Yes, we’re talking about how to find a husband again. No, this is not a Cosmo article (but thanks to Sheryl Sandberg for enlightening us with leadership tips). And thanks, SS, for our new powerful-woman commandment: Thou shalt marry the right partner.
My husband is an at-home dad. He also happens to be the smartest person in the universe. He is hard-working, supportive, grounded, and he makes me laugh until I’m in tears. He’s what Sheryl Sandberg would ordain a “real partner.” So, I now proclaim myself super-qualified to give advice on how to land a “real” man.
Let me break it down for you. If you’re like the rest of us brainwashed-by-the-media and full-of-daddy-issues women, you might be confused about what you really want in a partner. Everything around us tells us that a man should be powerful, providing great influence and protection. He should be virile and desirable, yet have deep, life-long devotion to one woman, except he shouldn’t be too creepy-stalker about it. And he should be compassionate, supportive and loving, but not too much, because nobody respects a weak man.
This man does not exist. In fact, I’m pretty certain my husband is the closest embodiment of this man-perfection. He is an almost unbreakable force of integrity. Yet, I see up-close how hard it is for him. The jokes: “At some point, you’re just unemployed.” The comments: “You’re so lucky to have it so easy.” The judgment in the eyes of new friends or coworkers upon answering that dreaded question, “What do you do?” The assumptions that he’s a bumbling, awkward babysitter who plays video games all day while the kids sit in their feces waiting for mommy to come home and take care of everything. And all of the subtle things, like when people turn to me on issues of child rearing and housekeeping.
But the worst part must be my own contribution to making it so difficult for him -- the effects of my frustration at being perceived as a bad mother, wife and woman because I make my husband sacrifice for our children. I left him at home to handle society's disdain for a man who does “the most important job in the world.”
I have the advantage/disadvantage of living in the extreme -- a complete swap of gender roles -- which has allowed me to see how we treat a man who doesn’t fit nicely within our traditional male role. The rejection looks very similar to how we treat a woman in power. Harsh. And while women have support systems to help us navigate through the injustice, it’s taboo for him to even complain about it.
Men want it all, just like women -- balance, power, love. Though, former Obama administration official Anne-Marie Slaughter claims it's impossible to have it all. I suppose that depends on what “having it all” means to you. Or, rather, what you tell yourself it means.
We’re all just people, flawed and vulnerable. There are no steps that guarantee success. You will not find your supportive partner through an assessment quiz or top-ten tips. If you want society to respect and accept you as a powerful woman, then show some respect for mankind. Do unto men.
If we all do this on the count of three, maybe we can melt some resentment on both sides, finally have access to that seat at the boardroom table and arrive home in time for dinner with the family. Ready, one, two, three!
*The opinions expressed here represent my own and are not necessarily those of my employer or clients.