Stick to kicking, buddy

Actually, Harrison Butker, My Daughters’ Lives Have Already Started

And they’re going great.

I can remember each of my girls’ births so vividly. Some details have blurred, sure, but bringing each of them into the world, watching their crinkly newborn eyes blink blink blink as they took everything in, kissing their swirls of hair and soaking in the weight of their bodies against me — I will never forget. Those days were the very beginning of their stories, of their lives, and it’s overwhelming to think that some people — like NFL player Harrison Butker — truly believe that day and all the days that come after for my girls don’t mean much… until they’re married.

His commencement speech at Benedictine College has made the rounds over and over, everybody picking apart the most infuriating lines about his thoughts on IVF and diversity and how we used to worship bishops and now we ignore them (dude, come on). But the part I can’t seem to let go of — the part that sent me into a teary-eyed rant with friends — is his line about how his wife’s life didn’t truly begin until she married him and had his babies.

Even if we are to believe that motherhood is the end-all-be-all accomplishment for women, then how deeply offensive is Butker’s idea that our babies’ lives — the very ones we’re pouring our hearts and souls into — are absolutely pointless and without meaning until their wedding day. I mean, unless you have a son, I guess.

But I have three daughters. Three smart and funny and kind daughters. Daughters who raise money during the holidays to buy toys for our local co-op. Daughters who pray before their meals because they want to and who scream-sing to Tracy Chapman in the car with their daddy and me. Daughters who hug anyone who looks a little sad, who say “thank you” and “please,” who tell me things like, “Mommy, I love your pretty red outfit!” when I’m wearing a worn-out Falcons T-shirt to bed. “Look at that beautiful gray sky!” my 5-year-old tells me as it pours with rain outside. My 9-year-old doesn’t use her free homework pass that she’s earned in the fourth grade because she thinks it’s cheating. My 2-year-old stops to sniff every flower she sees, plucking them and handing them to anyone nearby.

But according to Butker, none of this matters. None of this counts as a life well lived.

It’s telling my 9-year-old that her piles of notebooks with meticulously drawn comics and journal doodles and 10-chapter books she’s written don’t really mean much. That her painted fingernails, her emoji conversations with her cousins, her collection of Squishmallows are all pointless. That running through our front yard, screaming as the sprinkler catches her, having a picnic in the front yard with her little sisters are nothing — that none of the big parts or little parts of her life matter until she’s married. That climbing into a tree to read a book and going into the fifth grade and making brownies all by herself isn’t living. That none of this is actually her life.

When my 5-year-old is eating her peanut butter toast in the morning and her favorite episode of Sesame Street is on and it’s pumpkin patch day at school and she looks at me and says, “Mommy, I am happy!” what should I say? She’s wrong, right? How could she possibly be happy when she hasn’t even lived yet, when she hasn’t known what it’s like to be married to a man and to take care of him and build a home for him and feed him and clothe him and have his babies?

My 2-year-old has a board book she loves and requests every night — it’s part of the Little Feminist set. It’s literally four pages, each with a historical woman and a line about her. We read it constantly, ingraining in her over and over that this is part of being a woman — succeeding and breaking glass ceilings and being braver than anyone ever thought you could be. Are these the diabolical lies Butker spoke about?

If Butker believes life starts at conception, does he also believe it goes into a holding pattern once the ball of cells becomes female, waiting for some guy to press play again when he marries her?

Butker said that his wife’s life began when she leaned into her vocation — homemaking. And as infuriated as I am, I don’t ever want my girls to think homemaking is a bad thing; humans do it every day, whether they’re married or not, whether they have children or not, whether they’re a woman or not. My 9-year-old rearranging her books and her desk is homemaking, and my 5-year-old helping put away groceries is homemaking, and my 2-year-old squealing with delight at the flowers we planted is homemaking.

Their life is homemaking. All of the big things they do like learning to handle conflict with their friends and learning to read and graduating college are homemaking and all of the little, seemingly insignificant things they do like requesting we eat by candlelight and asking for family movie nights and excitedly pulling out the craft kits on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

They’ve already leaned into their vocation, Butker. And they’re thriving.