Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pendulum Swing

Back in 1963, Betty Friedan published a ground-breaking work of American feminist literature, The Feminine Mystique. In that book, Friedan suggested that many American women felt trapped as housewives, in part because the vast majority of housework (the expected primary occupation of women) could be accomplished by an 8-year-old child. She decried the infatalization of women and the several intellectual systems (including Freudian psychoanalysis and certain social sciences) which created a belief in society that women were less capable than their male counterparts.

The Feminine Mystique is not without its problems. It over-simplifies the issues, has a marked middle-class bias, and the writing could be better. But it raised an important point, than now, in watching the early seasons of AMC's Mad Men can be seen acted out in lovely costumes and exciting plot lines. Women were treated like small children, first by their fathers, then by their husbands. Anyone who existed outside this mold was likely a lesbian or otherwise mentally ill.

In the nearly 50 years since the publication of that book, society has changed. Women now have higher rates of achieving university degrees and have access to fields they didn't in the 1960s. Our mothers were told they could have it all, by the women's movement, then later by the manufacturers of hair colour and cigarettes.

As women have taken more responsibility outside the home, however, something odd has happened. They haven't let go of their responsibilities in the home. Instead, many women work what has been called "the second shift," coming home and bearing the responsibility for kids and household. And our popular culture represents men as idiots.

That's right. Watch any family sitcom, listen to any stand up comic who talks about his family, and... well, if the space aliens are learning about us from our television, they must assume that the average married American male is functionally retarded.

This clip is just one of dozens of examples.

My point is this: we've gone from treating women like infants to treating men like infants. We find it funny when men can't manage to change a diaper or clean a kitchen, but a woman must do this in heels, while supervising everything her children do and holding a full time job.

If said woman fails at any of these things or asks for help, she is a failure. I know dozens of intelligent women with university degrees who spend much of their time trying to keep all of these plates spinning.

But I don't think I should have to ask for help. Simply put, when I have to ask my husband to help, that is one more bloody thing I have to do. Furthermore, it creates an unequal power dynamic. All at once, it sets me up as the weaker party: I am coming to him because I cannot handle my role in the household. (As opposed to his role which is to bitch about the water bill and overstimulate the baby.) It also, however, sets me up in a supervisory capacity for things that regard our child-- he does it and asks me if he did it right.

And I'm supposed to be proud of him for getting a diaper on right, or not letting her drown in her bath, or cutting her nails without damage to either party involved. I'm just over it.

We need to treat men like adults.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Working Mama

That's right, I got a job.

I'm going to be an adjunct instructor of *insert liberal arts discipline here.* Translated from academic-ese, that basically means I get paid peanuts and am considered one, very tiny step above the cleaning crew in importance. My office, assuming I get one, will be in a basement of a building no where near where I teach or where my department resides, and will be tiny and mostly likely shared with 2 or 3 people who likely bathe infrequently and need said office exactly when I do.

But it is a job. Three days a week, I will have to get up early, leave the house alone, and converse with grown ups regularly about topics other than the Bug's bowel movements and sleep habits.*

I am terrified. Of leaving her, of realizing I like working more than I like being at home with her, that I will no longer like the work I enjoyed before her.

But I don't really have time for that. We have to find daycare instead. Yikes. Also, I have to relearn how to walk in big girl shoes.

*Please note that I use the term "grown ups" a bit loosely here: I will be teaching college kids. According to the law, they are adults. In my past experience, they don't behave as such, but they won't generally talk about poop with me. Nor, in fact, will they poop on me.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Babies Have Personal Space, Too

I'm not a germaphobe. DH is, but me... I figure most germs won't kill her, so I'm not going to get goofy about it.

For example, DH feels that if a pacifier touches the floor, it needs to be sterilized in boiling water. I, on the other hand, when he's not looking, brush off the visible dog hair and give it back to her. Maybe this blog shouldn't be "Mom Snark" but should instead be "Slacker Mom," I don't know.

But, we were just out to lunch, and this random woman, en route from the washroom to her table, felt it was completely her right to run her hand over my child's head. She didn't say a word to us, just touched my baby and carried on. Now, no doubt, she is one of the 97% of women who say they wash their hands. My problem is this, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, only 75% actually do wash their hands. What if she's in that other 25%? 

I understand that it is unlikely that the Bug will come to harm due to this incident. But, seriously. If it a situation where you wouldn't touch an adult, why would you touch a child?

So for all the people who think it is okay to touch the babies of people you don't know, let me explain it simply:

Keep your freaking nasty hands away from my child unless I say it is okay. If you don't, I will feel free to caress your head or feet or whatever.

Thank you very much.