Mommy and daddy wars

Since reading Dr. Helen Smith’s book I’ve decided to take a step forward from merely feeling frustrated at the anti-male sentiment in society to calling people out on it. After reading this article on a local news site I thought I had a good place to start. I can tell the author, Lyndsi Frandsen, means well, but she just can’t help bashing men. But the more I thought about it, the article doesn’t exactly reflect well on women, either.

Had this been presented simply as an advice article on how men can help their wives adjust to that difficult period following the birth of a child, there would be no problem. Frandsen’s advice is pretty good:

  • Be patient and understanding with post-partum hormonal changes.
  • Don’t wait to be asked to help out.
  • Trust your instincts so your wife can feel okay trusting hers.
  • Assume your wife needs breaks.
  • Give her reassurance she’s doing okay.
  • Feel free to get mushy over the baby.

Unfortunately, that’s not the article Frandsen wrote; that advice is less than half the article–an article is titled “How to be a good dad” when it is really about being a good husband. Had she stopped there it might have been a good article. Men might have read it, thought about it, and perhaps even applied some of it without feeling at least vaguely insulted. There are exceptions, of course, but we husbands generally want to be team players in our relationships, and a little insight on what our wives may be thinking can be appreciated.

But there is the other half of the article.

It’s in that half where the author reveals much of what is wrong with our society. Both sexes go under the bus in very short order. First to go are women:

I’ll just say it. Us women can be all sorts of cray-cray. We expect you to know how to be the perfect husband on Monday, and then figure out how to be the perfect husband on Tuesday (which consists of something completely opposite of what you did on Monday because our needs have totally changed since then.)

And then comes the part where not only do you have to be a great husband, you have to be a great daddy, too. You have to cater to our needs as a wife and a mother.

Nor are women kinder to one-another. She opens the article imagining what would happen if a man wrote an article like this on how women can be better moms:

It would all be downhill from there because a debate would break out about whether or not it’s acceptable to breastfeed in public, which would turn into an argument over natural birth vs. epidurals, and would eventually end with a full-fledged cat fight about why you should or shouldn’t vaccinate your kids.

We’ve all seen it. It’s not a flattering picture of women. The difference is that this is an article on improving men. Frandsen paints women as erratic, irrational, and demanding. But, evidently, they are not the ones that need to change. One even gets the feeling she’s a little proud of her neuroses. Certainly this is not an article on “How to be kinder to men” or “How to avoid the Mommy Wars”.

No, it’s men who need to change. Maybe. She’s even erratic there. She preludes her advice with this:

All jokes aside, you are doing a great job! Really, you are. And here are a few simple things you can do to be even more amazing than you already are …

Not too bad, though the latter sentence undermines her sincerity in the former two. But don’t worry. She sets it straight by the end:

And don’t go thinking that just because you’ve done the suggestions listed above, you are home free.

You see that? Men are doing a great job, and her advice will help you do even better, but it’s not good enough. It’ll never be good enough. But it’s expected that men should continue to try. I’m not sure why. She believes women are “cray-cray” and will never be satisfied. Would it not then be futile for men to try to please their wives? Would it not be futile to even get a wife? Indeed, men are getting married less and less, yet the women are mystified. Isn’t man’s purpose on earth to please women? After all, being a good dad is not about their interactions with their children, but how well they take care of mom. It’s all about what the “cray-cray” woman wants.

This article offers ample proof that Dr. Smith is not just whistling Dixie. There’s a double standard, and Frandsen admits it:

As I sat down to write this article, I started thinking about what would happen if a guy wrote an article for women on how to be a good mom.

Poor guy.

Can you imagine the response?

Men can expect to be castigated (if not castrated) for writing articles daring to give women advice, but there is no hypocrisy in women writing articles giving men advice. Women are allowed to criticize women (and boy do they), but men are not. If gender equality was the goal, I think women overshot. To repeat Frandsen:

And then comes the part where not only do you have to be a great husband, you have to be a great daddy, too. You have to cater to our needs as a wife and a mother.

There may be an unspoken “if” here, but these statements beg the question, “says who?” There’s no promised reciprocity. It’s your job, men. Do it. We’ll still keep you guessing, but do it anyway. No wonder men are starting to say, “No. I don’t want to.” If it was unfair fifty years ago for men to tell women their job was to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen making sure dinner is on the table the moment I get home, then it’s unfair now for women to tell men it’s their job to be great husbands and fathers (which to Frandsen is redundant) and cater to their wives’ ever-changing whims.

Now, anyone who has been in a marriage for a while should know that’s what it takes sometimes. You both have to give as well as take, but you should appreciate that your spouse is choosing to sacrifice some of their wants and needs for the greater cause of “us.” The minute it becomes either spouse’s job to make the other happy you have an unequal relationship at best, and “us” becomes not so great a cause.

Men and women face enough challenges in the world. If it’s at all beneficial to face them together perhaps we should drop the demands, the sniping, nit-picking, fault-finding, and the “how to make me happy” articles. Let’s look instead on how to treat one another with fairness, kindness, forgiveness and generosity. Instead of trying to change the other, why not start with ourselves and make sure we’re doing our best to be a good parent/spouse/sibling/child. And then, if there really is improvement to be made in our relationships, let’s find kind, respectful ways to communicate that. Love changes behavior more quickly than demands.

Oh yes, one last thing. While we’re at it, let’s banish “cray-cray” from our vocabulary ASAP, please? It sounds like baby-talk in even the best of contexts, but it’s most often an attempt to excuse and reframe unacceptable behavior as something cute and cuddly, and perhaps even “empowering”. Let’s call it what it is: bad behavior.



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2 Responses to Mommy and daddy wars

  1. Denise Stratton says:

    I’ve been wondering what “cray cray” means. I just saw it the other day and thought it must be a misspelling. I agree you can only change yourself and that’s enough work for a life time.

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