Monday, September 13, 2010

How Our Family Works

Regular readers: this blog post is a submission to the Blog Carnival of Feminist Parenting.

I was recently told by more than one person that it was "crazy" the amount of stuff that I take on and projects that I juggle. To someone outside our family, it probably seems that way. How could I have time for my son, as well as an active blog, and several not-for-profit organizations, and be in grad school, and, and, and?

First, I've always been a busy person. A do-er. I've always talked about myself as someone who "makes stuff happen". It's what I do, and I love doing it. Sometimes I get stressed, sure- but honestly, I get bored easily! I need to have projects pulling at my attention (and I don't a TV)! People should only worry about me if I have nothing going on. Then something is seriously wrong, people.

While I have a lot of projects, they have come up in the pursuit of doing what I love. For example, in her last living year, I met and visited Cora Anderson weekly. While many would think that I was purely in the giving situation there and Cora was receiving, that is only part of the reality. She told me many important things, some of which I am still sorting out. She gave me plenty to think about in terms of my relationship to the Craft and the people in it. Frankly, I have learned so much from so many- and for that, I am truly grateful. Out of that, PEARL was born, and I personally care for an elder (one that I am personally connected to) about once a week, and in the process, I set up the infrastructure for others to do the same, if they choose.

Another example: I wanted to have a baby. After Rowan got here, I realized there are too few real-life resources for me and those like me: Pagan parents who are community minded and want their children growing up in a tribal environment with close familial ties reinforced by our religion. Out of that, this blog and Pagan Playdate were born.

To assure those people that think that I take on "too much": I know how to say no and actually do that quite often- to projects that do not fit into the world that I am shaping for myself. I know how to pace myself in the work as well. Most of these projects are something that I, myself, initiated as I was uncovering my Work. When I follow the Flow, the Work is easy and things get done.

Second, (and this point is very important) my family structure allows me the time and energy to do all of these projects, go to school, make a living, and care for my son. "How the hell does that work?" I hear you asking yourself. Simple. I don't have to be exclusively responsible for any one project (except school- that one is all me!) all the time.

I was delighted to learn that I was following the principles of Equally Shared Parenting! I discovered this blog/book a month or so ago and the tune is so familiar! My partner and I share the burden of breadwinning, parenting, housework, and several projects in the Feri community. 

I know lots of parents (mostly women) who do most or all of the parenting alone. They are either single mamas or they have a "one breadwinner, one stay-at-homer" family. Both models are hard and frankly, I don't know how they manage.

I am a huge fan of Hip Mama and after reading the magazine, books, and blogs (all of whom give plenty of voice to single mamas (among other kinds)), I have to say: single mamas have my utmost respect for keeping it together on a daily basis. What you manage to do trumps my efforts any day! Single parents rule. If you are not a single parent but know any - do the world a favor and offer some free babysitting this week to her/him. Seriously. They deserve some free time.

And I feel for the split-duty families, too. The breadwinner often feels as they are missing out on important moments in their kids lives (and they are!) and the stay-at-homer tends to go crazy from a lack of adult contact. It's not really a win-win situation there, either. 

I love our family model; it really works for us. The most that I have gone without support with Rowan is 10 hours, and the same is true for my partner (and baby daddy), Oberyn. I was lucky to find such a like-minded co-parent. We saw eye-to-eye on this issue from the start. Both of us want to share the care for Rowan equally and be there for him as he grows and develops- we have committed to this whole parenting thing fully. We both tend to see parenthood as the most important job we will ever have, and it is a task that we relish.

As corny as it sounds, watching our son grow and develop is amazing and is time better spent than most anything else we could be doing. We often amuse ourselves these days by witnessing his milestones: how he is learning to crawl, bit by bit; each new food he tries and the funny faces he makes when he does; or how he is fast becoming a serious flirt. Naturally, it takes our breath away- it is an amazing thing we are doing and we have created an amazing being. Oberyn is a naturally giving and nurturing person, and takes amazing care of our son. Rowan, in turn, adores his daddy. I am so grateful.

As for equally shared parenting, we have even gone so far as to do a "split shift" at bedtime. First shift sleeps with Rowan until 4 AM (we do co-sleeping with our son). This is the time he normally wakes for a feeding. Then the first shifter changes his diaper and passes him off to the second shifter, who feeds him and takes him for the rest of the night. We actually sleep in separate rooms, as this allows each of us to get far more sleep with a baby in the house than any other way we tried. And sleep is a rare and precious commodity these days.

That is not to say that we don't have our disputes, mainly over housework. While I am not a slob, Oberyn is far more, let's say -meticulous- than I am (That's a much nicer word than "anal", isn't it? Just joking!). He gets fed up with clutter a lot quicker than I do, and so he ends up doing more around the house and that can sometimes lead to resentments. I am sure as he reads this blog he is grinning. I rarely admit to him that he does more chores, and now here I am, telling the whole world! (Often I am writing Witch Mom posts as he does the dishes.)

My partner is one of those rare specimens: a male feminist who likes to keep a neat house! When I asked him how he ended up that way, he wasn't sure. He certainly wasn't brought up to see work around the house as something a man should value or pursue. Personally, I think it had to do with his college studies in queer theory. He was exposed to feminism as well as queer politics in college, and it stuck. It also helps that his generation takes many feminist advances for granted (Oberyn is 11 years younger than me), and that has translated into our home life.

The fact that we both belong to a religion that embraces the Divine Feminine can't hurt, either. In our religion, women are strong and powerful. It's a natural state of being. As above so below- if God Herself can create the universe and everything in it, certainly this mama can post in her blog or organize a new event (while her son is happily played with by daddy).

A feminist model of parenting is personally benefiting me, yes. It allows me to pursue my interests and passions as well as have a successful family life. But I firmly believe that this is also the best for Rowan, my son, as well. He gets two fully engaged parents who love on him all the time. He gets two models of well-adjusted, balanced, thriving adults to model himself upon. He will never hear the guilt-inducing refrain that so many have about how their parents martyred themselves on the altar of parenthood to raise him, because it is not necessary or even true.

My son was planned and wanted every step of the way- from his conception to every little detail of his upbringing. My partner and I negotiate at each juncture and no assumptions are made about who is going to do what based on gender- it is based on ability, time available, and other practical matters. To me, this is what feminist parenting is all about.

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