This is the second of the 5 roles I discussed in a previous post that every Dad has to provide for his family. It goes without saying that this Protector role comes from an old mindset of the strong father leading his household. And will obviously conflict with modern ideologies. So understanding your partner is key in how much responsibility you take on in this role.
Countless studies and polls show that physically strong looking men are seen as more "attractive" by women. But why? Our instincts as men and women are to perform certain roles and among them for men is to protect the family. Women instinctively are drawn to a man that they perceive as being well-suited for this task. Attributes that show strength include a strong physique, high intelligence, having a lot of money or having high confidence. By improving yourself in these 4 areas, you will appear more "attractive" to the opposite sex and also draw more attention from your partner.
Understanding the Role:
As with all of these roles, the heart of what I'm trying to convey is a division of labor in the house. As a husband, you should take care of some responsibilities and so will your spouse. The protector of a household might sound macho but what it really means is you will take care of the little things that help keep everyone safe. Here is a short list of the things a protective man may do in his household:
Ensuring all doors are locked at night
Preparing for natural disasters such as maintaining safety kits
Installing and maintaining detectors for fires and carbon monoxide in the home
Checking the family vehicle and keeping it safe for transportation
Having medical insurance and access to medical care for the family
Preparing for financial emergencies, retirement and other unforeseen costs
Holding your child's hand when they cross the road
Walking your wife or female children into buildings or down dark areas
Vetting boyfriends and suitors for your female children
Physically protecting your family if an aggressor gets too close to the family
The last one of those is a protective instinct that both men and women share. If you ever want to see a seriously hostile woman, watch her when she is protecting her children. You may have noticed in the list above that most of the tasks have to do with safety precautions and prevention. That is because it is much more likely that danger will strike medically, by fire or natural disaster than by someone being aggressive to you. It reminds me of an old Army saying:
"Failing to plan is planning to fail."
Communicating this role with your spouse:
Storytime: Recently I had a small argument with my wife on this very topic and 99% of it has to do with us not communicating expectations before the situations may arise. She has been trying to practice driving more often in our local area which is famous for aggressive drivers. She is understandably nervous and I am trying to be supportive. I see she is about to miss our turn on the right because she is in the left lane. When I remind her about it she attempts to change lanes but sees a bus on the right. In the heat of the moment, I suggest she stop for a moment to let the bus pass, but in doing this she upset the other drivers behind our car. We pull to the right and an angry driver pulls over as well to yell at her. He rolls down his window, says some stuff and then pulls over further to get out of his car and confront my wife. Without thinking I start to get out as well and confront him and my wife grabs my arm to make me stay inside the vehicle. I shrug her off angrily and get out to confront the man.
She calms him down by accepting fault for the traffic issue and we both get back in the car. Then she gets very upset with me about putting myself in danger by engaging with this road-rage guy. She says that he could have had a weapon and getting hurt or worse wasn't worth it. I know she is right, but I remind her that he got out first and was coming straight at her side of the car. I won't wait to see how far things escalate without taking some kind of action, even if it only deflects his anger to me. We both calm down and are grateful that everything was defused and carried on with our plans.
The moral of this story is that she didn't expect me to want to get out. We had never communicated about this sort of issue. She wanted to protect me and tried to keep me in the car. Also, I felt that she genuinely cares about my well-being and safety when she got upset after. But she should understand that my identity includes these roles and in the future I will react the same way. I want to protect my family and as the physically strongest person in the house, I take it upon myself to physically engage with anyone who aggresses my loved ones.
I recommend that you bring up in casual conversation perhaps after a movie what you would want to do or what she might want you to do in such a situation. If a guy came up to her and did or said something, what does she think the appropriate response should be? What do you think it should be? Talk about it.
Protecting the Kids
The roles you take on and how you act is a trait that will be emulated in your sons and a trait that will be sought after by your daughters. Make sure you protect them with love and humility and not by being too over-bearing, strict or harsh. Talk to them about things that are dangerous and help to set-up boundaries that they should abide by.
The two main rules of our household:
Keep your hands and body to yourself, and
Never open the door without mom or dad.
My youngest son is seven at the time of writing this and sometimes he gets afraid of going into dark or lonely areas of our house alone. Just being present with him is enough to make him feel better and also help him to sleep well without nightmares. So what I do to help him out is walk upstairs and "check things out" first. I close his window shades, untuck his bed and help him pick out some pajamas. One time, after he brushed his teeth and climbed in bed, he said that he sometimes gets scared of noises outside the window. Maybe there's bad guys out there. Without missing a beat, I looked him in the eyes and said that the bad guys are more scared of Daddy than I am of them. If I'm here, no one will come close to you. With that, he gives me a big hug and falls soundly asleep.
With my youngest daughter who is 6 at the time of writing this, I noticed that she always seeks out my hand when we walk outside. If we approach a cross-walk or set of stairs, she just automatically seeks out my hand. It makes her feel safe. It reminds me of when she was a toddler and would nearly take a spill down the stairs and I lifted her up by that hand. She opened her eyes very wide and said she was happy Daddy was holding her hand. Now she just does it automatically.
These small things mean the world to kids. When we play sports or wrestle, I sometimes have to pause so I don't run over them or do something that might hurt them. And then I say it out loud, like "Hey, I need to slow down, I almost knocked you over. And I don't want to hurt you." This shows them that I want to protect them. It builds trust. It shows that I care. It also shows your spouse that you care and this will in turn build trust with her as well. Remember, earlier I said that mothers are extremely protective of the children and showing that you want to be safe and protective is a major plus to your relationship.
Protecting your Family Finances
As mentioned above, protecting your family is often as simple as ensuring their financial welfare is intact in the case of a problem, loss, or emergency. I described this topic at length in the post about the role of Provider. But a quick summary as it pertains to protection include the following key points:
Savings account just for emergencies with several months of living expenses covered in it
Investments for retirement like a ROTH IRA account which is invested in an index fund like the S&P500
Life insurance for you, your spouse and your children which will at a minimum cover burial expenses
Will, Living-Will and instructions for the family including finances, assets and investments
Power of Attorney (POA) and other legal rights granted to trusted persons
As the Protector, it may be completely up to you to think about these things, contact a lawyer to set up all of the above listed documents. You may also want to establish a Trust and include in it all of the family assets, life insurance and funds. Check out a couple YouTube videos on Trusts, Wills and Financial planning to better understand the topic. Then contact a lawyer to get it started. Whoever is the main bread-winner in the household should have additional life insurance that will equal several years of income based on their salary. This will ensure that the family is taken care of for some time in the event the main provider is not around.
In addition to this future planning is having money set aside for basic emergencies like flat tires and broken arms. Life happens and not planning for these things will always bite you in the butt. If you own your home, have a warranty that covers the AC/Heat system and appliances. Have a savings account set aside just for these sort of emergencies with at least 3 months of your salary in it. If you want to have a stronger emergency fund, increase it to 6 months of funds equivalent to your salary. And then a year worth. If you are just starting out in this process, begin with creating the accounts, give them nicknames like "emergency only account" and then put a small bit of cash to it. Then set up automatic deposits to it from your main checking account.
Firearms in the Home
When I talk about this topic, there is always a statement about firearms for physical protection. For most people who own a firearm, they are at a higher statistical chance of having an accident occur such as a misfire or using it on themselves or loved ones during a low moment. What I'm saying is, if you feel that your surroundings are so dangerous that you need a firearm, then you already made a mistake putting your family in that situation and need to move. It is much safer to get to a good neighborhood with low crime stats and keep a firearm out of the home, than it is to stay where you are and arm yourself.
If you made up your mind to purchase and keep arms, make sure that you take every single possible precaution you can to not become a statistic. That also means protecting yourself from yourself. Put it in a safe or locker and make sure there are barriers to reaching it if you were upset about something. I empathize with men with stress and mental health issues and lost one of my closest friends to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I honestly mean that I care, and don't want anyone to get hurt. Lock it up, keep the rounds separate.
The absolute best thing you can do for your family as the Protector is to be around. By that I mean stay alive. Be here. Staying healthy as long as you can and staying in shape are the best ways you can protect your family. The number one killer of adult men in the United States is heart failure, not physical conflict or shooting. If you want to statistically protect your family for longer and more effectively, then protect your health by eating healthy and working out. Just be alive longer for your family is all I'm saying. And talk to your spouse to divide up tasks that could really help the household be more safe.
If you enjoyed this post, here is a link to Dad Role 3: The Example.