess is that it’s far less common. Someone else can set the record straight on that for me if I’m wrong.
Anyway, while I’m not a big fan of “what about the men,” I think we sometimes get confused about what that means. It definitely doesn’t mean that men have no stake in important conversations about roles and expectations. I can’t understand why more men aren’t horrified at the way they’re portrayed, particularly when it comes to love, sex, marriage, and family. Why the heck aren’t you guys out there protesting having media and the church imply that you’re crazed animals or cavemen who can’t control yourselves? That would seriously piss me off.
A similar bad stereotype is that men don’t actually want kids–they have to be forced into it by their wives. And if they don’t have wives, so much the worse for them, because then they will obviously never, ever want to have kids. Apparently, men are too self-unaware (or self-absorbed, maybe? I dunno) to know whether they want to be dads.
This is genuinely a thing I remember being told by other Christian women. I first heard it in college, which makes very little sense to me. I mean, no kidding that an eighteen-year-old college student doesn’t want kids right then and doesn’t know if he ever wants them. I don’t think I knew at that age, despite the fact that I’m supposed to be in possession of a biological
time-bomb clock. I heard it again after I was married, and I distinctly recall finding out that some women purposefully did things to mess up their birth control so they’d get “accidentally” pregnant and their men would have to learn to be dads.
Of course, this totally makes sense, because men can’t be nurturing the way women can, right? It’s God’s design! Women obviously all want to have babies and are natural caregivers (whoever wrote that has never met me). Without us, men would have no clue at all what to do with a baby. Left to their own devices, they would diaper the wrong end or feed the kids Jell-o and ice cream for dinner or ignore them while they hit each other in the head with sticks. That’s why when we women go out and leave the kids home, it’s perfectly okay to refer to our husbands as “babysitters” for our kids. They’re not really parenting, they’re just watching the kids. If we left them to it for too long, they would revert to being irresponsible people who let the children run wild. We must be sure to keep a close eye on things.
Maybe this is what people worry about if two men are parenting together.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen this happen. When I’m out at rehearsal, I come home to a clean house and two sleeping children (and sometimes a sleeping husband). Guess what? He actually knows how to take care of things because he’s an adult. Shocking, I know, but it’s true. I don’t feel like I’m leaving the kids with a babysitter; I feel like I’m leaving them with their other parent–probably because I am.
I understand the issues involved when there’s an unintended pregnancy or a divorce/break-up in which a man needs to take responsibility for the child or children he’s fathered. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean the knowledge, before there are any children involved at all, that a man does or does not want to have any.
Men really do know. Those who do want to be dads may not feel ready yet or may have their own set of anxieties about fatherhood, some of which are similar and some of which are different from women’s feelings. Those who don’t want to parent are just as clear as women who don’t want children. They have their own reasons, and it’s not as simple as “I’d rather have a career” any more than women’s reasons can be reduced to a single factor.
Think about it. If it were really just about men who didn’t want to “grow up” (as though being a parent magically makes one an adult), would you honestly want to have a baby with someone like that? Or adopt a child? I know I wouldn’t.
Not being a man, I don’t know that there’s more I can say about this other than wishing culture wouldn’t portray child-free men as immature or self-centered. I guess the only other piece of advice I have is that if you don’t want to be a dad, then make sure you’re having that conversation with potential partners–not only to find out if you’re on the same page but to actively take steps to prevent parenthood (if you’re straight-cis, that is). If there is any chance that you and your spouse/partner could get pregnant, don’t just leave it up to her to do all the preventive measures. Oh, and make sure you’re using the condoms correctly, folks. User error is the largest cause of failure–when used right, they’re one of the most effective methods of birth control available. (The myths spread by the Abstinence Police make me ragey.)
Please don’t feel obligated, but I would love to hear from some men on this topic. As a rule, I think men are pretty awesome (especially my husband), and I like learning about how men think about these things. You don’t have to share your personal story, but I’m definitely interested in your thoughts about the cultural view of men, particularly when it comes to relationships and family.
Hey, thanks for coming along for the ride during this series. Tomorrow, I’m rounding up my favorite (and not-so-favorite) posts of the week. If you’ve read something interesting or want to have yours included, shoot me a message through my contact form or leave me a comment.