Recently, in front of our son and daughter, I argued with my husband about some decision he made (obviously benign, because I can’t remember what it was). Afterwards, when we both had some clarity, he illuminated the fact that going against him in front of the kids undermines both our parenting efforts. He had a point. Our kids are 9 and 6, and all we want is to be the best examples of functional adults to them. That means calibrating our words. I do have to watch what I say to my husband in front of my kids if I want to demonstrate what a healthy marriage means, and how love and respect need to flow both ways between partners.
No matter how great a place you think your relationship is, the dynamic you share with your partner changes when you have kids. I didn’t really expect things to be different after my husband and I welcomed our first baby, because we seemed to be in sync about what kind of parents we wanted to be. However, just having another person living with us (tiny and totally dependent on us for survival) affected our relationship. Any small communication issues we may have had were totally amplified with a new baby in the house. It became easy — too easy — to just take out all my new parent frustrations on my husband. By the time we had our second child, we hadn’t worked on improving any of these minor struggles in our partnership. Like many new parents, we pushed the health of our relationship to the back burner because our kids were our priorities. As a result, it our relationship started to suffer. We weren’t being that nice to each other, or nearly often enough, and I was afraid of what our kids might notice. We still loved each other, but we were getting lazy about nurturing that love. So I knew I had to make some changes, in my actions and my words.
Just as important to me as showing my kids that their dad and I still have mutual love for each other, was to demonstrate that we respected one another. I didn’t want to be seen as subservient in any way to my husband, just as my husband didn’t want to appear aloof about anything concerning our kids (outside of earning an income to provide for them). We both contributed to our household, and that was a vital part of raising our kids to be respectful respectful of their own potential, future partners. Do I need to rely on my husband’s physical strength at times? Of course. Does he call on me to stay on top of all the school stuff? Absolutely. Equal isn’t the same, it’s just dividing all the tasks of parenthood as they pertain to our unique strengths.
So here are some things I feel it’s important to say to my husband, particularly in front of my son, because I’m trying to raise my boy to be feminist AF: