What’s my problem with co-parenting?

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What’s my deal?

Co-parenting as a CIS hetero, monogamous couple is a confusing concept for me. There was a time where, as a single-mother, I thought I was jealous of these relationships. The more help the better, right? But, wait, co-parenting shouldn’t mean the mother is getting help with her job; it should mean both parents are doing their job.

The gender scripting ingrained in Western culture determines who has power. Mothers have a societal expectation to do all the childcare and domestic labour. Even if she is a working mother (note there is no term working father) it is her responsibility to find childcare and help with cleaning, cooking, shopping, making social arrangements, and life’s paperwork, whether this be through her friends, her family, or the help she has searched out, screened, and hired.

As my prof Andrea O’Reilly pointed out in a Mothering and Motherhood lecture: when a school notice is addressed to parents, it is really addressed to mothers. If the lunch forms aren’t filled out, the Scholastic order isn’t placed, the payment for pictures isn’t made – that’s Mom’s fault. And she gets no credit, it is assumed to be her responsibility. “Important work that a mother does goes largely unnoticed, except when she doesn’t do it,” writes clinical psychologist Paula J. Caplan in her book Don’t Blame Mother. If Dad does any of these tasks, he is applauded. It is really weird, the mother may plan a meal, shop for the food, cook it, and set the table without applause. But when the father clears the table, he is praised. Domestic work is totally devalued, unless a man does it. “Naturally, the answer is not to stop appreciating what fathers do but rather to be ready to give mothers equal credit when they are nurturant,” writes Caplan.

Fathers are important. They should be involved, and I encourage this. How else will the shift be made from mothering to parenting? Domestic labour would be valued higher, and the workforce would need to accommodate parents as opposed to just not hiring women, or paying them less and giving them less opportunities, because of the possibility they can get pregnant. Custody cases would be less Hellish for both sides. Also, I’m pretty sure a lot of kids out there dig their dads.

So what’s my problem? Why do I feel shocked inside when I hear a father tell a mother how to breastfeed? Or something less intrusive like saying, “Well, we decided we would reprimand our child this way and not that way.” Maybe it is because I didn’t have a healthy example growing up and/or that I’m a single-mother myself. Maybe I like to control things. The reality is, I don’t want to co-parent as long as there is gender imbalance. I know I will probably die before this happens. And I know compromise and baby steps need to be made. I just don’t want to be the one making them.

The strangest part is when my daughter was younger all I wanted was to share the parenting experience with someone.

How have you seen co-parenting work? What are your thoughts?

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com

 

They grow up so fast

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We all hear it when they are at their smallest, “Enjoy it now, they grow up so fast.” As if when our children grow they become less precious, less loveable. They say it like, you’re a bad mother if you do not enjoy every single moment of your baby’s life. Well that’s no pressure! “If the truth be known, many of us are, at times, less than fascinated by the endless chores of socializing a little human being, of living at a pace established by the child, of the relentlessness of it all,” psychologist Shari L. Thurer writes in The Myths of Motherhood. We feel this pressure to reach this absolutely unattainable feat against time. We stress out over spending quality time together, to the point where we are not actually enjoying the present: we are busy freaking out over the future.

And what is so bad about the future? My daughter is as loveable today after almost eight years, as she was in her first eight days. Ideally, a parent’s love has no expiration date. So why the fear, the warnings of elders; “They grow up so fast.”

It may not be that we only love puppies. It may be that we fear our children’s love has an expiration date. “Later, mother must gradually relinquish her intense attachment,” writes Thurer.”As her child grows up, she must accept obsolescence with grace. The myth tells us that timing is everything. If the dispensation of mother love is stingy, excessive, or ill-timed, harm to the child is irreversible.” It isn’t that our youth obsessed culture is solely focussed on kids, it is focusses on us as parents. Us as mothers. Us as women. We only have some short window to raise successful, socially acceptable children that will no longer need us once we lose that young mom glow. We will one day become obsolete in our age, rendered useless because, what, we lived another year?

Well that’s bullshit. Enjoy your children every day of your shared lives. You’ll be happier, they’ll be happier.

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com

Motherhood a la me

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I’ve been reading Adrienne Rich, Sara Ruddick, and Susan Maushart. There’s a lot to read about institutionalized motherhood and eading to the difference between authentic mothering and inauthentic mothering.

Institutionalized motherhood is what has been constructed in our capitalist, patriarchal culture. It is about being the perfect mother. It is about middle-class, heterosexual, married, white women staying home to cook and clean (buy buy buy) and not complaining about the labour involved in housework and childcare (so-called mothers’ work is useless and has no real value, despite the endless, strenuous labour involved).

For me authentic mothering is admitting to being tired, swearing, showing my emotions, and being unashamed of being unmarried and working-class. My inauthentic mothering comes out when I am outside of my comfort zone, and know others are watching me. It comes out when I am too tired to fight off the gender role training the world has worked so hard on instilling in me since pink balloons marked my arrival decades ago. It is obvious when I tell people, “Oh she isn’t usually like this,” as if it is my fault that my child, an individual person, is pissed off at the world sometimes.

Authentic mothering makes things a lot easier, in some ways. It is less tiring to pretend to be someone and something I am not. I don’t need to worry about buying the hippest mom and baby gadgets because I trust my gut, and my gut isn’t sponsored by any corporations. This mothering is allowed to change, grow, and compromise. This type of mothering is tailored specifically for my child.

However, this kind of mothering makes me an open target. I am vulnerable to people’s criticisms; I make myself stand out from the crowd. Some people don’t like to be questioned, and if the system works for them, they don’t want anyone shaking things up. I’m a sneaky citizen in motherhoodland. I have an awesome child who is confident and smart, when I’m not supposed to. Single mothers with tattoos, tiny bank accounts, and big mouths aren’t supposed to be good mothers – how inauthentic!

For whatever reason, I’ll keep being myself, and raising a daughter who does the same. This sounds strong, this sounds crazy, it is what it is. It is my authentic way.

I write other stuff too! Check out HillaryDiMenna.com