Response to Why Straight Moms Should Parent Like Lesbians

http://nymag.com/thecut/2012/09/why-straight-moms-should-parent-like-lesbians.html

Let me say that I love this article, and I am not writing to quibble with the gross (though illustrative!) generalizations. It starts an important dialog, and I particularly loved the challenge to gendered tasks, like installing car seats.

For context, my husband is the one who works part-time from home and takes care of our daughter two days a week while I finish my professional training. Meaning he interfaces with our nanny, does the laundry, makes the extra grocery runs, takes her to the pediatrician, and signs for our deliveries. That said, like everyone, we have the gender inequities we’re working on, like that fact that he always drives and I ride in back with the baby. (I know, I know.)

The thing I really want to talk about is what happens when the woman wants to do certain “unequal” things. What if pureeing the food is appealing, a relaxing activity that I would choose? What if I enjoy researching cloth diapering options, even if it means I’m not spending that time on my creative projects and he is? What if I devour child development books because they are both personally and professionally fascinating?

The words “want,” “choose,” and “enjoy” warrant scrutiny as well as acknowledgment that degree of privilege changes the meaning of these words for each woman. What forces make us want what we want? How free is the choice? Can enjoying something ever be separated from the socialized comfort that derives from fulfilling one’s gender role? I’m telling you, I *get off* on making her lentil/kale/flax seed/curry/quinoa mush. It positively thrills me. But do I enjoy the activity itself or the control, the feeling of victory/mastery/winning, the fact that while doing so, I see myself for a brief moment as undeniably a Good Mom?

It may be impossible to answer, impossible to separate. And I wonder how much to sweat whether a particular happiness is a healthy or unhealthy happiness. There’s something obnoxious in saying it’s not enough to be happy, I have to be happy for feminist reasons for it to count. I’m trying not to spoil my happiness with theory. We are having a lot of fun being parents, and though I’ll keep reflecting on the whole sitting-in-the-back-seat-of-the-car thing, I’m not going to pout back there while I’m still doing it.

 

on how the baby has made life easier

I don’t mean to say that having a baby is easy, but rather that the net is a little bit easier than pre-baby.  Having a baby is hard. There is no question about that. There is a lot to juggle, at first there is the labor, then the weeks when they are so little and they don’t know when night is, then just when you are getting the hang of it they start to teeth, followed by stranger anxiety and eating solids that you have to purchase and prepare and on and on. This doesn’t even take into account your and your partner’s (if you are in it with someone) own adjustments with identity, being needed all the time, letting go when you leave them, whether for 9+ hours a day or once a week. Okay right, so we all know that it is hard, in many ways it is overwhelming and draining.

Still, what I have noticed is that things come easier to me since the little one arrived. First and probably formost is that being a mom, having a baby has made me so god damm happy. It was something I wanted so much and for so long and wasn’t sure it was something I was going to get to do. It is a little bit like my first visit to New York City, it was as awesome as I thought it would be. While I realize this is not everyone’s experience of being a mom it has certainly been mine and I am guessing others’.

Secondly and probably more interesting and strange is how much energy I have. I have had moments in my life that have felt similar, studying for finals, finishing a project for a deadline, but they were always fleeting. Granted I have only been at this a year, but if anything the ability to do, just increases. I used to wake up every morning and dread going to work, dread. Now I wake up and it is easy, I just wake up and get the baby and change her diaper and get her a bottle and get in the shower, no lamenting, no questions asked, just go. I am somehow managing to live more of the life I have wanted to live for years, my house is almost always clean, the dishes are done, I lighting candles and writing at night. Even making an apple pie last Sunday came easy. Make crust, put in fridge, while chilling, peel, peel, peel, slice, slice, slice, add sugar and spice, roll out dough, while rolling out dough remember I forgot to add half of the butter to the crust, but still I baked. Of course it is not all easy all the time: see first paragraph. I am willing to bet that the bulk of my posts about having a baby will actually argue the difficulties as opposed to the ease.

People say vague things all the time about having kids: “Having children has brought so much meaning to my life” and “I live for my kids” and “It has changed my life”. While all this is true, for me I think a more descriptive expression is: having a baby has been this great organizational force in my life, that being a mom has taken up so much room that the rest of my identity, a career woman, a lover, a writer, a friend, a cook has been pressed to margines, but somehow amazingly in the process the margines have become more vivid and well defined and hence easier to embody. Much like watching a lightning storm from home on a summer evening, the lighting is the main attraction, but the way the lighting lights up the sky brings your everyday surroundings into sharp focus.