Background: The recent New York Times piece A Bundle of Joy Isn”t Enough? (12/6/07) discusses “push presents”:
“In a more innocent age, new mothers generally considered their babies to be the greatest gift imaginable. Today, they are likely to want some sort of tangible bonus as well….
“That”s ‘push’ as in, ‘I the mother, having been through the wringer and pushed out this blessed event, hereby claim my reward.’ Or ‘push’ as in, ‘I”ve delivered something special and now I”m pushing you, my husband/boyfriend, to follow suit.’
“It”s more and more an expectation of moms these days that they deserve something.”
As I discussed in Some Thoughts on the ‘Push Presents’ Now Expected From Expectant Fathers (Part I), I have mixed emotions about “push presents.” I wrote:
“If this gift is about love, if it is about a man wanting to give his wife something special to show his appreciation, then I’m 100% for it. If instead the gift is yet one more obligation, another example of why she has its so hard and he has it so easy, why he could never understand how much he suffers, why she’s good and he’s bad, and dammit isn’t it the least he could do for her, well, then count me out. Men already have to deal with way too much minimization of their contributions to their families, along with exaggeration of women’s contributions. In in this particular instance, of course, the woman’s contribution is tremendous. In most cases, it is no more (and no less) than the man’s contribution.”
As one person noted in the New York Times story, I think the period right after the birth of a child is a rather poor time to choose to buy luxuries such as expensive jewelry. Unless one is rich, it is easy to become financially overwhelmed in the years after the birth of a child.
The primary caregiving parent’s income goes down, at the same time that expenses rise. It can be nerve-racking worrying if you will have the money to properly support your children. My father always said:
“People should not have children until they are sure that they can financially provide for them–but if everyone waited to have children until they were sure they could financially provide for them, nobody would have children.”
I would also argue that in many if not most cases, men very much are giving their wives the equivalent of a push present, though of course it is not acknowledged by our politically correct media. For example, it has been many years since I had a child, but thinking back to the birth of my first child, it is hard for me to see myself as a slacker. We had just bought a new house on an acre of land and at an excellent price. The downside was that the house was a disaster.
In the couple years leading up to the birth of our child and right afterwards, I was working seven days a week. During the day I would either do construction jobs or do construction work on our house, and at night I taught English and citizenship classes in South Central Los Angeles. On Saturdays I would teach, and then spend the afternoon/evening and Sunday building and fixing our house.
I ripped up our decaying old floor and installed hardwood flooring. I did numerous plumbing and electrical jobs. With the help of my father-in-law, I put a new roof on the house. I built a redwood front fence and front gate, as well as a back fence.
I cut down numerous large, diseased pine trees from our front yard, and built my son a bunk bed out of them. I cleared an enormous amount of junk out of the yard, enough to fill several huge dumpsters. If I choose to, I could walk around our house or our yard and probably find something that I did in practically every single area, while also working full time. Given everything I was doing, a “push present” would seem pretty trivial. And as I was building and fixing the things needed to make our house the wonderful home it now is, a good deal of my motivation was seeing how happy it made my wife.
(The best part of cutting down the pine trees was this–I had a chainsaw and was very, very careful to cut the tree so that it would not fall on our phone lines or on our house. I succeeded–the tree fell in exactly the opposite direction, right onto our power line. Fortunately, my wife was not home at the time. It would have been hard to explain to her that she shouldn’t worry, because cutting the tree onto our power line was, um…”all part of my plan, honey.”)