My boys have thrived in marriages with firm boundaries — and respect — between husband and wife.
I am proud of the men my sons have grown to be. I can look back now on how they became men who love strong independent women—one definition of a feminist.
The first time each of them married they both chose what they assumed was a traditional woman who focused on her home and children to the exclusion of outside interests. That was the role their father, who died many years ago, wanted from me. My sons' first marriages ended. One son stayed until his children were grown. The other divorced when his kids were younger. Of course the divorces were difficult for the kids, as well as the parents. It was no one's fault—the relationships just didn't work.
Both men were single for a time while learning about themselves and what they valued in a partner. Eventually, both of them married feminist women who knew themselves well, enjoyed a career, loved their children and could be good to his children. Both second wives happened to be more than five years older than my sons. Both wives had firm boundaries and strong interests that they intended to continue. I saw my sons expand their lives with these two strong women.
Here are 6 ways I see my sons growing with feminist wives:
1. They are romantic. It has been fun for me to see from the sidelines as they plan romantic outings, do special things, bring flowers, etc. Their tender expression as they talk about these special thoughtful acts warms my heart.
2. They work hard and play hard. Both have demanding careers but they balance with time off for fun together with their wives. Family activities are important and those events often include lucky me.
3. Each respects his partner. They way the truly feel about their partners comes through at times when I ask about a gift or purchase for them and they say, "I want to ask her about it. We make those decisions together." This is true of planning family occasions as well.
4. They support their wives' careers and interests. One has a business and he has helped her in countless ways and is happy when he can. The other son's wife is a retired teacher and an artist who takes classes which he supports. He is a fan of her art. She loves to dance, and though he has two left feet, he likes to watch her dancing.
5. They respect each other's boundaries. One son has an antique car that he loves to tinker with. His wife does not interfere, knowing it's important to him. Both couples make time for friendships and outings with others or alone—cards with the guys, a weekend with women friends, a conference for business or a class in a distant city.
6. They're proud to be handy. Both my sons are able and willing to take on any task, from changing diapers to cooking, vacuuming, to fixing things to outdoor work. The distinction of labor into "squaws work and braves work" that their aunt Mary used to make has disappeared.
How did I raise two sons who have grown to be good husbands of strong feminist women? Changes in our American culture has helped. Many men know how to appreciate a strong woman now—many more than when I was first married. Many modern men are nurturing to their children and take part in household chores.
I didn't set about consciously to raise "feminist friendly" men. But I grew on my own and became the kind of role model they could respect. The man I have been married to for 20 years is also a role model for them. I am very happy to be me—and proud of my sons' success with their feminist wives.