Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who's Watching YOUR Kids?

A few years ago (before I had a baby) I was at my sister's baby shower listening to some of the women there talk about the stresses of childcare. Some of my aunts spent some time reminiscing on the days when they would ask their husbands to "babysit" for a few hours so that they could get some time alone. 

Now, I was freshly married and still carving out what the role as wife meant for me. I know that everyone is an expert on how perfect their parenting will be before they have kids, so I didn't want to be that annoying girl who--without any experience--butts in to tell them how my future motherhood would be all roses and butterflies, or at least an equal split of childcare with my husband, but I thought it. 

For the most part, I was right. I cannot imagine my husband referring to his childcare responsibilities as "babysitting" and I can't imagine how crazy I would be if I were the sole designated care provider. 

That's why The Feminist Breeder's post "Would You Ask Me That If I Were a Man" resonated with me. Someone asked how she manages to pull long hours as a doula since she has a baby herself. This reminds her of several similar questions, all wondering where her children are whenever she's not with them and all from people who know that those children's father lives in the same house. The most interesting--and sad--part of her post to me is that this expectation doesn't just extend to short outings or work, but to entire life choices:
This same sort of sexist line of questioning happens any time I mention how stressed I might be by schoolwork, or that I might be having a hard time figuring out how to juggle motherhood and work on certain days. People immediately say “Can’t you put off school?” or “Why can’t you just take some things off your plate?”  But why is my schooling or work responsibilities seen as some sort of “extracurricular” hobby that I could (and probably should, in their eyes) easily just drop? Why isn’t what I’m doing taken seriously? If a man was lamenting about how tough is course-load was, or how tough work as been lately, would people immediately suggest that he just quit? 
These same type of comments sometimes leave me feeling a little trapped. I do a lot, and I enjoy it. I am more than the sum of my parts, but I need all of those parts to become that whole. To suggest that I just chop one off and leave that part of my identity behind is not only insulting, it's terrifying.

Because I have gotten comments from people doubting that I can handle all of the responsibilities, I sometimes feel like I can't vent when I get a little overwhelmed. I know that people suggesting I let something drop aren't doing it maliciously, but would they make the same suggestion to my husband?

1 comment:

  1. "Because I have gotten comments from people doubting that I can handle all of the responsibilities, I sometimes feel like I can't vent when I get a little overwhelmed."

    Honestly, that may be the worst (most isolating) part of it. Because I take on a lot, if I'm struggling, people act like I don't deserve a little compassion. They think, "you did this to yourself -- show off!"

    That really sux.