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?
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