At a wedding dinner, just before the speeches, my baby let out several forceful grunts and a smell like you wouldn't believe. My husband picked him up out of the high chair and whisked him away for a nappy change. With my daughter sat on my lap, I sat back to listen to the speeches, relieved to have a few moments of baby-free time.
"You're very lucky you know," said an older lady, leaning over to me.
"Lucky?" I said.
"Well, yes. You girls are so lucky to have these modern men. I mean, changing nappies? It wouldn't have happened in my day you know. Yes, you're very lucky."
I say nothing and give her a smile. I can't quite bring myself to agree with her. She's not the only woman who has ever remarked at how 'lucky' I am to have a husband like mine. If I casually slip into conversation that my husband has taken the kids off to the park, so I can have a couple of hours on my own, or that he is great at tidying and organising things around the house, or that he used to get up to do one of the feeds in the night with the baby, I often get this kind of a response.
But you know what? I'm not lucky, not at all, and here are five reasons why:
1., Caring for the children is our job, not my job.
We both decided to start a family. We decided to do this together. Raising our children is not my job that I'm lucky if he helps me out with. We are their parents. We are both their parents. We both change nappies, read stories, go to the park, give cuddles and get up in the night. He is a father, not my incompetent parental sidekick.
2., Luck is out of our control, I chose my husband.
No one forced me to marry my husband. I chose to be with him because of who he is, because of his character. I made this decision using my brain. There is no way I would have chosen to marry a man who did not believe in equality between men and women, who believed that childcare was primarily (or only) a woman's role. There is no way that I, as someone who wanted to have children, would have chosen to marry a man who had no interest in being a father or who I felt would play a disinterested role as a father. That would be stupid, not unlucky.
3., To say that I'm lucky suggests that all women must put up with their 'lot' and have no control over their love lives.
What, so I was one of the lucky ones and she was not? I got a good one and she didn't? Well, no, not really. If I ended up with a husband who expected me to parent alone or almost alone, I would tell him that I was not happy with that. If he was unwilling to work as a team, I'd leave him. She could always have separated from her disinterested husband. That way, she may have at least gotten a day off on the weekend, when they saw him, which is probably more help than she was used to getting. I am not lucky and she was not unlucky either. She was willing to put up with her husband and I would not have done.
4., It is not luck that has changed how we see the roles of mothers and fathers over the years.
It is social change and the hard work of those who sought to bring that change about. It is women and men talking about, campaigning for and writing about this issue that has brought about change. We now see fathers as more than just breadwinners or disciplinarians and this change has not just floated into being. It is not down to luck. It is down to those who have sought to challenge old ideas, to live a different way and to challenge others to do the same.
5., It is not me who is lucky, it is my children.
My children have no control over who parents them. They have no control over the two adults who live in their house and run their baths or cook their dinners. They cannot say what is good enough or not. They cannot decide if they are unhappy with what they have and do anything about it. They simply put up with us. It is them who are the lucky ones, not me.
So, am I lucky to have a husband like mine? Well, I guess in some ways, yes. I am lucky that he is healthy. I am lucky that he is here. I was lucky that I met him in the first place, but really, that is where the luck part of it ends. The rest is about choice. I choose to be with him. I chose to get married to him and start a family and we both feel lucky to have our kids.
But they are our kids; his and mine. He is their father and I am happy, not lucky, to have him.