Tag Archives: children

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.

The FAT cat sat on the mat

The husband, Alistair, and I have had Boo for five years. A new neighbour took her in when her original family emigrated. He travelled a lot and soon she came over to our flat more and more, crying to be let inside. She really just chose us. Our neighbour didn’t mind. Besides, you can’t change a cat’s mind.

The husband didn’t grow up in an animal-mad family like I did, but he absolutely adores Boo. She’s an indoor cat who’s very relaxed and affectionate, which also means lazy and fond of food.

When she got sick a few years ago, she became thin and listless. We were panic-stricken. Luckily some antibiotics and Hill’s Science sorted her out.

Now she’s fat and happy, despite her traumatic trip to Joburg. And that’s the problem – she’s getting rather heavy.

For an 8-year-old cat to weigh nearly 8kg is a little worrying healthwise. I try to be strict and only give her a sachet every second night (she has dry food the rest of the time), but the husband doesn’t like to “deprive” her. It makes me think about how we’ll act when and if we have kids.

Alistair had a stricter and less spoilt upbringing than me. I got a car for my 21st birthday, he got books. Yet I’m the one who insists the cat we love go on diet. So I was pleasantly surprised when he said we should chat to the vet about putting Boo on a kitty diet. “Daddy” has finally realised I wasn’t trying to starve her, just save her from feline diabetes.

Pets may not be the same as children, but they definitely give you an indicator of what you’ll be like as parents. I recommend the dry-run.

Who you calling "fat"?

Things that made me smile this month

  • Wandering around the rest of the museum and feeling just like a kid again.
  • Two-for-one cocktails with Kate at Neighbourhood, discussing life, love, in-laws and the vagaries of advertising.
  • A phonecall from MSF to thank me for my donation and keep me informed of their work in Haiti.
  • Funny holiday photos I hadn’t seen yet.
  • Saying sorry for something I should have apologised about ages ago.
  • Teaching a beautiful redhead toddler how to get all the foam out of her babycchino cup.
  • The same little girl asking for bits of my omelette breakfast, the sweet cherry tomatoes in particular (she obviously has good taste).
  • Talks with the ‘Byn, a brilliant woman who I admire and respect more than any other.
  • Fruit & Flowers, Thrupps, fresh fish, braai, swimming and meeting many incredible people in Joburg.
  • Futurama dolls. Unfortunately they belong to Chris and I couldn’t distract him long enough to steal Bender.
  • Back rubs, hugs and kisses. X.
  • My husband stroking my forehead when I was ill.
  • A great annual review with my Creative Director.
  • Finding out that my colleagues are a bit scared of me and think I’m good at what I do.
  • Sea of Love by Cat Power (and the rest of the Juno soundtrack).
  • My mother’s face when she opened her birthday gift.

Spring clean, do good!

2009 sucks. Recession, wars, losing the cricket. How to feel good again? Spring-cleaning and helping others. I have a lot of stuff, stuff I don’t really need or use. I’m sure most of us do. Luckily for us there are people who do want our stuff, people who will use it and love it.

Home

Bathandwa Children’s Home recently moved into new three new units and now the kids have more space and proper ‘houses’ to live and play in. If you haven’t heard of Bathandwa, it’s an amazing place of safety that cares for orphaned and disabled children in Khayelitsha.

The problem with a new home is it can look rather bare. Kitchens need crockery, lounges need furniture, bedrooms need beds. The kids especially need storage items so they have somewhere to put their precious toys, storybooks and clothes.

Here’s a brief wishlist of stuff you might have:

  • Boxes for toy storage
  • Bookshelves
  • Side tables
  • Clothing rails
  • Freestanding cupboards
  • Wall units
  • Drawers
  • Chairs or couches
  • Bunk beds
  • Pots & pans
  • Plates & Utensils
  • Glasses

Bigger items (if you’re in the security or landscaping business):

  • Trellidoors
  • External walls & paving
  • Grass for the courtyard

So if you have stuff to give or want to help, contact:

Tammy Gardner – 082 920 5822 tgardner@tppsa.co.za
Sonja Krause – 084 919 5617 sonjanowotny@gmail.com

And here are some more pictures (taken by Tammy Gardner) of the people your stuff will be helping.

Home sweet home

My room