Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Real Husbands Don't Make Sitcoms

Recently a divorced father I know posted a Facebook plea to the women in his life to consider the tremendous importance of their role as mothers and to devote their time to being full-time mothers to their children.  While I wholeheartedly agree with this young man about the relative importance of being a mother over a whatever contributions could be made through a career, this man is overlooking a couple of very important ingredients that would enable a woman to make the life-changing (for her and her children) decision to be a full-time mother instead of holding down a job or pursuing a career.

With his post, he was hoping to excite the first ingredient, the understanding and belief in the overarching importance of the all-consuming job of being a full-time mother.  However, he was ignoring another, equally essential ingredient.

For any woman to even consider being a full-time mother, she must have what we call in the investing world, financial independence.  Robert Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, defines  financial independence as having enough non-earned income coming in so that your bills will get paid even if you aren’t pulling in a paycheck.  To be clear, earned income is what you get when you trade your time for someone else's money - as you do when you work for an employer, or run your own business.  So, non-earned income (also known as passive income), is money that comes in without you having to invest your time, hour for hour, to get dollar for dollar.

For a woman who wants to be a full-time mother, this usually means having a husband who she can count on to earn enough money, and be responsible enough with it, to pay their household bills, without relying upon a paycheck from the woman to make the ends meet each month.

So, to that divorced father who so eloquently implores women to forego the workplace and devote themselves to raising their children on a full-time basis, I offer a counter challenge.

Be a real husband and fulfill your moral and financial obligations to your wife and children without complaint or evasion and without surrender.

The world of entertainment today offers plenty of screwed up versions of husbands and fathers.  Sitcoms regularly denigrate men in all their roles, most especially those that are most important as husbands and fathers.  They typically portray the husband and father as clueless and inept; barely tolerable and totally unworthy of his brilliant wife and daughters.  His sons are shown as destined for a similar level of mental torpidity.  In contrast with the sitcoms, dramas portray the dedicated husband and father just long enough to shock us with the revelation that he is actually a controlling, abusive monster who has betrayed all the fundamental moral obligations he has to his wife and family.

Real men, real husbands and real fathers don't make good fodder for sitcoms and dramas. A real man works hard and dedicates his efforts and energies to his family.  He is faithful to his marriage vows and doesn't abuse either his wife or his children.  He goes home after work, because that is where he most wants to be.  He doesn't hang out with buddies at the bar and pick up women. That doesn't make for very good comedy or drama, but it does make for a rich life.

A real man does what it takes to earn an honest living sufficient to meet his family obligations.  And, when he comes home, at the end of a long workday, that may involve working more than one job, he understands that his wife, the mother of his children has been at work since her feet hit the floor in the morning and her work day won’t end until she falls in bed that night.  So, instead of expecting his wife to wait on him, hand and foot, while she tends the children, a real man steps up to the plate.  He shrugs off his own fatigue and takes a child on his hip while he sets the table, or puts together a meal for the family.

As an employee, we expect certain things in our workplace, and if our employer fails to provide them, we agitate for change, or we change jobs.  We expect a work environment where we have the support we need, in terms of proper equipment in good repair and coworkers to get the job done well.  And, we expect to get an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.

           Should the full-time mother and wife expect and deserve any less?

           As a real man, if I want my wife to be a full-time mother, then I need to provide her with a work environment that is suitable for her obligations and needs.  One where she has the proper equipment, and in good repair to manage her tasks.  To do that requires that I provide her a home that is safe and sound with appropriate furnishings, even if I have to build them myself.  And her coworker is me.  I need to be helpful and supportive and take a load off her when I can so that she can rest, recuperate, and then get back into the fray.

                Lest you think that I am speaking of some ideal that I have conjured up, let me tell you a little bit about my wife and me.

                For more than thirty years my wife worked as a full-time mother.  She did that because she and I both believed it was critically important.  During those thirty years, I did my best to do all that I stated above.  I did all that I expect any real man to do for his wife and the mother of his children. When a husband is physically and mentally capable, If he does any less, his manhood is shrunken, and diminished (would that the thought was a literal reality - think how that would change this conversation).

                To give you an idea of what I did, so that my wife could be a full-time mother, here are some highlights.

                Before I got married (yes, the preparation to be a real man in a marriage begins before marriage), I earned a college degree.  Not that I let getting married wait for that.  My Associates Degree was awarded barely a month before we were married.

                During our early years of marriage, I worked full time during the day and took college classes at night to get a higher college degree (a Bachelors) and increase my earning potential.

    Later, I worked full time during the day for one employer, while teaching college courses, and taking college courses at night, so I could get another college degree to position me for a better job.  We have pictures, taken by my wife, of me sitting at the kitchen table, my books and computer spread out in front of me, out of reach of my infant son who was sitting on my lap enjoying some time with his Dad.

                When my children were teenagers, after a full day at work, I would give them my undivided attention to help them with school work.  Then, when they went to bed, I sat down at my computer and logged in to my online courses to complete another college degree, so that I could get a better job.

                And, because I felt it important to be at home to help my wife and be with my children, I made deliberate career choices which sometimes limited my income potential, while giving me the time my wife and I felt I needed to be there for her and my children.  For years, I worked as an internal consultant in a major corporation.  Although I earned good money, I could have earned much better if I had pursued work as an external consultant.  But being an external consultant would likely have meant 50%, 75% or more travel.  And that would have turned me into a very part-time husband and father.

                And for those who may decry that I misspent my career potential with these choices, or that my wife wasted her career potential with her choices, I say – wait and see.  The story isn’t over yet.

                Now that our children have all left home, I have taken a job as an outside consultant, jumping my income up appreciably.  And my wife goes with me so, I can still be a full-time husband.  And my wife has embarked on a career as a tax professional, learning to prepare taxes for individuals and small businesses with a nation-wide chain.  It is a career that can carry her as far as she desires, and it is portable, so when my assignment changes, she can go with me.

                On a concluding note, in this piece, I emphasized the fact that a real man sacrifices to provide for his family so that his wife has a real choice about whether she wants to be a full-time mother or not.  She doesn’t have to choose been full-time mothered while living in abject poverty versus part-time motherhood and physical comfort/security.  And, I have hinted that there is more to being a real man than just providing for the temporal needs of his wife and children.  If I were to elaborate on these latter points, I might just produce a whole book.

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Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM). Learn more about Tom Sheppard at his Author Page.

The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein. 

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