Monday, 26 November 2012

"I'm so glad when Daddy comes home"

This is one of my favourite songs from when I was a kid.  It talks all about the joy of Daddy coming in the door from work, climbing up on his knee, giving him a big hug.  I think when Mom is staying home with the kids and they get to see me most of the day, it's something extra special to greet Daddy coming home.

But this thought was put into my mind the other day: is Daddy just as happy to come home?

Of course he loves his family, that goes without saying, but is home a welcoming place that he is racing home to?  Or is he just dreading going from one dreary place (work) to another (home?)  Or, even worse, would he rather linger at work because of the atmosphere that awaits him when he goes home?

A friend wrote about how when she was little there was always a tidy up that happened just before Dad walked in the door, so that his welcome home would be a pleasant one.  Now, this friend does the same thing with her kids for her own husband.  She tries to have a pleasant smell (like dinner almost ready) and a peaceful calm in the air (if the kids can cooperate) and greets the man returning from the trenches of work in a way that makes home a haven and a rest from the weary world.

As I pondered on these ideas, I was first struck by how "fifties" or old fashioned it seemed.  Is this image of ushering the man into the home and into a comfortable chair, letting him put up his feet, and taking care of everything else so he can relax simply a rusty chain left over from an era of women's oppression?  Because every stay at home mother knows that it is not easy to run a home filled with babies and little children, and that the emotional, physical and mental demands on a mother are at least equal to, if not greater than, someone working outside the home.  Should we be pushing the 50/50 workshare?  A mother has been on her feet all day, and I'm sure she would love to sit down and put her feet up when her husband walks in, instead of working to please one more person.

But it's true in so many cases that even if you know you have a responsibility to fulfill (fatherhood) and that you should roll up your shirtsleeves and dig into the work, that doesn't make it any less tiring or undesirable to talk into a home where the kids are crying or fighting and a baby is being dumped into your arms and dinner isn't even started, which means someone's got to get to it, and soon.  Many husbands and fathers wouldn't dream of walking out on these tough years when the kids are small, but I bet many would admit to days when they just wish they could walk through the door and not have an infinite number of demands facing them right away.  A wife and mother making the home pleasant to walk into helps him want to come home, rather than feel it as another obligation.

I thought, perhaps, there might be a little more to it.  The word 'love' popped into my mind, and the selflessness that is necessary to feed a successful marriage.  Bustling around tidying up, cooking a favourite meal, winding the kids down - these are things I can do because I love my husband, because I want him to be happy, because I want to give him all that he needs, because I want the home I am making to be a place he loves.  No, I wouldn't do these things as a re-creation of an archaic idea of the woman having to stay at home and wait on her husband hand and foot.  I would do these things to show my deep love for someone who works hard all day.

A mother's work is never done.  There are precious few moments in the day and night when a mother is not at work, or at least on call.  And I firmly believe husbands/fathers should help at home with the children and the housework.  I don't think any man whose wife is staying home should expect to work his 8 hour job and then do nothing once he comes home.  But just as my efforts to ease his homecoming are an outpouring of my love for him, so too should his desire to help ease my workload at home.

A little effort goes a long way in this case.  Just like a stone tossed into a pond makes only a tiny splash but causes a far-reaching ripple effect, my one effort of creating a positive homecoming will likely garner help with the children while I serve dinner, a joint effort in cleaning the dishes, a peaceable agreement in handling bedtime, and often even the offer to sit down and put my own feet up while he tackles one last chore I couldn't get to.  Then my gratitude might result in giving a back rub once we sit down together to chat in the late evening.

So you see how something so easily perceived by today's modern society as a male chauvinist trap is actually pure evidence of mutual love and respect for your partner in love, marriage and family.  Sometimes it's hard to uncover something so beautiful when we are trained to assume any such action is a gender stereotype that must be abhorred without contemplation.  Instead, I will gladly embrace such an idea with what I consider to be a more mature concept of love than the instant gratification and selfish type so prevalent in our society today.

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