I recently stumbled across a fascinating article on msnbc.com entitled “Why Good Dads Make Moms Jealous.” It is a very interesting study on how the law (“you must/you must not ____”) affects and informs parenting, and even divides husbands and wives. One of the factors cited by all of the mothers interviewed for the story was the enormous amount of pressure they felt to be the primary caretaker of their children. Indeed, these moms felt guilty about any amount of time that they did not spend with their kids.
In a day and age when it is common for both parents to work, it would appear that moms are feeling the squeeze. There remains an underlying message in society that they should be at home taking care of their kids, but they also should not compromise on their careers and individual success. If they can’t do both, then they are failures. They are either irresponsible parents or weak non-people who have given up their dreams. Total Accusation, Total Law.
I’ve seen this message propagated in many different places, but a recent one that sticks out is from the Food Network. Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller starts with a song that lists all of the things this working mom, presumably Robin Miller, had to do during her day, the refrain being, “It’s crazy, but I love it. I love this crazy life.” The woman goes from one thing to the next and is smiling the whole time. I thought I was watching some 50s domestic propaganda like the Cleavers or something. The message was loud and clear: “You’re happy! Not stressed! You love your crazy life!” To be fair, the show is trying to help moms with their “crazy lives”, but the message is mixed.
The article reveals that the “do it all” message is crushing mothers. They are feeling both guilty and superseded by their husbands. Ironically, the moms interviewed for the article do not like their husbands actually being good at parenting.
The “do it all” message appeals to our ego, or, our deepest sense of self-made identity. It tells moms that they can do it all. So, when they can’t and have to rely on someone else (their husbands), they get upset. They clearly need the help, but they also “‘don’t want them to take over,’ says Pyper Davis, a mother of two in Washington DC. ‘We don’t ever want to be pushed off that throne of being Mommy.'” Their pride is bruised when they can’t be everything to everyone.
This represents another example of how we all believe we can fulfill the law (of parenting, of success, of virtue, etc). When we end up failing, we are mad because our self-deifying ego told us we could. This ego continues telling us that we should be able to do it. In this case, when moms see that their husbands are able (at times!) to come home from work and still be caring, present fathers, they become indignant to the extent that they feel they are not able to do the same. Our egos turn the scenario into a competition. Unfortunately, we seldom realize that our egos lie. They deceive. We see our spouse “succeeding” while we are “failing,” and we forget all the times when they have not been able to do something and we have “made up the difference” for them. In an environment of law and judgment, all we see is our failures. Only grace could allow us to have perspective. As the article reveals, there is precious little grace in the world for moms.
As a result, moms often have very little grace for dads, even when they are “doing well.” The law creates jealousy and insecurity, which create more law. Here is the most explicitly law vs. grace part of the article:
If we’re not careful, jealousy and insecurity can turn moms into control freaks. So says Park, a recovering control freak herself. “With our first child, I was constantly asking my husband, ‘Are you making sure he’s getting his vegetables?’ It feels good to make the decisions.”
Trouble is, “the more we control how dads do things, the less involved they want to be,” Park says. A recent Ohio State University study of almost 100 couples with newborns backs her up: Researchers found that even dads who believed they should be highly involved in childcare shied away from doing things for the their infant if Mom was very judgmental.
With something as important and close-to-the-bone as parenting, it is easy to think that control (and more control) is the answer. And our egos tell us that such control is possible. However, as the article suggests, not to mention the testimony of all parents and kids everywhere, control of this kind is an illusion, and our efforts in its direction only bring about the opposite of their intended effect. Love is the enabling word. In an environment of love, jealousy and judgment do not exist. Of course, our first inclination as a sinful men and women is to ask, “How do I then create a love-filled environment for my family?” To turn even love into a law – in other words, “How do I control this?” I can’t.
The Good News is that the Love that we so desperately need, the belovedness which creates a home full of grace, compassion, and forgiveness has been given to us by God through his son Jesus Christ. He is in control.