Taking Responsibility for Equality
Last month, I happened upon a blog entry at The Momoir Project from an ESP mother who is very thankful for her arrangement. It was a pleasure to read, but I was even more moved by one of the comments left on her entry. The comment was from another mother who has found herself in a much more traditional relationship. But rather than simply complain, she is extremely thoughtful about how she might have gotten there. Here is her comment, which I think is so beautifully written that I don't want to paraphrase it:
"Somewhere between dropping my wedding dress off at the drycleaners and extracting myself from the cocoon of my warm bed to nurse [my son], I lost a piece of myself. I stopped listening to Ani DiFranco and my dreams of taking down the system were exchanged for conversations about sleep and aspirations to find time for myself. I became wife and mother. Like stepping into a pair of yoga pants, I fell into the comfort of my roles. I took motherhood seriously and appointed myself chief caretaker queen without stopping to assess how this would all play out.
Now, two children under four later, I sit uncomfortably on my throne and I feel the hot orange wave of resentment as I drag my knackered spirit out of bed to get up with the kids by myself for the 250th day in a row since [my son's] birth. I've talked to friends who report that whoever hears the kids first gets up with them or that they simply take turns. I muse over what kind of miracle needs to take place in order for me to be able to sleep in. I sit silently and wonder where it all went wrong and how I ended up being the one who is constantly giving to everyone else around her at the expense of her own sanity. When did I become this person who can't negotiate her own needs? When did I become the kind of wife that lapses into the role of mother to her husband? I can't count the number of times I have said, "shh, Daddy's still sleeping." Somewhere between loads of laundry and wiping noses, I embarked on a journey to take care of everyone else's needs leaving my own almost unfulfilled. Should I be surprised that nobody has magically appeared to take care of them for me?
What is probably the most baffling part of all this is that I'm not married to some kind of uncaring lout who is unconcerned with my happiness and well being. Far from it. I'm married to someone who loves me deeply, someone who is happier when I am happy. And yet, somehow we have been delivered to a place that serves neither one of us. When we play the game of kid swap on weekends, we come together beautifully as a parenting couple. But recently when I listened to Ani DiFranco, I had my own mini Aha moment. She sang "and you will take the heavy stuff. And you will drive the car. And I'll look out the window and make jokes about the way things are." If I have misplaced small parts of myself then it is up to me to find them. If I want a tag team approach [meaning ESP approach, in this context] to parenting 100% of the time then I need to take the wheel and stop making jokes about the way things are."
It's Amy again. I love this mother's writing because it exposes how most of the world tends to approach why ESP is so rare - as a rude joke against women. "It's not fair that we're stuck with all the burden!" so many women and mothers scream or cry or laugh with sarcasm. Yet the problem is far from that simplistic. We are not just victims - of our husbands, of men in general, of even our culture. We're part of why things are not equal. No need to blame women, of course. But we do need to be at least half of the solution. We need to take responsibility, take action, take the wheel - and stop passively accepting the standard path for couples...it will lead to inequality, of that we can be sure. It is up to us, together with our partners, to turn that wheel toward ESP.