Friday, February 12, 2010

A Thought for Mothers of Boys

So last night I was talking to my sister-in-law. Yes, this is the sister-in-law of caramel popcorn fame. (Check out the recipe here.) I digress. Last night I was telling her a story about a baby who had gotten poop all over her crib, herself, her walls - everything. We were laughing about babies and messes and I said, "you know you'd have to be the one to clean it." She said, "no, actually, your brother would do it all if he were the one to find the mess."


You're pausing, aren't you? Would your husband clean it up? Stop laughing! Yeah. Mine, either. Gets your goat a little, doesn't it? Surely she's exaggerating, right?

When my brother and sister-in-law became parents, I assumed my brother would be as domestically useless as my husband - and all the other husbands I know. Granted, my husband will take care of it if I'm not home. He won't call and expect me to return just to clean up a mess or rescue him from crying babies, but that is not the case if I'm in the house. He'll come report the mess. If I have the flu, running a high fever, and a kid is sick, he'll expect me to get up and tend to the sick kid - even if he's fine. I'd have to be literally dying for my husband to stay home from work to give me a sick day. Your husband, too? Thought so.

I digress again. When my brother and sister-in-law became parents, I assumed he'd be like my husband and every other father I know - loving and kind, but not inclined to do any real domestic work. Seems my brother isn't like the other dads out there. Seems he'll clean a mess. Seems he'll take care of the kids and let his wife sleep when she's overtired or sick. Seems he assumes that since he's a parent, it's also his responsibility to do laundry, clean, care for the kids, etc. Now, I'm not saying my brother's a saint (ahahahahahahaha - don't make me laugh.) What I am saying is that after my conversation last night, it finally dawned on me that instead of being incredulous that he's doing a fair amount of work, maybe my brother is different.

So I started thinking about my other brother. Turns out he also does laundry. Cleans. Cooks. Takes the kiddo to the doctor. Cares for the sick kiddo and cleans messes when he finds them. There has to be a common link. Turns out... it's my mom.

...and I can say this because I grew up in the same house. My mom expected more from her sons than any other mother I ever met. While I was outside learning how to change the car's oil and rotate tires with my father, the boys were in the house with my mom learning how to clean and do the domestic stuff. That was common in our house. For years, I only remembered my dad saying, "there won't always be a man around to take care of you." What I failed to think about was mom inside saying, "there won't always be a woman around to take care of you." The proof is in the pudding. It worked. Neither of my brothers expect their wives to do the bulk of the domestic and childcare work.

So I say this to mothers of boys: Expect more from your boys. Teach your sons to do their laundry. Teach them to cook. Teach them to clean. Expect them to pull their weight around the house. Teach them that they are part of the family team and they can get spots out of the carpet as well as mow the yard. Teach them how to take care of other members of the family. They need to be able to care for themselves by the time they leave the house for college. Someday they will be husbands and fathers. What you teach them will carry into their marriages and parenting. Do it for your future daughters-in-law.

Not convinced? Think about all the times you got out of bed to clean up after a sick kid while your husband pretended to sleep. Think about all the times you were sick and your husband acted like he was dying when he got a sniffle and took to his bed - while you hauled your 103-fevered self around the house to care for the feverish kids. Think about the times the baby cried and your husband handed her to you because he didn't know what to do. Think about all the things you do because your husband either doesn't know how to do them or doesn't think it's his job. Wouldn't it be nice if someone had taught him?


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