Category Archives: Family

When a feminist becomes a parent

It’s been six months since our son was born. I carried him and birthed him, but my husband and our midwife literally brought him into this world. Yes, I became a Mom, but most importantly we became parents. And wow, has it been a sobering experience in how far women – and men – still have to go.

Firstly, the irony of women saying you can’t have a child and be a feminist has got to be the most anti-feminist bullshit I’ve heard in a while. By taking this stance you’re automatically assuming that it’s the woman’s role to be primary parent, which is the opposite of what being a feminist is about.

My husband and I “co-parent”. The fact that this term even has to exist is ridiculous, but the whole world is still geared towards “Mom” as numero uno.

Many people I encounter, even the enlightened ones, automatically assume I’m the primary caregiver and that because I’m now “a Mom” I’m completely different, i.e. either less or more of a person. My standard response? I had a baby, not a lobotomy. David (Dad and co-parent) doesn’t have to deal with this crap because he is usually regarded as “just the Dad”.

Oh yes, if you want to encounter the most subliminal and insidious sexism in both directions, have a baby. Most of this is 100% well-intentioned and simply people trying to be encouraging and kind. From comments like “Poor Mom, up all night” or “You must be exhausted, I hope Dad helps out” or “Being a Mom is the hardest job ever”, to articles entitled “Mom, you are good enough” or “Why it’s okay to be a Mom and miss your old life.” See? Well-intentioned.

But here’s the problem: I see and hear all of this every day and my instinctive reaction is, “But David is going through all of this too. David was up all night. David also misses our old freedoms. David needs a break. David worries about being a good parent.” And, silently, “David is actually more of a natural with our son than I am.”*

I’m aware that not all men are as involved in raising their children. It’s assumed this is because they grew up in the patriarchal style of child-rearing being “women’s work”, but there are a myriad of reasons for some Dads not being as hands-on as some Moms.

A lot of Dads feel like they don’t know what to do with a baby. Some Dads lack confidence in their own ability to nurture and care for a child (another charming legacy of toxic masculinity). Some mothers tend to embrace their role so strongly that the Dad worries about interfering. But men are more than capable of raising their own children if they’re given a chance. I see this more and more, especially with those Dads under 35, as society slowly starts to acknowledge the role of fathers.

Which brings me back to the uncomfortable reality: Men who do co-parent are not given their due, while women who co-parent are given more support and more criticism than the Dad.

The world is set up to encourage this uneven parenting balance and the perpetuation of women as primary caregivers. Men do not get paternity leave and are not included in discussions and support groups around routine parenting. It’s ridiculous to hone in on the empowerment of working Moms without addressing the issue of working Dads.

As feminists, we cannot expect the world to change by focussing only on our half of the equation when it comes to raising future generations, because ultimately it is equal parenting that will lead to a more equal society.

 

*I adore you David.

Cake, Love & an iPad

I pretty much had the best 30th birthday possible. Two nights of live music, time with my parents, wonderful friends who give lots of hugs, an incredible iPhone cake from Charly’s Bakery, and being super-spoilt with gifts – including a beautiful iPad 2!

I felt lucky and privileged to have a husband I adore and so many special people in my life. Thanks to all of you for making it so. X.

iPhone cake from Charly's Bakery

Surprise! It's an iPad!

Me and my gorgeous Mom

Graffiti at 5Gum party

Krushed & Sorted at 5Gum party

Twitter? It's a piece of cake.

Gazelle makes me do a happy dance

Dad’s first SMS

I love my Dad. He can be gruff and grumpy, but also incredibly cute. He finally decided to upgrade his ancient Nokia and wanted an iPhone 4 because a business associate had one. “It’s the only phone I’ve ever seen that makes sense,” he said.

This is a man who doesn’t use a computer and has never sent an SMS. He teases my mother about her Facebook addiction. He doesn’t quite understand what my husband and I do for a living.

Yet I’ve never felt more proud of my Dad than when he sent me this yesterday:

What happens on New Year stays on Facebook

We’ve all had a few embarrassing mishaps on Facebook. Even if you untag yourself, you can’t remove other people’s photos.

Relationships end over this – “Uh, honey? Who’s this guy you’re hugging in the picture Alice took?” – and jobs can be on the line – “Feeling better Mike? Apparently the hottie you met at Clifton yesterday found you on Facebook and wants your number.”

This time of year is called the silly season for a reason. Things tend to get out of hand and onto the web far more easily. So be smart and considerate, and you, your friends and family should survive the journey into 2011 with your reputations and your dignity intact.

  • Don’t drink and tweet. Ever. Tweeting “Happy New Year” after a few glasses of bubbly is fine. Drunkenly telling the world that you just kissed a random stranger at a club is not. Neither is the 11am “Oh my god I’m so hungover” tweet. It may be funny, but it’s also tacky. And unlike Texts From Last Night, you’re talking to everyone you know (and many you don’t).
  • Follow the 24-hour photo rule. “Ha ha, look how brilliant Kim is, climbing over that BMW while balancing a champagne bottle on her head. We have to post a photo on Facebook and Twitter.” In advertising we have something called the “24-hour rule”. If a great idea still seems fantastic after 24 hours, we go ahead with it. This should be applied to putting photos online too.

Untag, untag, untag

  • Don’t broadcast your holiday plans. Foursquare is simply annoying most of the time – we don’t care where you are (unless you’re doing something interesting) – but over the holidays it can be downright dangerous. Don’t broadcast the fact that you’re leaving 5 Chestnut Avenue, Sandton, and going to Malaysia for three weeks.
  • Don’t bitch about your relatives. Rainbow, your hippie cousin, has once again managed to disappear when it’s time to do the dishes because she needs to “re-align her chakras”. Your fundamentalist Christian step-brother insists on a 20-minute Bible reading before you eat. It’s very tempting to vent online, but if it gets back to them it’ll be even worse next year. Play nice, it’s only for one day.
  • Live in the moment, not online. This could be your last Christmas with Granny Pam. Do you really want to spend it checking Facebook and Twitter from your iPhone / Blackberry? The best present you can give yourself and others is to actually be present.
  • Social media is not a substitute for phonecalls. Don’t DM your best friend that you can’t make her New Year’s party anymore. Don’t send a Facebook message to your mother on Christmas day. If you can’t be with the ones you love, pick up the phone and use it as if it’s 1999.

Of course, nothing is foolproof over what marketers like to call “the festive season”. Friends will be stupid and annoying. Relatives will drive you to distraction. You will be tagged. But if you can keep your cool when everyone else is acting like 5-year-olds, it will all soon pass in a haze of rich food and parties.