The other day at school dismissal, I overheard a couple of moms talking in the hallway. One asked her friend, "Do you want to see a movie Thursday night?" The other replied, "I don't know. I'll have to ask my husband if it's OK with him. He doesn't like me to go out during the week, and I don't know if he'll babysit the kids." (At this point, though my blood pressure was definitely on its way up, I wisely controlled my urge to smack this woman. Must. Not. Explode. Makes PTA meetings uncomfortable.)
Instead, I had a flashblack to the Moms' Night Out group I started when my kids were toddlers. Once a month, several of us got together for drinks, dinner, maybe a movie if we weren't too tired (or drunk - although someone was always pregnant or nursing in those days, so it was easy to find a designated driver. Ah, the benefits of hanging out with younger moms.). One month, a mom in the group had had an unfortunate hair cut and coloring incident, so the rest of us asked if she'd found someone to fix it. She said, "My husband won't let me talk about it anymore. He's tired of hearing about it."
You can guess my reaction. Um, first of all, HUH? And secondly, HE'S NOT EVEN HERE! But even as I was formulating a response in my head (think first, speak second, think FIRST, speak SECOND), my phone rang with another mom calling to say, "My husband won't let me go out tonight because he doesn't want to have to babysit the kids." While most of us began (loudly and somewhat drunkenly - hey, we'd been waiting for her for nearly an hour and the wine was flowing) protesting her husband's comment, another woman (who, by the way, runs her own consulting firm) said, "I feel her pain. My husband won't let me come every month, either. It's too hard to do dinner, baths and bedtime by himself."
Sigh. Where do I start? Aside from the fact that I'd been doing dinner/bath/bed by myself for YEARS, as had every single one of these women, some of them not only ran a household but a law practice, a medical office, or a company that employed over a thousand people. Are you KIDDING me? I don't know about you, but I've never in my life asked my husband's permission to do anything. He's my partner, not my father. I guarantee, the words "my husband won't let me" have NEVER come out of my mouth - and they never will. On my wedding day, I promised to love, honor, and cherish him all the days of my life - but that "obey" part? Yeah, didn't happen.
And "babysit" the kids? What, is he 16? Does he need a little pocket money? How do you "babysit" your own kids? He's never once asked me to "babysit" the kids while he goes to the gym or Home Depot, or even to the office on a weekend. Pretty sure he couldn't afford me, anyway. (And for the record, I am NOT talking about using common courtesy and discussing one's plans with one's spouse. I always tell my husband well in advance when something comes up that will affect our family's routine or his schedule. I just don't ASK him if he'll LET me do something. C'mon now.)
So, as usual, I started thinking: Why do some women feel the need to ask permission to do something for themselves, or to ask their husbands to be on kid-duty from time to time? Is it something about not working? Is it being home with kids that makes some women feel they need permission, or must always defer to their husbands? Is it only having a job, making money, that gives us power and authority?
I say no. If anything, being a mom - whether you work outside the home or not - is powerful stuff. I make thousands of decisions every day that impact all areas of our lives. From budgeting to education to health to the daily running of our entire lives, I'm in charge of everything - except bringing home a paycheck. I'm raising the future; I'm educating the next generation; I'm creating people who will go out into the world and make it a better place. I am all things to all people, all the time. I'm the mom. What could be more powerful than that?
To his credit, my husband points out all the time that I am the heart of our family, that I make our house a home (otherwise, our "home" would be a recliner, a TV, and a lot of takeout), that our family is what it is because of me. The traditions we share, the friends we make, the memories we cherish - don't they usually start with us, ladies? Not to minimize my husband's contributions, which go far beyond financial support and killing spiders, mommies provide something essential to the family - the nurturing quality that prompts little girls to pick up and cuddle a baby doll while little boys are busy bashing their cars into a wall.
So back to my original question: Why do some women feel the need to obtain "permission" from their husbands?" My guess is that it's because they don't feel valued, or valuable, at home. Maybe their husbands don't tell them often enough how much they appreciate all that they do. Maybe they feel that money equals power, that the breadwinner gets to make all the decisions for the family, that their contributions to the family have less value because there's no monetary amount assigned to them. (And thank goodness for that; studies show that the work done by the average mom would cost well over $80,000 a year!
But I disagree. There is no price we can put on raising our kids. Forget all that nonsense about society not valuing the contributions of moms. We have to value our work ourselves! What we do is important, to our kids, to our husbands, to ourselves. We need to take pride in our work, just as we did when that work came with a paycheck. How many times have your kids walked right past their dad to ask YOU a question? And who do they cry for when they get hurt, scared, or sick? Yep. That's right. They want Mommy. Ask any child, "Who's in charge at your house?" They'll all say, "My mom."
Slacker Mom Says ... when you get right down to it, we moms rule the world. Motherhood is power. Whether we work or stay home, moms do the bulk of childcare, housework, and decision-making for most American families. We determine how our kids are raised, what they learn about life, how they learn to cope with adversity. We give them roots and wings. Whether we work or stay home, we exert considerable influence over an entire generation of Americans.
We are raising the next generation, the ones who will, with luck, find a cure for cancer, solve the world's energy crisis, and fight for freedom and equality. We are moms; we are the world. Embrace the power.