Here we see ‘new’ Irish husbands. They are attending a camogie match in which their wives are playing. Whilst watching keenly, the two fathers are also feeding their babies.

Life has changed a lot in Ireland since I was young in 1950.

Well, if a picture paints a thousand words, doesn’t this wonderful photo say it best? 

Have we the ‘perfect husband’ at last, I wonder? 

Our search for ‘The Perfect Husband’ began during our early years when he was ‘The Handsome Prince.’ Every fairy tale ended with these lines: “The handsome prince asked her to marry him. She said ‘Yes’ and lived happily ever after.”

During the next years of our lives ‘The Perfect Husband’ was Mr. Mills and Boon. He would be the strong silent type. He would be tall, tanned, and wealthy, working as a doctor or an airline pilot.

Throughout the decades, before the 1970s, most Irish women stayed at home bearing children and doing 100% of the work involved in rearing them. Their role model was the meek and mild Blessed Virgin. The husband was the boss because he was a man and the wage earner.  

Jean Farrell's father with three of his children - seven more were to come!

Jean Farrell's father with three of his children - seven more were to come!

In order for any Irish Catholic young woman to have sex, a home of her own, and a baby - she had to get married. This may seem very strange to a young person nowadays. However, these were the attitudes and values of that time, as laid down by the Catholic Church. And we obeyed all the rules because of fear of the fires of Hell.

Remember this rule: ‘Sexual pleasure is only lawful in marriage and then according to God’s laws.' (That meant no use of contraceptives.) 

So, quite young, in our early twenties, we met our man, got married, and (only then) set up home together. We quickly discovered that life wasn’t like it was in romantic movies or in Mills and Boon books. Of course it wasn’t!  

We came of age in an interesting time in Ireland. In the 1970s, for the first time in decades, attitudes were beginning to change hugely. The Women’s Liberation Movement had opened our eyes to a different way of life, consciously or subconsciously.

Irish girls had been educated and this made all the difference. We were no longer meek, mild, doormats! We were beginning to think for ourselves. Some of us worked outside the home and therefore had our own money, unlike our mothers. And, very importantly (again unlike our mothers) we had control of our fertility.

No longer is a handsome prince wanted by any girl. (Indeed, think of one American woman who did get her handsome prince. She definitely doesn’t appear to be living happily ever after.) 

We’re aware now of what coercive control is. It’s been pointed out that a Mr. Mills and Boon would fit this description well.

Having lived for a long time, and knowing now how much hard work there is involved in marriage and in parenting, I have decided that men like the two in this photograph are the nearest thing to ‘The Perfect Husband’ that I have seen. 

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