Thursday, May 19, 2011


Y is for Yak

I and my husband are at that point in life where slowly but surely, all our friends are getting married and having babies.  My blogroll?  Also filled with babies.  Naturally, we talk about baby-having a lot.  Like, a lot-a-lot.  We’ve had a shared Google doc ("Nameapalooza.doc") full of future kidlet names forever (my husband constantly sends me emails with more and more outlandish names…Ermangarde! Surtur! and some ancient names I don't remember how to spell...he's very cute that way) … in other words, we are totally typical mid-twenties marrieds. 

So, eventually, we will hopefully have a kidlet.  But…what happens after?  I’m in grad school right now for library and information science and at this point, if I got pregnant right now, I’d pretty much be able to graduate on time (knockonwood of course).  So school’s not a huge concern.  It’s the day-to-day that I’m just utterly perplexed about and I have a difficult time talking about it because I stand from a place of white privilege as it is, so to voice complaints about the system seems like I’m taking what I do have for granted.  Plus, I have economy privilege in that neither my husband nor I lost a job.  I have a job; not only do I have a job, I’m the head breadwinner.  I have a good education under my belt.  We own a home.  We have our little Corgi.  I have a host of other privileges afforded me, things I have done nothing to have, so complaining here seems trivial.  But here I am.  Trivial, maybe, but it still nags at me.

The thing is, I hear a lot of people talking about the choice of whether to stay home or work after having a baby, and all I can think is, what choice are you talking about?!  We own a home; I am the head bread-winner and have the more marketable degree (my husband has a BS in anthropology with a minor in music…yeah.  So he works for a paper supply company ala Dunder Mifflin).  “Staying home” would equal “lose our house and not be able to pay bills even in a tiny apartment”.  There is no “choice” in this for me.  And yet I’m always (and by "always" I mean more internally than externally since I don't really voice this stuff much) put in a position where I’m feeling like somehow this is “my choice” to work, that if I really, really wanted to be a stay at home mom (the assumption is that clearly I don’t, if I’m going to work), the stars would align and the tides would shift and a new paradigm would just magically fuse into place! 

Off the cuff last month, my dad asked me if we were planning to homeschool future offspring.  For reference, my brothers and I were homeschooled…but both my parents worked; my mom worked a job as a sleep apnea therapist at a hospital, so her work shifts were from the evening until the following morning…she’d sleep during part of the day while we worked on self-guided material…we were not so privileged as to have only one working parent, which leads me to wonder why my dad would even breach the question to me about homeschooling.  Libraries don’t have 10pm-9am shifts; neither my nor my husband’s career could continue if we wanted to stay home during daylight hours.  I had to laugh and say well no, we have a mortgage to pay.  And frankly…I’m not going to grad school just for shits and giggles.  I’m going to grad school so that I can make more money in a field I love.   There will be no homeschooling because the home is going to be empty during the day while we are working.  But my dad’s innocent question just stirs the pot of just how prevalent the idea of the woman not working is; even my not-rich parent seems to have forgotten that they wouldn’t have been able to homeschool us had my mom not had an offbeat job with an offbeat schedule.

I would love to stay home and not work.  But that’s a fantasy that I’m going to have to lay to rest in the big picture of any future kid-having.  I would fucking love to stay home and bond and attachment-parent out the butt , but (pun) I can’t.  All of the things that seem to be part of the offbeat hipster indie parenting community are things that seem to require being home (cloth diapering…how do you get another caretaker to get right on board with that?).  Which is sort of annoying since you’d think in the offbeat hipster indie parenting world there’d be more space for moms who can’t stay at home all day to DIY an enchanted dinosaur forest playroom full of bunting and knit hats and teepees and shit and then make a good lunch of organic homemade bread with heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market…  Maybe my husband will, being the not-head-breadwinner, once I make even more money.  But I won’t be the one staying at home unless suddenly this blog makes me famous and I get a lot of money.  *looks around and hears crickets chirping*  So yeah.  I'm getting a little irked by the fact that the hipster parenting community seems to constantly be coming from a place of super privilege when all the blogs seem to tacitly involve things that require one parent being home.  It's just as bad as the mainstream parenting culture where mom is pushed to stay home all day, but with more bunting.

Don't even get me started on breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding may be free, but only if a woman's time is worth nothing.  I won't be home to just whip out the boob whenever the kid wants it.  Sure, I can pump (and will, if I'm able -- and also don't get me started on the lactivist community that seems to rain down shame on any woman who doesn't...whether or not she *can* medically/physically/job-wise doesn't seem to *really* register with that community...) but the predominant offbeat hipster indie view seems to be:

-Attachment parent
-Wear the baby all day and breastfeed all day at random
-Cloth diaper

These are all things you kinda have to be home for.  At my job, there isn't even a place I could go to pump!  My office has a huge window into an open computer lab so it's not like I could just lock my office door for a few minutes.  Bathroom?  Um, in a tiny stall seems kind of awkward and unsanitary.  Sure, I'm all for viewing a breastfeeding mom as a-sexual in the sense that she's using the boob in a totally natural way and I think it's incredibly ridiculous that we force women to cover up -- but my intellectual opinion doesn't change the fact that at work, I think I'd get some shit for pumping right at ye olde desk (remember that episode of "The Office"?)  It's shit like this that just irks me.

But really, my big beef is with the notion of feminism being all about choice.  My “choice” to one day be a working mom isn’t a choice if it’s the only reasonable (I call losing our house an unreasonable option) option on the table.  The idea that feminism is all about choice and that every choice is equally valid and freely made without being influenced by other factors, that any choice I make is totally perfect for me because I’m liberated to make choices! is BS if all of our choices are contained within a larger framework of life that still systematically does not yield to the demands of parenthood.  By which I mean, how can I choose to stay at home when economically living with one income in this economy is ridiculously difficult?  How can my choice to work be lauded as my choice alone, when…it’s a necessity?  It’s like saying I choose to put on my glasses in the morning.  Of course I choose to put on my glasses and nobody is forcing me to choose to put on my glasses…but NOT putting on my glasses isn’t going to be a very reasonable choice, is it?  I *could* choose to not put on my glasses, but I’d be a danger to others on the road, and I can’t read signs, so it seems like kind of a dumb choice to make.  So putting on the glasses isn’t really so much of a choice as it is a necessity, just Something I Have To Do.   And it frustrates me that women are judged on this “choice” all the damn time.  Yuck.

Y is for yay (future babies!)...and y is for yuck (judgement and choices that are really "choices").

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