Honoring Women

mother and younger daughter supporting each other

Mother’s Day is just a few days away and I want to take a few moments to write about honoring women, particularly those women closest to us.

Here is one of my earliest memories. I was four years old. My mother was working at an ice cream parlor that my parents owned and my father was home with the kids. I went to bed not feeling well and recall a number of strange dreams in which I felt like my body was huge in a tiny room. I slept fitfully and awoke, tossed and turned for what seemed to be hours.

I was very thirsty and tried to get up to get a drink of water but was so dizzy that I couldn’t make get out of bed and to the kitchen. I called my father who came in, touched my forehead, and decided to call a doctor who came quickly to our home.

I recall my father carrying me to the living room where the doctor took a long time examining me. Before leaving that night, he gave me an injection of penicillin and pronounced that I had an illness called rheumatic fever. I had no idea what that meant. All I knew is that I was very sick and frightened.

mother caring for a sick child

I also knew that I wanted my mother. I needed the care that she could give. I needed to know that she was near. I needed to feel her arms around me. I needed her to bring me a glass of water. I needed her to read me a story. I needed to hear her reassuring voice telling me that I would be okay.

Not that my father had not given me good care that night. He and I have been very close through the years, but this was a moment when I needed my mother. I can’t forget the relief I experienced when my mother arrived home. Finally, I could relax. I could be comforted and fall into a deep sleep.

For the next six months I could not get out of bed or walk under my own effort. My mother stayed nearby bringing me my meals, reading to me, coloring with me, taking me to the bathroom, leaving often to clean the house or run errands but always returning to tell me where she had been, who it was that called on the phone and what they wanted. (Yes, we did have telephones when I was four.)

My mother nurtured me back to health. I owe a lot to my her. In fact, my doctor told my parents during my rheumatic fever that I would probably never walk or live a normal life. It may be that I have my health and life today because of the care of a mother.

A History that Ignores Women

I’m aware that the history of the world has been mostly written by men … and about men. Men have raised armies and waged wars. And most of the scientists, politicians, and leaders of industry and religion that we read about are men. Women have contributed so much to every aspect of our culture and yet, with notable exceptions, have not been featured in the story of civilization.

I also recognize that the prominence of men is largely because they are physically stronger and have almost always sought to dominate the weaker. Throughout history, men have viewed women as subservient. For millennium, women were (and are still in many cultures) considered property rather than human beings.

This is changing, albeit slowly. So, I applaud the current Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative and other such endeavors which seek to make us aware of the pivotal role of women in shaping our society today. Furthermore, I support ensuring that women receive equal opportunity as men to fully participate and contribute to our society today.

But it is another aspect of womanhood that I want to honor in this blog post.

The strength of any nation or people lies in the qualities of character and emotional development that are fostered within the home. Women and mothers, by their very nature, have done much to influence this development.

Differences Between Men and Women

In our politically correct society today it is often not popular to talk about gender differences. A lot of people believe any such differences are entirely the result of socialization. And yet, there is a lot of science that says that many of our differences are biological. I particularly like an article by Vanessa Van Edwards (6 Gender Differences Between Men and Women in the Workplace) who does a great job of summarizing the science and practical application of gender differences.

After reading the science, I think we can say, quite confidently, that men and women are, by nature, different. Women tend to experience life from the heart. They are, generally speaking, more intuitive. They are more aware of feelings. They more naturally nurture and care for others. They pay attention to the mood and are more likely to seek harmony and collaboration within a group.

On the other hand, men tend to experience life more from the head. They approach life in a logical and practical manner. They pay attention to accomplishing a task and solving problems more than how people feel.

Of course, these differences are not either/or. Women think, problem-solve and accomplish and, as I have said, have been under appreciated for their scientific, industrial and civic contributions throughout history. And likewise, men have hearts and care about others. Nevertheless, I think the tendencies I’ve described above are real.

Example of Gender Differences

Let me share an example.

Woman 1: “Oh, you got a haircut! It’s so Cuuuuuuute!”

Woman 2: “Do you think so? I wasn’t sure when my stylist gave me the mirror. I mean, you don’t think it’s too fluffy looking?”

Woman 1: “On no, it’s perfect! I’d love to get my hair cut like that but I think my face is too wide. I’m pretty much stuck with this style, I think.”

Woman 2: “Are you serious?” I think your face is adorable. And you could easily get one of those layer cuts—that would look so cute on you. I was actually going to do that except that I was afraid I would accent my long neck.”

Woman 1: “Oh, now that’s funny. I would love to have your neck! Anything to take attention away from this two-by-four I have for a shoulder line.”

Woman 2: “Are YOU kidding? I know girls who would love to have your shoulders. Everything drapes so well on you. I mean, look at my arms, see how short they are? If I had your shoulders, I could get clothes to fit me so much easier.”

Woman 1: “Do you really think so? Oh, you’re just saying that!”

Woman 2: “No, really, I mean it.”

Consider the same dialogue between a couple of men:

Man 1: You got a haircut.

Man 2: Yep.

I think it is fair to say that, by and large, women have a higher relationship IQ than men, which may also explain why women are, on average, happier than men.

How My Wife Nurtures

I appreciate the nurturing qualities of my wife. Judy pays attention to relationships and nurtures in ways I do not. For example, she cares about our living space and wants to make it warm and friendly. One way she does is this by decorating the house for each and every holiday—Christmas, Valentines, Presidents day, St. Patrick’s, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc.

Truthfully, I don’t have a clue. In fact, I rarely notice that we’ve passed from one set of holiday decorations to the next until Judy takes me by the hand and walks me through the house showing me each item. I recall a few years back when she came to me grieving and explained that she’d just taken down the Easter decorations and it was too early to put up the 4th of July decorations. I mustered every ounce of compassion I could find as I did my best to console her.

Judy has also been very attentive to the kids. From the time they were young she has created a safe and nurturing environment in which they could talk to her about their school days. They learned to talk about whatever they had on their minds and in that way processed and let go of hard experiences and formulated their opinions about life, relationships, themselves. She was the prime catalyst in the forging of their personalities and values and I love and appreciate her for it. So much of the development of our family has been due to her role as a mother and I honor that.

Let’s Learn How to Honor Women

As men and even children, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to women for the role they play in our lives and in society. There are many ways we can learn to honor them, particularly by altering our social norms and institutions to promote gender respect and equality. That, however, is a big topic. I want to bring it closer to home and make it more personal. We also honor women as we become more attentive and willing to serve them.

Because women have the higher relationship IQ it is too easy for us men to leave the responsibility for the quality of our personal relationships to them. However, research shows that the most satisfying marriages have husbands who are flexible, attentive, empathetic, and willing to serve their wives.

When I first heard about this research my reaction was: “Well, that’s not fair. Why do men have to do all the work?” And then I realized that it is precisely because women have already been doing all the work. Maybe they’ve stopped behaving in that way if it hasn’t been reciprocated, but it is still part of their nature. It is when men also learn to give back in the same way (and even more) that we become truly good marriage partners.

Becoming a More Attentive Husband

I have to admit that I am not the most romantic and attentive husband. This is a lesson that I am still learning and has not come easily. Several years ago, my daughters decided I needed to learn this lesson and took it upon themselves to teach me. Of course, they realized who they were dealing with and so decided to make the lesson as simple as possible.

They told me about points. Every day I was either earning or losing points in my relationship with Judy. They explained that I won points when I was “romantic” and doing loving and nurturing behaviors towards her. Furthermore, they explained that I lost points when I was unaware, impersonal, or unloving. They explained that if I wanted a happy marriage it was up to me to make sure that the points were on the plus side of the ledger.

Now, in truth, I’m not one who believes in keeping score. But as a short-term intervention to help me become more aware, I was game.

Well, I quickly learned that it is easier to lose than win points. I lost points when I didn’t kiss Judy when I first arrived home. I also lost them for not holding her hand when we were walking or sitting together on the couch. They pointed out that I lost points because I didn’t stop on my way home and buy her flowers. Then I learned that I lost even more points when she bought them for herself. And to make matters worse, I lost points because I didn’t come home and notice the flowers she had bought for herself. Believe me, it is much easier to lose than win points.

We Cannot Be Passive

man showing love and compassion towards woman

The moral of this story is that, as men, we must be proactive in honoring women and looking for ways to make deposits into the emotional bank accounts of our partners. For some of us, this has to be a quest.

Judy tells me I need to be personal. I need to seek her out before I leave the house and actually say goodbye and give her a kiss. Then when I get home, I need to greet her, give her a hug and kiss and ask her about her day.

Notes help, as do phone calls in the middle of the day. Touch and affection about eight times a day and without a hidden agenda also works. So does pitching in and helping around the house. One of the best things I can do is listen and make her feelings important. None of these are big things. But all of them say, “I am thinking about you. I honor you. You are important to me, more important than anything else in my life.”

Teaching Teens to Honor Their Mothers

Well, this is not only a lesson for men but our children and teens as well. I remember an experience as a 14- or 15-year-old boy when my family attended a social. A number of mothers in the neighborhood had spent much time preparing a meal for a few hundred people.

My family (minus our mother who was already there) arrived just before the dinner was to begin. I watched an older teenage boy drive up to the building and get out of his car with a big bouquet of flowers. He went inside and found his mother, the women in charge of the event, and gave her those flowers, along with a big hug and kiss and “thank-you” for her day of work on behalf of so many. I remember how it touched my mother. Here was a young man who knew how to treat a woman with kindness.

So men, it is my hope that we can appreciate the role of women, particularly those who have played a nurturing role in our lives. I suggest we all do an inventory about how well we do at honoring the most important women in our lives, particularly our wives/partners and mothers, and that we can overcome our oftentimes inattentive and sometimes selfish natures and learn to be giving and nurturing within our relationships.  Perhaps this Mother’s Day is a good time to start.

And please share your story. How has a woman influenced your life and who you have become?


1 Comment

  1. Ed Engel

    Another great post. Whenever I was sick as a kid, it was the cool and comforting touch of my Mother’s loving hand on my forehead that told me I was going to get better and live on. It was her that carried me in and out of the Doctor’s office or hospital. It was her that brought me soup, or toast, or whatever she could get me to eat and drink. It was her that changed my sheets and cleaned my clothes and made me bathe every day so that I was clean and healthy and had good hygiene. Dad put up the guideposts, and paid for everything, and he supplied the ultimate discipline young boys need sometimes. But Mom made everything work within those parameters.
    When I was young I had recurring nightmares that my parents had died. It frightened me a great deal. I am very fortunate that they are still alive and well in their 80’s. I still dread the day I lose them. I call them every day to check in on them and to let them know what is going on. Some people think it’s crazy for a 60 year old man to call home every day, but I think it’s the least I can do for all that my Mother and Father have done for me.
    I am looking forward to another Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with them. I also look forward to having grown kids and grandkids come to honor my wife on Mother’s Day.
    I sure am grateful that your Mother nursed you back to health! Where would we be without you??


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