Last year I interviewed nearly fifty professional women on the topic of having "the best of both worlds" for a project I am working on. The one common denominator that influenced whether the women felt that they did, in deed, have the best of both worlds was the level of involvement from their spouse or partner. Those who felt that they were doing a good job at, and enjoying more, both their career and motherhood said that they had a man at home who was either just as involved, if not more so, on the home front.
I am blessed to have one of these men in my own life.
- He understands the value of family time: My husband shares with me a desire for regular family meals. It is uncommon in our house for us to have dinner without all family members around the table. This doesn't mean that we eat late. Instead, my husband makes it a point to be home around 6:00 p.m. so that we can all eat together. This is his choice and is based on he and I communicating about our shared vision for our family. He could choose to work later, but he knows that the consequences of doing so are lost time and memories with his kids...and the wrath of his wife who would not be happy with a different choice.
- He strikes a nice balance between playing with the kids and parenting the kids: My husband is happy to get down on the ground a play with the girls, whether it's Tickle Monster or doll house. He will take them to the park and play tag or try out the equipment. However, he does not leave all the discipline and tougher parenting issues to me. He is right there, by my side, when we need to give time-outs, have a difficult conversation, or enforce the rules. He often reminds me that boundaries and consistency - and play - are the keys to raising happy, healthy and well-balanced kids.
- He wants to protect and provide, but not dictate: In my previous life, I had a hard time not being in control of everything. I also had a hard time letting someone else take care of me. Over time, and with the help of my husband, I've learned how wonderful it can feel to have an actual partner; someone who shares the load, steps up when the other is down, and makes it clear that he has my back and is watching out for the best interests of our family. He's not dictating or controlling any part of our life, instead he is sharing the responsibility of life.
- He really listens to me and hears me: Just the other night, after he came home from work and I shared with him how exhausted I was feeling, he immediately told me to get in to bed and let him handle dinner and baths. My "I don't want to be weak" side struggled with this, but I allowed myself to receive the gift. After he got the kids settled he came in to talk to me and find out more about what was going on. In that moment, I felt like I was so loved and cared for. He really heard me when he came home and supported me in taking care of myself.
- He does his fair share (if not more): I can't tell you how many times I have heard a fellow mom tell me that her marriage was saved by the cleaning lady. From what I know about other men and relationships, I understand that the topic of cleaning the house can be one that sends many marriages into turmoil. That is not our case. Again, my husband sees our house and the chores that go along with it as a joint responsibility. We share the value of a clean and healthy house and a vision of working together for it to be the way we like. We have a list of all the house related tasks and we've easily divided up who does what. It's become so relaxed that now we may even switch chores from week to week, but without much conversation or issue around doing so.
Consider this: What qualities and actions are you grateful for in your own husband or partner? Focus on those first. If there are things that aren't feeling okay, get really clear about why they are bothering you (is it about respect, difference in parenting styles, not feeling loved) and then set up a time to have a heart-to-heart with your partner about how you are feeling and what you'd like to see change.