How Post-family-wage Families Can Work

Geez am I tired of hearing about the evils of single-parent families. It is, admittedly, better than the earlier gripes about female-headed families. But it never quite gets to the real point–irresponsible men. But let’s face it, we preach to the choir–in this case, single mothers–because they’re actually in the pews and available to be preached to, and many of them will actually sit there and listen to the finger-pointing and doom-crying and even feel guilty about not having a husband around. The people who never show up–the guys who walk away–are by definition not in the audience.
Guys walk away, social commentators keep saying, because they can no longer support their families single-handed.  Which is in fact a damn shame.  But they aren’t willing to hang around and do the things they COULD do to make the family’s life easier, because none of those things are “manly” enough–you know, like taking the kids to the doctor, going to parent-teacher conferences, doing the laundry, and all the other stuff Mama can’t do because she’s working two jobs, neither of which allows any paid time off. 
Two generations back, women were supposed to defer to their husbands because the husbands were supporting the family.  Now, apparently, women are supposed to defer to the men who might or might not become their husbands, because, poor things, they CAN’T support their families.  Does this sound like a con game or what?
Okay, time to light a candle and quit cursing the darkness.  I want to memorialize here a man who did do his share and more of bearing the family’s burdens, even though he was in no position to be their financial support.  His name was Tim, he was my best friend’s husband and my godson’s father, and he was killed in a car crash last summer.  His son, my godson, had Down syndrome.  My friend, Tim’s wife, worked professionally with people with disabilities.  Tim, who had grown up in various institutions and never finished high school, worked in factory management for many years, back when there were still factories to be managed. 
When the factory closed down, he stayed home and  managed the household, freeing his wife to devote her energy to her profession.  He took care of their son, and ran several paper routes, both for extra money and because it was work he and his son could do together, giving his son contact with the world and the pride of being useful.  After Tim was killed, his wife was surrounded by people he had run into on his daily rounds, who all said, “Tim always had something hopeful to say.  And it was absolutely clear how much he loved his son.”  The economy failed this family.  But Tim never did.  Yes, guys, it is possible.  Try it.

Red Emma

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