On Gender Roles and strength

Men can’t breastfeed. Women never get a break. Men bring home bacon. Women cook it.

We are not going to do this. She will Earn the Money. I will try and nurse the child. Notice where the caps are- the easier the task, the more Manly the Pronouncement,  the Louder The Letters. I can barely hold on to Baby G for a run to the grocery store without getting panicked. Who the fuck decided ‘women’s work’ was easy?

I’m a little worried.

I got canned from my job over paternity leave- I wanted it, they didn’t. I It’s probably more complicated than that, but it was a teaching job, and therefore- by way of having a job anywhere else in the white collar world- the Missus was making more money than I anyway, with better insurance and shorter hours. We decided I was going to be Mr. Mom, at least for a while. She goes back to work in two months- when she does, I’ll be on my lonesome with Baby G, at least a few days out of the week.

I’m preparing for the months ahead by being totally paranoid. That would be great if it inspired a flurry of work, getting ready for any contingency, but really, by ‘preparing’  I mean ‘avoiding thinking about.

Mom is preparing, too. By ‘preparing’, I mean “noticing that Dad is apparently doing exactly fucking nothing to prepare for the sudden onset of Infant, oh God, does he even understand the whirlwind of oh my fucking GOD, it’s a KID, you are RESPONSIBLE for her, look at him, clueless, SHE MIGHT FUCKING DIE IN YOUR HANDS, Are you EVEN READY FOR THIS!!??!!.

Sure, she has a point. When she does hand Baby G off to me to go sort out bank loans or grocery shop, I think it’s a comfort to her that I am out of my mind with PANIC, thank GOD you are HOME, this is IMPOSSIBLE, DO YOU KNOW SHE CRIES ALL THE TIME!!??!!, wherein she decides to clean the kitchen, just to make sure the lesson marinates fully. If in the off chance Baby G and I are comfortably snoozing when she returns,  I don’t ever tell her that we just dropped off after crying ourselves to sleep after 17 hours ( read: 45 minutes. But it seems that long). I like to appear marginally competent.

I don’t know at all how I’m going to deal with being Mom. The Missus will castigate herself daily, even hourly, over her imagined shortcomings. She has this totally unfounded belief that she is A Terrible Mother- programming from society as a whole and often other mothers, which is how women stab each other in the back, even after writing “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”

I haven’t been able to express to her yet how in awe I am of her- this is a woman who, after giving birth after 32 hours of labor, after an epidural- which technically paralyzes you from the waist down- stood fucking up, bleeding so much out of her vagina that the hospital room looked like a CSI set, and commanded the doctors and orderlies to

“Clean this place up! I’ve got to go to the bathroom! I could slip on this (placenta)!”

She took to motherhood instantly- something in her body or her soul or her make-up just flipped on and started doing it- there was no wait time whatsoever, and I was proud for her. It wasn’t ‘bio-chemistry’, as much as I would like to reduce it to that, for simplicities sake. We wouldn’t be as far as we are without a massive pre-existing core of strength she had so coyly kept hidden for so long.

We’ve taken to Baby G to restaurants, to the park, three hours up the coast, to the farmer’s market, up and down Clement st., to Dim Sum both formal and informal, for crepes, rice balls, to the library, the botanical gardens, strawberry hill and stow lake, Scrap, Daly City, Buffalo burger, Alameda and the nursing weirdness, Christmas in Marin, Christmas other places, Bill’s, Tutu’s, Joy’s, Dim Sum with Sue in downtown SF, walking along the muddy coast with Grandma up in Sea Ranch – all before she was two months old, in no short part because Mom is a fucking trooper. Since I am a Man, I haven’t found the right words yet to express this to her, even when she really needed me to say it, to just confirm that she was a passable mom. I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job, but I fumble, become verclempt, step into the doorway of the bedroom while she is nursing and give a toothy grin every twenty minutes, wanting to say “sweetie, you are a FUCKING CHAMPION” This is how men stab themselves in the back- we reach right around and do it to ourselves, through silence and inaction.

How can I even begin to think I could fill her shoes?

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 10:58 PM  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Shumit’s, that was beautiful! You nearly roughy a tear to my eye.

    Those of us who’ve known Lael a very long time have seen that inner strength before. One might not think repairing a motorcycle at the side of the road would prepare one for motherhood, but it does.

  2. Yeah, we know. All women are perfect. And all men are horrible.

    So since she, like all women, is perfect, and you are, like all men, so horrible, wouldn’t she better off without you? Wouldn’t your child be better off being raised by a perfect person rather than a horrible person? I mean what could you contribute that would be of any value, being such a horrible person?

    If being a Man fills you with such self hatred and disgust, are you really the person who should be raising a child? And is it really necessary to express such contempt for yourself and all other men in order to prove what a feminist you are? Sad.

    • Awwww…….is someone a widdle cwanky? Does someone have a soggy diaper? Maybe someone needs a cookie.

    • I’m going to jump in because I don’t think the ad hominem response is the way to go. First, what you refer to as “self hatred” is really just self-deprecating humor. It’s a vehicle that is frequently used to make humorous points. Second, it’s pretty common knowledge that men frequently have problems expressing their feelings/emotions. It’s not hard to find articles on this very subject. http://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Get-a-Man-to-Express-His-Feelings&id=611333

      You’ll have to point out the part where he says “all women are perfect” and “all men are horrible” because I can’t seem to find it. I see one reference to “Who said women’s work was easy?” which has been a common belief in our society for years, and one reference to men’s feelings at the end.

      So in short, back off, buddy!

  3. Yeah Shu – another beautiful post. Kevin & I laughed and cried. We love you guys and even though we have yet to actually meet Baby G and see you & Lael in action – we know you two are the best of parents!

  4. And then I love how after writing this you didn’t walk into the room and tell her how awesome she is, but instead knew she’d end up reading the post and receiving your sentiments second hand. Classic move.

    • Indeed. These days, just gettin’ er done might be the best I can do, second-hand or not.

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