Sharon Bannister BEM on the importance of supportive family

The men who support women

As a woman in a time-consuming community leadership role I am acutely aware of and grateful for the wise counsel, support, and generous time that my husband gives me. Without that willing co-operation I doubt that I would have ever accepted the position. I certainly would have been less effective. Of course, it helps that he too is quite active in his chosen sphere of voluntary activities and therefore fully understands that we both have frequent and demanding calls on our time in addition to our family life together.

We long ago decided that for us to be able to do what we have chosen to do, certain sacrifices would be necessary but we would never lose sight of what is really important i.e. our family. Accepting joint invitations becomes a hesitant activity, necessitating a check on two diaries – has he committed us to something else on that day, is he available? And just occasionally we need to decide whose diary takes precedence, which is where my husband’s support is vital – he has quite a few times given up something that he wanted to do in order to accompany me, rather like Dennis Thatcher trailing behind Margaret, trying to look interested. Once or twice he’s even “done a Prince Philip” by saying something entirely inappropriate, not by intention but simply by being himself.

On many days and evenings I am doing the job I accepted which means me being away from the house, sometimes locally, sometimes further afield. He professes delight in having uncontested control of the TV remote but I do know that just occasionally he would rather have me around. We do try to eat dinner together whenever practicable, even if that means starting to eat at 10PM. The only evening that we can guarantee not to be disturbed is Friday, which we value highly and always enjoy our Shabbat meal together. It’s a chance to fully relax, have a moan about our respective voluntary activities and cross-check next week’s diaries.

There is, I’ve found, a delightful synergy from having him around. It’s great having someone back at home who will listen to my worries, give counter arguments, fill in the blanks in my knowledge, suggest ways to solve problems, correct my errors, field phone calls, edit my written grammar and provide those thousands of other little metaphorical prods, pushes, pulls, lifts that we all need. Having him with me at an event is reassuring, someone to recognise when I need rescuing from a painful encounter with an interminable bore, someone to tell me when I’m talking nonsense myself, even someone to smile back at me from an audience when I’m asked to give a speech.

I am certainly the more visible in the work I do and whilst my husband’s efforts in assisting and supporting me in doing that may go unrecognised in the community I serve, I value it most highly. I suspect had he been asked to write about women supporting men, he would express similar thoughts.

Sharon Bannister

President

Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region