Saturday, July 18, 2009

18 Months (part two)

I always wanted to have two children. Never really thought about it very much. Once Lucas was born, I immediately saw him with either a brother or sister beside him and now, over three years following, we have Quinn. And they're great together...most of the time. Lucas has his moments and Quinn has hers. And I suppose that I should also say that I have my moments with them and can't leave out Christina because...don't we all have those moments?

The other day it took me a little longer to get out of the house in the morning and head off to work. I was saying my goodbyes and helping get the kids dressed and fed and all that good stuff that happens when the sun comes up everyday. Before I knew what had happened, I was almost an hour late to work but as I drove off, leaving my wonderful family behind, I wasn't stressed out at all. Dealing with the problems of running behind at work was more of a relief than the energy required to just get up in the morning with two children under five.

I immediately began to think about Christina and the societal role of women in the household. No matter how you want to look at all of the changes throughout the past forty years with women's rights, I have no doubt in my mind that they are not appreciated enough in our society. I know that because there are many days where I don't appreciate Christina enough in my life. Being a parent is exhausting. I'm not talking about physical exhaustion, the type you get from working out or having a job that demands physical labor, like mine. That type of exhaustion is easy compared to the emotional exhaustion that comes from being a parent.

I've been reading a book called the "Dialectic of Sex" written by Shulamith Firestone in 1970. It's a comprehensive look at radical feminism by studying the roots of sexism in our society. From what I've learned so far (haven't finished it yet) the most profound division of equality in life, going back to the times of hunter/gatherer communities, is found in the division of the sexes and in order to truly attempt to create a semblance of equality (racial, classist, etc.) in our lifetime then we must address this fundamental divide that exists within all human societies. Firestone then proceeds to break down some of the ways that our society is completely failing to address this issue, analyzing Freud and the suffrage movements and Marx and the nuclear family, all completely relevant to our precious modern life where we think we've advanced so much. Uh, no, forty years later and her analysis is spot on.

The scary thing about it is that no one wants to address it. It's very easy to just accept the conciliatory steps that are taken in the "great" fight, especially if your a white man. But...if I love my wife, if I care about her and want her to be happy then I need to make more effort and raise my awareness. I thought that if I'm here everyday and I cook and clean and read to my kids and hold them and I do all of the physically necessary husbandly activities then I'm golden. But there is so much more on top of all of that and Christina, along with so many other women out there, are the ones who are carrying that heavy mental load. The moment I felt such relief as I drove away from my family was incredibly eye-opening.

First of all, I could see why there were countless women out there who wanted to get out of the house, to start careers of their owns. It wasn't all about creating equality or really wanting to be appreciated by our society, which is absolutely necessary and never happens enough, but it probably had a lot to do with just wanting to get out of the damn house! Work is a break from parenting. Work is easy compared to parenting.

Secondly, one of the main reasons I married Christina is because she stimulated me intellectually and emotionally. I could have easily married a few other women in my life and had families and walked all over them just like so many men do in our society. But I knew in my heart that I would never be happy if I lived in that kind of relationship. I knew that I would do terrible things that I might be able to get away with but I also knew that I would come to regret those decisions. So I was fortunate enough to stop it before it came to the regretting and the hating myself and all horrible reactions that might have followed. No, I wanted to be happy and when I met Christina I felt that tug of happiness curl in my heart for the first time in my life.

But in order to be happy, we have to challenge ourselves. We have to ask ourselves the tough questions and live with the answers. When I drove away that morning, I knew that another tough decision was looming before me. I need to change the way that I treat my wife and my children. I need to appreciate them and invest in them with more emotional intensity. I need to share some of the parental burden.

If I don't then Christina must deal with the misery that comes from the way that our society disregards her gender. I don't want her to face that alone and I'm more than capable of being her partner in this monumental fight that is such an invasive force that it's practically invisible. And I have a little girl who is going to have to face those pressures with each awakening that comes from each new day, with each new thought that blossoms in her head. She is so bright and so intuitive, so much so that I fear for her, that I want to shield her. But we can't hide from it or try and pretend that it doesn't exist. I did that for far too long when I was growing up and it only brought me unhappiness. We've done it for far too long in our marriage and it's not helping us overcome the strain of the years. I have a choice to make. Do I want to help my wife and my daughter experience a life where they are truly appreciated? If the answer to that question is yes, then I have so much work to do as a father.

Yes. I do...because I always want to have moments like these.

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