So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

02 August, 2010


I'm still reading those threads on Feministe. And one of these sentiments keeps coming up, people dismissing concerns about the segregation of mothers and children with things like "[this is] about parents who want to continue living the same life they had before they had children". (Gee, where have I heard that one before?)

I tell you a secret: I have the same life I had before Little Foot was born.

Indeed! I have not died and been resurrected by a divine avatar! I have not been carried up into heaven or dragged down into hell to begin a new existence on a new plane! I have not been spontaneously reincarnated as a very clever emu! I have not been uploaded onto the internet to live in the tubes! I have not been resuscitated after a medical emergency! I have not been in a chrysalis and emerged with delicate wings! I am also not a zombie or other undead entity.

I have the same life as before. My life is, in fact, a continuous flow in time, without notable discontinuities. I know, it's shocking, but it's nonetheless true.

La Lubu made a response to one of those posts over there which is damn good.

But I just want to pull that out a bit more.

The two narratives about women, life, and children that I see are either "Living through her children" or "Gave up her life for her children". This is what's seen as culturally normal: the parent-read-woman ceasing to exist as an independent, self-willed entity for at least the duration of childhood, and either vanishing in a puff of logic or desperately attempting to vicariously devour her child's living soul to replace what she has lost. (And then when the children "leave the nest", she has no idea who she is anymore.)

Why does anyone think this is a good idea? For mothers or children?

Why is this normal?

Here's what I see on this front, at least from the culture where I grew up: I see young women being told that they can do or be whatever they have the aptitude for, so long as they do not have children. A woman can, in theory*, have a life, so long as she is childfree; a woman who is not childfree has clearly "chosen" to discard 'the life she had before she had children'.

Child or life, pick one.

So women who want lives don't have children, or turn into terrifying vampires feeding off their children's vivacity. Some form the "compromise" position of having children and navigating the complex world of daycare and babysitting in order to "have it all", which takes time, energy, and expense, much like any other attempt to pull off living a double life does. Otherwise, it's the women who are content to be 1950s Stepford clones are the ones who have children in this world, right? (Someone in one of those threads suggested that having children indicates not only a political position, but a necessarily socially conservative political position. I don't have the heart to go digging for that now to sort out my memories of it.)

But life is still continuous.

Two years ago I was a struggling novelist and beginning theologian, wrestling with concepts of gender and with recovery from being sexually assaulted at the age of fourteen, primary homemaker in one house of a two-household family, working on and off on plans for my second wedding, dealing with stress and insecurity in one relationship, about to embark on what turned out to be a period of about three months of persistent illness, and trying to get pregnant.

A year ago I was in a hospital bedroom with a nearly nine-pound baby and a husband who'd barely had any more sleep than I had, trying to make sense of the hospital room service.

Today I wrote about 1600 words on a new novel that wasn't what I meant to be doing, am nearly through a first draft of a major work of theological analysis (written in poetry and bad jokes) that will need major revisions to make it to submittable draft (but hey, first draft is nonetheless a fine thing to be nearly done with), working on joining a Unitarian church, still feeling complicated about gender and considering how to make it possible to go back into therapy at least a little bit of the time, married to two fantastic men, navigating the complexities of an only partially split-location household, wishing to address some issues in the relationship with one of them and wishing to have time to celebrate the feeling of connection that my child's birth restored to my relationship with the other, mostly healthy, mostly sane, working on plans for when I might be able to go back to college and dithering about whether I want to start part time sooner rather than later, contemplating my driver's license test and the practice I need to get for that, and I have a baby asleep on my foot.

You might almost think that I kept living my life as best I could even while huge amounts of my time, energy, and effort are consumed by being primary caregiver and food source for the kidlet, wouldn't you?

I mean, I don't get out to social gatherings as much as I used to, which is as much "I'm too tired to move" as it is the complexities of child portability.

But I want to do more, live more, be more, now, in part because my child deserves to see and live life beyond my living room. And that, dear readers, is wicked hard.

And among the things that make it hard are things like wondering, if I manage to get out to dinner, who might try to pull me aside and scold me for having a baby in a restaurant to make a 7:30 reservation. Because, you know, you're a parent now, you need to make sacrifices and accept that you don't get to do that sort of thing.

Babies go to bed at eight, and that's that, even if yours never actually has, you know. That's the rule.

(You don't get to have your old life. You gave that up when you had children.)

(The one where going out to dinner landed at 6:30, which would require interrupting her nap.)

* So long as she is not a POC, is not or does not become disabled, is only queer in "tolerant" areas and maybe not even then, is not trans, makes enough money, and otherwise conforms to standards for life-having as defined by pernicious external forces.


Alcibiades said...

I'm really excited to hear that you're writing a theological... is treatise the right word? Anyway, is there any way we readers of the blog will have an opportunity to read and/or purchase that when it's done?

Dw3t-Hthr said...

This one isn't serious theology, but it has a lot of serious theology work in it and is sort of setting up me being able to write a theological 101 for my actual religious stuff.

I will almost certainly burble about it with great enthusiasm should I successfully sell it.

Ailbhe said...

Yes - asserting the right of our children to exist in Normal Places, not just explicitly child-centric places, is exhausting.

mamacrow said...

thank you for this. the whole 'your life will change you know, never be the same' bores me.

Life changes all the time, why would I want it to stay the same? resisting change is what causes suffering etc etc.

And what about women (I am one) for whom, the life they want to get/have is one of having children? That isn't an acomplishment? for goodness sake!

big squishy hugs for Little Foot... it must be her 1st birthday soon? (because she was born a few months before Dot, and Dot is just 9mnths... not sure what happened to this last year actually)

Peeeeka-chu said...

Yeah. Not being able to take children out because of the perceived ... look-down-your-nosed-ness of other people. Look what a terribly mother I am! I'm bringing my children out in *public*!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I'm not sure what happened to the last year either!

I'll convey your birthday well-wishes to Little Foot, her birthday was Sunday. :)

Rosemary Cottage said...

Happy belated birthday to Little Foot. :-)

I have given up reading those threads. But I have been of the opinion that what actually makes that "life will never be the same after you have children" come true is not so much the child (although, yes, part of me did change, personality-wise I mean, but I cannot speak for everyone) but the society around the child and parent/s that makes it so bloody difficult for life to carry on / be the same.

And what Mamacrow said too, for me, my child *is* a very large part of my life, being with him, spending time with him, raising him, to me, that's just as much a challenge, with all the fun and not-fun bits, as it was when I did full-time paid work in a "challenging" job (with its fun and not-fun bits). Well actually I prefer it, although I wish the pay was as good.

Being a single parent magnifies a lot of this too; and particularly on those threads where some feminists say "well, the solution is, fathers should be involved in childcare more". Never mind the heteronormativity, never mind the fact that this is simply not possible for many single mums, the fact is, I want to be able to take my child out in public without the glares and the stares and the "no entry" because he is a person who, well, should be allowed in public (also, I happen to quite enjoy his company).

-blessed holy socks, the non-perishable-zealot said...

Nevertheless, be prepared. The Warning from God to U.S. will come upon thee without warning; doesn't matter if you're a heathen, Pagan, transvestite, gay, homophobe, Al-Qaeda, Jewish, or myself as a young hypocrite. We all git the Warning. God expects U.S. to repent and believe more strongly... OR be cast into the Lake of Fire. The Trinity’s sick-to-death of all the overwhelming bullshit. I'm only a prophet. Don't be mad at ME!!! Your choice, my friend, to follow Jesus. Your demise. I'd strongly urge U.S. to repent when the Warning comes, yet, that's totally up to one person. You. God bless you with discernment.

Adult toys said...

That is some enlightenment.