Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Are Men Obsolete?

I recently came across this debate that men are obsolete in our 21st century. I did not listen to the debate because reading the description made my blood boil and stomach hurt. I have four sons: ages 14, 12, 10, and 4 and truly, I worry about the world they are facing as they hurtle towards adulthood. I worry about the decline of men accepting responsibility and stepping up as husbands and fathers in our current society. But I also have begun to see that men aren't stepping up because they have no incentive to do so.

In this opinion piece by Susanne Venker, she lists a few reasons why women still need husbands. The main thrust of her argument is that when men provide financially then women are able to have more flexibility and have children. I agree that she is right and providing IS invaluable and really, really important. But it seems a little shallow as well. Most husbands have much more to offer their wives and children than a paycheck. And if a paycheck were all that were needed for success and happiness for a family, then the women who asserted that men are obsolete are actually right.

So here are a few problems I have with both pieces.

1) The women debating the value of men in our society today are coming from a position of privilege in both education and work. While it is certainly true that more and more women have access to better education and thus get better jobs, that still doesn't mean that the majority of women are in this position. American Progress has a piece about the reality of women in poverty.  I was startled to read that 51 % of women living in poverty are single without dependent children. Of course the piece advocates wage equality and other measures. What they didn't talk about was how marriage affects poverty. Only 12% of women living in poverty are actually married. This fact sheet discusses how marriage affects poverty for women and children.

2) Susanne Venker pretty much ignores the emotional and spiritual effects of marriage on men and women. Instead of citing studies and articles, I want to talk about what marriage has done for me. My husband is a very involved father and husband. He helps with housework and is directly involved with parenting.

 Last week we were snowed in and he spent the day helping me re-arrange furniture in our bedroom, putting away the Christmas decorations and getting rid of the tree, and using the snow-blower to clear our driveway. He did most of the work for the first two things and all of the work for the third. I could have done those things myself, but at 8 1/2 months pregnant, it would have been difficult and painful. Even when I'm not pregnant, those things would have been hard. His physical strength is a gift and one that I am grateful for.

 I take on the traditional role of caring for our home, cooking most of the meals, helping the kids with homework, and doing the bulk of the parenting when he is at work. Together we work together toward common goals for our family and future. It is a very cooperative endeavor that brings me a lot of joy. I'm grateful for his thoughts and point of view when grappling with problems. I appreciate that we can laugh together about the antics of our children. I am grateful that he steps forward to lend a hand when I am at the end of my rope.

Above all, he is my best friend and my partner. We used to be two very individual people, but we have grown together to form a unit. Without him, I don't feel whole. I am not ashamed to say that. I believe that he would say the same about me.

3) Fathers are not obsolete. My kids adore their dad. He plays boardgames with them for hours. He takes them sledding. He teases them and rolls around on the floor with them. He teaches them how to build and do things. He encourages them how to work. He shows them how a man is supposed to treat a woman. Every single one of my boys talks about being a father and looks forward to parenthood, because they see their dad loves being their dad. They want to be like him. My daughter loves her dad and knows what kind of man she wants to marry because she has such a good example.

Make no mistake about it, a dad who loves his children and believes in them makes a difference for a lifetime. My husband has that kind of dad. I have that kind of dad.  Dads are not replaceable. I have friends whose fathers abandoned them and it is a hurt and loss that never goes away.

4) Remember we have a generation of boys growing up that are being told that all their masculine qualities are bad and that they should be repressed. I don't favor a return of telling girls that they aren't capable, but why are we doing that to our boys now? Do we really want boys to grow up like many of the men today--the ones who don't work, have children out of wedlock without taking responsibility, the ones who quit their education? I don't. Boys who grow up hearing that they have value and a role in life are more likely to work toward that end. Boys who have dads who love them and support them are going to be more likely to want to become men of worth and value.

5) I want my daughter to be able to choose from a good selection of good young men. I want her to be able to find a man who will want to cherish her and become a responsible husband and father. How is that going to happen if we don't encourage our boys today?


Thoughts on Moses 1

I'm excited to be studying the Old Testament in Sunday School this year. Actually, I'm just excited to be at Sunday School this year, period---as I have been in Primary for over a decade.

Last Sunday our teacher pointed out that the first chapter in Moses was originally in the Old Testament but that it was removed. He asked us to think about what it contains that Satan wouldn't want to be in the Bible.

There were lots of comments and good ideas shared. I had a couple thoughts that I didn't get to share in class because time was limited.

1) The Adversary has managed to get people to believe that God doesn't have a body and is unfair and unjust. In other words, he has helped the world believe in a God that more resembles himself (Satan) than God.

2) Bodies are really, really important and those who rejected God's plan don't ever get to have a body. So Satan and his followers have worked really hard to make those of us who followed God's plan hate our bodies. Many Christian theologies likewise believe that eternal glory means not having a body at all.
Our current media saturated society is heavily built on the idea that our bodies are terrible and encourages abuse upon abuse of our bodies.

I have just a few weeks left before I have my sixth child. Right now my body hurts. My legs and hips ache. My back aches from the heavy burden I carry in front. I don't sleep well. What I really want to do is lay on a couch all day and sleep, but I can't because of all the people who depend on me. It has been so tempting for me to despise this body and part of this process because it is so difficult and painful. But thinking about how important our bodies are, makes me so grateful that I actually get to have this experience. I am sacrificing my body in a very real way to bring a new body into this world. A body like mine--that will hopefully someday have the privilege of bearing children of her own.


Parenting Styles

I have long admired one of my friends in particular for her mothering skills. At times, I have felt the disappointing feelings of jealousy as I've watched her children grow and develop from afar, comparing my own kids and their lack of success in certain areas, and feeling like not only I, but my kids have come up short.

I've always thought that it is a pretty dangerous thing to compare parenting styles. People are different and we all face unique challenges. But that can be pretty hard to avoid, even when our intentions are good.

I recently had the opportunity to get together with that friend. Our kids had a good time together playing and spending time together. Our time together confirmed my long held belief that my friend is a great mother. But I also realized something important. My friend and I parent differently because we value different things. Our children reflect those values pretty darn well. I watched her kids do some great things, because of how she parented her children. And I watched my children do some different great things, because of the things I value and have tried to incorporate in our family. I am a pretty great mother too. I have had different challenges than my friend--health challenges in particular. My children are different too and have their own struggles. I've adapted to those challenges and we are growing together. Likewise my friend has faced her own personal challenges, along with the individual challenges her children present to her.

I am so glad that we were able to get together again. I feel great about myself and my friend, knowing that neither of us are lacking. AND we both have great kids.