Why Who Wears the Pants Doesn't Matter: Modern Relationship Roles Redefined
By Stuart Denman
Over the past 50 years roles have changed not only in the parenting space but the overall masculine and feminine dynamic. With the rise of equality and feminism through the 60s and 70s to the 'metrosexual' male movement of the 90s and 00s, there are a lot of really confused men out there and to be fair, a lot of confused women too.
When I was growing up, one of the biggest insults you could give a man was to infer that his wife/partner 'wore the pants' in their relationship. This was challenging his 'manhood' and always would get a raucous applause at the pub or BBQ where it was uttered.
Growing up as a child of Baby Boomers, my parenting role models were those on TV comedy shows and three of my best friends' parents separated – my parents also separated when I was six years.
Gender or sexist humor was again commonplace and being a man meant parenting little, working long hours and having 'alone quiet time'.
Yet there was one couple, parents of a twin boy and girl to whom I gravitated towards as a young adolescent and secretly wanted to be adopted by. You see, Doug was a teacher so he worked very family friendly hours. He picked the twins up from school, took them to their sporting activities, cooked, cleaned, played and was present in every way.
Joy did all of those things too. She was feminine, motherly yet knew that Doug derived so much enjoyment of his 'role' in the family that she was empowered to do the things she wanted to, as there was a balance in the relationship.
Doug still loves a beer, a punt and his sport and enjoys being in the company of his mates, just like the other male role models I had in my life. He just chose to own his passion and I saw how rounded his kids (my friends) were.
As many men do, my later teenage years and my twenties were spent experimenting, partying and generally doing what most young men do.
When I met my wife, I was ready to begin the next phase of my life. I had come out of a relationship were I was the controlling partner with a very subservient girlfriend that played the role of a 'good housewife' perfectly. She cooked, she cleaned while I took everything for granted and in fact became everything I despised in a man.
I soon learned very quickly that Natasa, my new partner was in fact the polar opposite of my last partner. She was opinionated, confident and certain in what she wanted and I was challenged more than I ever had been.
By the time we had our first child, I immediately tried to assume the role that my role model Doug had unknowingly imprinted on me. I changed nappies, cleaned up vomit, soothed my son back to sleep, cooked and cleaned all the while working in a newly acquired business. I was present, passionate and loved being a dad.
One day I turned down a game of golf with my mates as I wanted to give my wife a break from looking after our son while I had been at work, only to hear the words tumble out of my mate's mouth, "Wow, I can see Natasa wears the pants in your relationship".
It shouldn't have mattered. I don't know why I reacted the way I did yet I got defensive and lashed out. Who was he to judge me?
Over the next few years I struggled with other peoples expectations of what a man was meant to be to his children and his partner. My wife was a powerhouse, driven and got her energy from business and significance yet I was nurturing, calm and valued quality time and family very highly.
We spent some time fighting against it, yet when we finally took ownership of what really inspired each of us, it worked well if we reversed the 'traditional' gender roles and just did what we were great at.
When we did, we instantly became in flow and our whole relationship, family life and business success just reached amazing heights. We were both doing what fulfilled our purpose; we excelled at everything we did.
Now, two kids later and another soon on the way, things have adjusted slightly as we have moved along with my taking on more of my own business interests and my wife being able to take a break from our other businesses to welcome our new child into the world. We continue to be in flow with ourselves, our family and our businesses, all because we decided it didn't matter who wore the pants.
About Stuart Denman
Stuart Denman is a lifestyle mentor who spends his time working with those craving a better, more balanced life. He is passionate about leadership, empowerment and spending quality time with his two, soon to be three, young children and his beautiful wife Natasa with whom he also runs 'Ultimate 48 Hour Author', a book authoring mentoring program.