14 November, 2011

Long-term Hiatus

I guess I should simply put up a post on the home page to mention I am in a long-term, unplanned hiatus from writing this blog.  I couldn't even quite tell you why I stopped when I did, but it's possible I've written all that I need to write, in the blogger format at least, about this one particular birth and being a mother and a writer. 

I do check here periodically to try to figure out if I'm really finished and, to be honest, I don't for certain know the answer to that question.  I see that sometimes people visit the old posts and I am grateful for their time and I hope the posts still help those seeking answers to their birth or other topics which are written about here.  Thanks for understanding and for being here at all.


54 Hour Mama

26 August, 2011

Women's Equality Day

It’s Women’s Equality Day, a fact I just found out about this morning, due to a friend on Facebook linking this link here.
Aside from my ignorance about this dedicated day, I’ve been a feminist for a long time, (which, by way of definition, I use the old “feminist is the radical notion that women are people, too,” version). Ever since I saw Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly” in college, with my feminist roots having been growing long before that, I have voted, argued, written, and even marched for and about women’s inherent right to have all things equal (not the same, mind you, but equal) with men. And yet, today on a day I only just learned was dedicated to our equality, I’m feeling about as non-evolved, oppressed, and unequal as a woman could feel, like not much has changed for women (and when I say women, I mean me), since we got the vote in 1920. I am in a deep funk about this lack of equality between the sexes, (and when I say sexes, I mean my husband and me).
Allow me to elaborate. My husband has a job, one that he loves and is passionate about, which has him working long hours, every day including weekends, right now, from 6 a.m. until 11 at night on several nights of the week. This particular job is a seasonal one, one that also includes in that long time-frame, much adult camaraderie and, even in the case of last night, social dinners and drinks. When he’s off-season, my husband works other jobs of equal love and passion that also have long hours, plus which require travel, so that when he’s working, he’s often simply just gone. Me, I work from mostly from home, as a mother and writer, and, sometimes, a little away from home as a low-paid teacher – all jobs that I also love and am passionate about – but nonetheless am oppressing myself over this morning.
Before we had our daughter, my husband and I talked about being one of those couples who truly shared parenting responsibilities – who took turns putting our child to bed, or bathing her, feeding her, and disciplining and playing with her. We also talked about the unlikelihood of making total equality like that happen because he had jobs that took him away from the home, and as a family, we needed him to have those jobs so we could pay our mortgage and stuff. We talked about parenting time in relation to income earned, and dreamed about both being fifty-fifty. But, in our case, the real ratio is this: 90% to 10%; which means he earns ninety percent of our income and does about ten percent of the parenting, I earn ten percent of the income (in a good year) and do ninety percent of the parenting.
For a while, (note: during the time when I was teaching at least two classes and therefore making some money), I tried hard to make sure my husband, even though he still earned more income, did have a specific and consistent parenting job with our daughter, like giving her a bath and getting her into her pajamas, so that she could know not only mama does the nurturing and caretaking. I was trying to be a good feminist, see. But, with my husband’s unpredictable and inconsistent hours, even that one “job” was impossible to keep assigned to him, and since he wasn’t home, of course I did the bathing, and, now I do it almost all the time, even when he is home. (Note: this year, I didn’t teach or sell a word, therefore, no money).
I know there are families, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, who do a lot better at equal parenting than we do – they work hard at both, are conscious of their efforts and the hurdles to overcome like male privilege and internalized oppression. Still, I would hedge a bet that those parents make roughly the same amount of money at their work. I would also bet those families have more consistent, 9-5 type work, or at least work that can allow for routines and roles to get more firmly established. More power to them, but they are the exceptions to the rule of inequality.
In far more man-woman couples, work is not equally split (I can’t even get started about single parents). Even in couples who make the same amount of money at their jobs – or, even, in one case I’m thinking about, where the woman makes more – the bulk of the childcare when the kids are picked up from day care or the nanny, falls to the woman. That husband of the higher earning wife was out with my husband last night, drinking and eating dinner, while, I’m pretty sure, his wife picked up their two young boys from day care, came home, fed them dinner, played with them, gave them baths, and put them to bed. I also imagine she fell asleep soon after, knowing she’d be the one in the morning to get the children ready for their day while she also got herself ready to go to her lucrative and important job.
I recognize, in our case, the inconsistent and erratic “dad home time” caused by my husband’s work gratefully allows me to do my chosen life’s work as a writer – I started writing this piece in my pajamas while my daughter slept. At home, I have worked hard to create predictable routines for our daughter, and consistency in the things I can somewhat control, like the layout of our daily activities or meal and bedtime rituals. I believe, for us, me staying home most of the time with our daughter is best for our family, financially and otherwise, and that me getting a paying job I hated in the name of equality isn’t worth my heartache of leaving her in full-time day care or my husband’s headaches from me complaining about how much I hate my job (I’ve done that complaining plenty, by the way, before our daughter was born). Generally speaking, I love being a stay at home mom, especially as I see the payoff in our daughter’s thriving little self.
But, I have to admit in a very self-oppressed, victim-y, whiny voice, I sometimes hate the inequality between the sexes (again, my husband and me). While, my husband will be the first to say, “my wife does the lion’s share of the parenting and her job is harder,” and most of the time I feel sorry for him that he misses out on the day to day cuteness of our daughter and the joys of getting to parent her, none of those words or thoughts appease my funk today.
See, last night my daughter, yet again fought going to sleep with the tenacity of a wolverine. Her behaviors around bedtime are not new, they are the usual needing of a drink of water, another book, and don’t turn off the light varieties of many a toddler, which has been immortalized lately thanks to Adam Mansbach’s book for those of us whose kids don’t like to sleep. But last night, for whatever reasons, her begging, screaming, and crying got to me, and I was telling myself, as I started crying, too, that I hate how I’m the one to put her to bed and I just want her father to be the one to do it, at least fifty percent of the time!
I lamented about all this to my husband early this morning before he left for work. And I have complained plenty to him and others about how hard it is stay home rearing our child, or about how much he’s gone working, or about how underpaid teaching and writing is (not to mention motherhood), or that I haven’t sold my novel for a hundred thousand dollars and retained the movie rights for millions more. I’ve even, in weak moment, said to my husband’s face I didn’t believe he’d stay home with our daughter even if I did make that kind of money, (to which he replied, “test me”). I have mourned and cried and meditated and accepted a hundred times over the lifestyle we as a couple lead, which is to say, an unequal one, one that is 90-10.
In college, see, I had hope. Hope enough to fight, like women (and yes, some men) around the globe are doing today, and every other day. When I started writing this piece this morning, my funk about inequality stemmed directly from my lack of hope.
But later, when my daughter woke up, I heard her cute footsteps upstairs and then heard her yell, “Mama come upstairs and have breakfast with me.” I went up to have some food she’d “made” in her toy kitchen. As we sat and “ate,” I asked her calmly and with genuine curiosity why she gave me such a hard time last night about going to bed, a question I’ve asked before because I believe in getting my child to think critically about her actions, even if she’s only a toddler. You know what she said? “Because I wanted to see my Daddy.”
My daughter reminds me that fighting for women’s equality is not simply for the benefit of women. Equality is so we all, men and women and parents of all kinds, can have the human right to fulfilling, paid work and the joy of seeing our children grow in a fair and just world. I thank my lucky stars for my daughter: she gives me back my hope.