A recent letter in this column has stirred up a virtual hornet's nest. It comes from a 30-something man who — vigorously and rather unpleasantly — stakes claim to nearly all parenting rights and privileges in his (hypothetical) marriage. At the moment, he's neither husband nor parent. But he has thought through the battles he'd wage. Example: The (hypothetical) mother of this (hypothetical) union would have to "battle" him "for mothering rights." Not exactly a love fest.
But then — oh, then — some pushback! Many readers found angry words for the 30-ish letter writer, but some middle-aged men took the opportunity to share their work/relationship arrangements that worked well for them. One wrote: "Your letter writer is a bit defensive, maybe wistful. I suspect his ideas aren't getting much support in his social circles, and he may need to find new ones if he hopes to find a life mate who agrees with him and supports him. I wish him success. But today, both parents working full time is the default choice. My wife and I made some employment/parenting choices years ago for financial reasons, but we always talked them through as equals, and our children are better people for that."
And, from another reader: "I'm 65, still studying to be a good man in every role. But I believe the letter writer missed the point of feminism and its role in parenting. He simultaneously believes that completely shared child raising is his right and that any future wife of his is going to have to fight for at most an even responsibility for raising their child. Hard to imagine him finding a woman who would sign on for that deal. My father left me with something I'd like to pass on to the letter writer. He said that marriage is a '60-60 proposition,' meaning each spouse must put in more than a 50% effort all the time so that on occasion, when someone comes up short, there is some left over to make up the difference. There is truly room for both parents to be nurturing, regardless of their schedules. We compete with each other in enough unproductive ways already; please don't compete here, for the sake of the kids."
Those are words to live by in many areas of life but especially in parenting, where, of all relationships, the adult has so much more knowledge/experience. It's a noncompete in all ways.
Today's thought: Sex between soul mates may seem a starry-eyed illusion, but being so closely attuned to each other that sexual intimacy becomes spiritual communion is not an impossible dream. In the proper context, sexuality can fulfill both body and soul. Indeed, when it arises from a relationship grounded in mutual love, trust and respect, lovemaking can stir such intense feelings that partners are transported far beyond bodily sensations to connection with a higher power. At this depth, sexual union is physical manifestation of spiritual impulses — the language of soul. Such intimacy may be an ideal, but it is not fantasy.
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