Dear Lady in the Food Court (LITFC),
Thank you! While you single handedly wrangled four young kids into eating their meals, you took a moment to notice the guy at the next table, with a newborn and a busy, chatty five-year-old. You smiled at him and said "good of you to give your wife a break".
I want to apologise for what happened next. He paused, chopsticks mid air (dropping noodles on the newborn's head which I later washed out, and which is the reason the whole story came out) looked at you blankly, then continued with his meal, causing you to revert, slightly red faced, to yours.
Here's the thing: he didn't say anything, because he didn't take it as a compliment. He was so proper shocked that he could think of nothing to say in return.
Women should get to be the breadwinner; or to stay home, or try and mix both. And so should our fellas.
So thank you, LITFC, for bringing home to my husband a reality that, however many times I've tried to explain, he hasn't been able to grasp. (Like a lot of us, he needs to experience something himself before truly understanding how it feels.) Thanks for demonstrating that we're still knee deep in the belief that women stay at home and look after the kids, and men go out to work.
Double thanks because my husband had the kids while I'd gone for a pedicure; the first time I'd been without my eight week old, but I desperately wanted pretty hooves now I can SEE THEM AGAIN, and now I know I can have some precious time to myself, and everyone will be okay.
Thanks for helping him think more about how I might be feeling, because now I've admitted to him I'm struggling with a return to snap judgements. So far I've been questioned quite aggressively by complete strangers on:
Why I am bottle feeding;
If my son's clothes are organic cotton;
If he's warm and/or cool enough in the clothes I dressed him in; and
Whether my five-year-old should be touching his head.
Thanks for letting him feel, if only for one tiny moment, the outrage and sadness that some women have expectations of women with children, and they're not about going out to work. He truly thought I was overstating the situation, or that if it did happen, it would be by middle aged men, and it would be in the workplace.
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So thank you. And one final thing while I've got your ear, LITFC. Now I've said my thanks, I'd like to ask you to stop congratulating men on caring for their kids. I don't want to live in a society where we are considered lucky to have a fella who wants to. Because they could be the kind of guy who is already congratulating himself, and chalking up his brownie points. He might be a guy who loves spending time with his kids. But mainly because it does parents everywhere a disservice. Because women should get to be the breadwinner; or to stay home, or try and mix both. And so should our fellas.
Choices like those are what we've all been fighting for. So we get to be part of a truly equal partnership, where both parents do the caring, immaterial of who does the earning. And dammit, LITFC we should all be able to go and get our nails did, and know that our fella will be given a break for looking after the family.
Thanking my husband for looking after our kids? That's a no, thank you.
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