Familiar to every fiancé and expectant father is some derivation of “the ball and chain” joke.
Perhaps meant for commiseration, this humor is discouraging if taken literally and depressing if believed. The uncle figure who shares these jokes with a recently engaged man or soon-to-be-father reveals the dysfunctional relationship he has with his wife and children. And even if he doesn’t practice it, his sly pun shows a core belief about that dynamic.
(Editor’s Note: In support of Mr. Bellavia’s point – in my experience there is truth to the old adage, “People will rarely say something that they don’t mean just a little bit . . .”)
I’m sorry once again to rid the world of a few laughs by explaining a joke. However, this laughter isn’t the best medicine when it derides a critical piece of the fabric of our society – the family unit.
Many times, jokes are funny because a word was used in an unexpected way. Because of that, I can accept jokes about the wife and kids if the relationship between the teller and hearer makes it obvious that the teller doesn’t truly believe the disparaging ideas he’s forwarding. There’s humor in something being the opposite of what you think.
But if a high esteem for marriage and children aren’t present, it’s best that the joke-deliverer adhere to the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
The danger in perpetuating the trope of a nagging wife is that the fiancé is going to assume that will awaken in her when they’re married. When the expecting father hears his children will take up all his free time, he’ll raise them with an amount of bitter regret. These aren’t healthy perspectives to have within a nuclear family.
Yes, a spouse and child are logistical impediments to complete independence, but complete independence is rarely a good thing. Though I am the chief of sinners when it comes to not being the husband or father my family deserves, I recognize I am better off having the constraints that come with thinking for three.
The death of “Mr. Right and Mrs. Always Right” and “Did your condom break?” won’t directly lower the high rates of divorce or fatherlessness, but it would improve the day-to-day and overall endurance of a family wherein each member knows they’re wanted and loved. Incumbent husbands and fathers must not denigrate their titles; rather, they should encourage those looking to obtain them.