What is love? The permanent kind. Not the kind that breaks down upon contact with reality and life’s to-be-expected hardships. I’m talking about the kind built to last until death. The real stuff.
Love is mutual self-fulfillment through mutual self-sacrifice.
Love’s most perfect expression is in a good and lasting marriage.
Through vocal repetition, we have become habituated to the notion that marriage and children are a better deal for men than women. Men get it. It’s not easy to be a mother—particularly a working mother. It’s a real sacrifice and it’s not easy. Lost completely in the conversation and thinking, however, are men’s motivations and sacrifices—most often made in silence.
Let me attempt to speak for my brothers in the silent majority about love, marriage, and baby carriage.
First, let’s address the cartoon elephant in the room. While it’s still the tradition that a man gets down on bended knee, does he really do so out of selfish, self-serving, or patriarchal reasons? Does he do it to subjugate her or to make her happy?
Now, let’s get real and think realistically. Who is drawn to the institution of marriage more? Do men and women want children equally?
Just asking these questions seems to answer them. Men and women don’t share the same mind and motivations. Our women like to think we are of one mind with them but we are not. We are very different.
Even with the advent of gay marriage, there is no magazine called Groom. When I was hanging with my buddies growing up, we never played dad. Men don’t have a biological desire to stop having fun. We know raising kids is not exactly fun. Marriage and parenting are hard work. We were never easy on our parents. Every man knows that and that’s why we do our best to avoid it.
Marriage and children—particularly today—are clearly female priorities. Men don’t take the plunge for their own sakes. Once upon a time, marriage regulated access to sex. If a man wanted it, that is, he had to sign up. That’s no more. That is why men are putting it off till later.
News flash: The sexual revolution opened up new vistas for men as well as women. This is an obvious point that is lost by our lovers who want to be mothers.
As a man, let me speak for myself. I bent my knee because the woman I was with was a keeper. I thought that together we could both raise a family and do time together. While I never dreamed of my wedding day, marriage, children, and fatherhood, I knew the time would eventually come for me to settle down. I had a good run and she was worth the risk, so I bent my knee with my eyes wide open. Twenty-seven years in, and a lot of hard work and self sacrifice by both parties, and I can say that I chose well. No regrets.
My advice to men today—my son, of whom I am most proud, and most concerned for, included—is that before bending the knee, or saying “I do,” test the waters and see if the woman you want to make happy, can actually be made happy.
Talk honestly to her. Open yourself, truly, to her.
“Honey, I love you. I want to give you what you want. Marriage and children. I have one concern: your expectations when it comes to the intersection of our future kids, your career, and me.
There is not an easy—without sacrifice—way to have a child and a career. The needs of our future child, the calls of motherhood and work, are not easy to balance. In fact, they are quite difficult to balance.
The whole affair is made more difficult when expectations are out of sync with reality. When that happens, I become the bad guy. I don’t want to be a bad guy.
My motivation is to make you happy. No, that is not completely true. I would like to be happy, too. Certainly, to not be miserable.
My love, you can count on my help with diaper duty, comforting our child, playing with, reading to, coaching, and modeling what it’s like to be a good human. All the while, I won’t forget to care for you and to help you shoulder this balancing act.
Marriage and kids are a freely chosen sacrifice best done with your eyes open. If you don’t see having a kid a natural gift and expression of your nature, and your top priority, let’s not do it. I don’t want to do it.”
If you are unwilling to have this conversation with your lady—you have your answer. Or at least a good reason to push pause.