Monday, April 25, 2011

Ways My Daughter Messes with My Head

You've heard, I'm sure, how having a baby changes everything. Some people say it glowingly, assuring you that having a child makes life worth living. The sun shines brighter. The birds sing longer. And even when the days go faster, you've found meaning in life because of this child.

Other people say it forebodingly, with both a solemn tone and a hint of gleeful mischief, happy to see another soul sucked into their misery: "everything changes. You'll have no life. Just wait. You'll see."

They're all wrong, as far as I'm concerned. I know I'm only five months in, but having a child did not change everything. Though the daily schedule is a little more hectic and going out is definitely more complicated, the things that make me who I am seem firmly rooted.

Of those two voices above, the first one is definitely closer: my daughter has brought me a lot of joy. She puts things into perspective in a way few other roles of my life have done. I love being a mother, and it is an important part of who I am.

Though it hasn't changed everything, it has changed some things. It's left me wondering, contrary to the findings of this study that suggests having daughters (at least for fathers) makes one more liberal, if having a daughter has made me more conservative.

Not in a political spectrum sense. Not really. I won't be joining Gary Busey and Meat Loaf in throwing my support behind Donald Trump's presidential bid anytime soon. But in the social sense, I've noticed a few things that I'm altering my perspective on.

  • City Living- I like living in the city. I like the energy of it, and I like that most of the stores are unique and local. I love the sharp edges of city streets turning into beautiful parks, and I love the hundred-year-old buildings surrounding me. (Though I don't always love my own hundred-year-old house, but that's a different post for a different day).
    But some things have been getting to me lately. For instance, our lawn mower was stolen out of the shed in the backyard while we were out of town this weekend. This is the kind of petty crime I used to take in stride--broken car windows, stolen BBQ grills. I told myself it was a small price to pay to live in such a diverse, busy, entertaining place.
    But now that I have a baby, the petty stuff seems much less petty. I find myself slightly more suspicious, slightly less forgiving.
    I still like living in the city, but something about motherhood has made me more aware of the parts I don't like. Which brings me to . . . 
  • Schools- Now, I work in education, so I think about schools a lot. I knew that the public city schools were in trouble, and I spent time volunteering to do my small part to help. I believe in public schools. I went to them myself, and I truly think they can be successful. But I can't send my daughter to the ones in the city. I feel like a hypocrite, but feeling bad doesn't change my mind. I know that parents doing exactly what I plan to do--send my daughter out of district or to a private school or (even worse for the city) move and take my tax dollars with me--hurts flailing schools even more, but when it comes to the one vs. the many, my responsibility lies first and foremost with my one. And I have to make the best decision for her.
  • Clothing- And the best decision for her also made me question my self-identified feminist status. SlutWalk is coming to St. Louis. It is a response to a police officer stating that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized." People were (rightly) outraged. Women should be safe from rape and assault no matter how they are dressed. And women should not be judged by their clothing. And women's sexuality should not be shameful.
    But when it comes time for my daughter to be out alone on those streets, I plan to tell her something a little different. I plan to say that she should be smart about how she dresses and the messages she sends. I plan to tell her that she has the right to dress however she wants, but that she should also be aware of the risks, especially of date rape.
Do these things make me a hypocrite? Perhaps. But if I'm being truly honest with myself, I have to admit that having a child did change me. I do see the world differently. It was easier when I was only responsible for myself. I knew how much I was willing to risk. I knew that a stolen BBQ grill was worth the short commute. I knew that public schools were great places in need of some TLC. I knew that clothing was just fabric. But now that I'm responsible for someone else's life, those realities are a little less stable. 

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Comments are welcome and encouraged. I appreciate debate and have no problem hearing from people who disagree. This is a space where people can question and discuss. That said, I will delete comments that contain name-calling or bigotry. If it would get you kicked out of a dinner party, don't say it here. Use your manners.