On Parenting

Why You NEED to Take a Day Off (Hint: It’s not about self-care)

I just spent the afternoon listening to the legendary author and feminist Gloria Steinem.  Among the topics she addressed was the issue of democratic heterosexual households.  She argued that society has convinced us there are “male” qualities and “female” qualities.  However, when we realize that the “qualities necessary to raise children – patience, nurturing, attention to detail, empathy” – are HUMAN qualities, we’ll have taken the first step towards a democratic household.

Why don’t many men readily display these qualities?  She argues that it’s because they haven’t been given the opportunity to raise children.  Which brings me to my story.

My husband and I have what you’d call traditional gender roles.  He works outside the home; I work within it.  When we’re together on the weekends, I’m still on the clock: making the food, holding the limits, and managing the logistics, as I do during the week.  This is both convenient and devaluing to my husband.

I recently decided to step away from my home for 12 hours every Sunday, leaving my husband 100% in charge of the home, the children, and the schedule.  I’m launching a couple of projects and wanted time to work on them, but I also knew that I needed to give my kids and husband space to build their own relationship.

Is my husband thrilled about it?  The jury’s still out.  Is my absence pushing him out of his comfort zone and allowing him to become more organized, patient, and empathetic?  Yes.  Is he rocking it in his own way?  Absolutely.

Switching roles one day a week is helping both of us cultivate qualities that have lain dormant for a long time – qualities that make us more human, more whole.  And this is slowly but surely leading to a more equal partnership.

The road to true equality is long, rocky, and treacherous.  The archaic claws of tradition and enculturation threaten to pull us back at every turn.  But I’m strengthened by the words of Gloria Steinem, who reminds us that “women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal inside it.”

Women are not going to be equal outside the home until men are equal inside it.


There Is No Try

“Do or do not, there is no try. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” 
― Anonymous

A few days ago Zach and I were doing our grocery shopping.  My little man sat in the shopping cart, shooting two-tooth grins to anyone within range (except old men, he seems to dislike old men…).  I wedged my cart between the deli section and the iced tea display and was making my beverage selection when a young man turned towards us.  He couldn’t have been more than 22 years old.

“What a great baby,” he said.  “I’m doing my ob-gyn rotation right now, and I’m just amazed by the whole birth thing.  It’s just so crazy…”

I have this thing against most ob-gyn’s (please, save your comments) but I decided not to be prejudiced, so I bit my tongue and just smiled and said, “Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

“So, how was your birth?” he asked.

Prepare to have your mind blown away, I thought.  “Oh, I gave birth at home.”

“At home?  Really?”

“Yes, 10 lb. baby.”

His face was awash with shock.  “You mean, you mean…” he stammered and, unable to find the words, he made a little squat and thrust his hands downward between his legs to indicate a vaginal birth.

I laughed.  “Yes, I had a planned home birth, no pain medications, 12 hours of labor and a big healthy baby boy with the help of two midwives.”

He stared at me in disbelief.  “I’ve never seen a 10 lb. baby delivered naturally.  Even the 9-lb. babies that I’ve seen during C-sections have to be pulled out hard because they’re wedged in there so tightly.  Wow…”

“Have faith in women,” I told him.  “We’re very powerful.”

“Yes,” he stammered, still shocked.  “We try…”

And those two words right there sum up what’s wrong with the medical system’s approach to birth.  You can’t try to have faith… Either you have it or you don’t.  If doctors don’t have faith in women, then women will have a harder time having faith in themselves.  And how is a young man going to have faith in the birthing abilities of women when he’s never seen – and probably will never witness – a truly natural, intervention-free, “squat and push that baby out with a roar” kind of birth?

I bumped into that young doctor 10 minutes later while leaving the store.  He smiled and waved, still looking somewhat perplexed by our exchange.

I pray that our meeting wasn’t just coincidental; may it have planted in him a seed of curiosity and a desire to go beyond the textbooks and lectures, so that one day he can be the kind of doctor women and babies truly deserve.