Thursday, April 23, 2009

Three Years Ago: Looking Forward to Being an Onlooker

The last time Lyn and I were having a baby, we started to keep a joint journal in order to record and remember our experiences. We sent the journal back and forth on the computer, each of us writing in it when inspiration struck. Today I opened up that file and rummaged around in the past, trying to reconstruct the pregnancy and reconcile my thoughts then with my feelings now. We’re going to be posting some findings from this journal from time to time over the next few weeks.

January 2006. (Background: When I was pregnant with Leigh, Lyn was a graduate student and I was a full-time instructor of mathematics at a big-name university. After Leigh was born, Lyn and I had a summer in which we were both on leave. In the fall, I returned to work and Lyn stayed home with Leigh. I was able to take a partial day at home each week while Lyn went into work.)

I've been reading a book about how mothers get the shaft economically, and today I came across a passage in the book that stated something to the effect of that mothers are economically penalized because they are unwilling to be benevolent onlookers while their children are growing up unlike men who don't seem to mind that role. A number of things happened to me all at the same time when I read this. First, I felt a sudden sympathy for men. Perhaps some men don't mind it, but I suspect that many are trapped in the role. This thought led immediately to the second thing that happened to me which was thinking, "Wait, she's talking about me. I'm the benevolent onlooker!" I don't want to be a benevolent onlooker, but how is my family going to thrive if I don't keep working to make sure that we have enough money to live (and even have the "perks" in life like health insurance)?

At the same time I was struck by something Lyn had said a few days earlier -- we're both going to be mothers, so we're both going to be economically disadvantaged by having children. And, I thought, we're also both going to be emotionally damaged by having to make choices that take us away from our children. Next year we are wrestling with the decision of what do to about child care. I'll be working full time and we both think that it is best if Lyn finishes her PhD. So we are likely going to get half-time child care at a daycare center [Note: We ended up choosing full-time care at home, mostly done by Lyn]. Resting on top of all of these thoughts was an anticipation of loss. Earlier this week I said to Lyn that while I thought we are making the best and most logical choice that we can, I don't think that we're going to be emotionally prepared for what it's going to be like to go to work and leave the child in daycare. I'm pretty sure that I thought meant that she wasn't going to be prepared. Because right now Lyn is sitting in the traditional woman's roll. She's the one with the "choice" of being at home with the baby or working outside of the home. This morning I realized that I really meant that I'm not prepared. I know that the only way we can really move forward is for me to go back to work. But while I might be in the traditional "male" roll of breadwinner here, the fact is that my writing right is peppered by the wiggling of a tiny baby inside of me and I will bring that baby into the world just three months before I go back to being the breadwinner.

Lesbians are lucky in many ways when it comes to having children. We have the "spare womb." We also have a spare mom. If I can't be the mom because I have to work, then Lyn can. How great! No one has to give up anything. Except that right now our spare womb, Lyn, is struggling to figure out how she can be a "real mom" when the child grew in my belly and will come out of my vagina and suck at my breast, while I am starting to realize that things might not be so rosy for me after I fall in love with our baby and then have to leave it with another mother for eight hours a day.

1 comment:

giggleblue said...

i'm sucking this all in and it's inspiring so many thoughts. i hope to be on the other side soon and then i'm sure i will have input. right now, i can only imagine how things will be from the other side. i don't know exactly what i'm talking about, since i haven't been there, but i'm anxious to read the the input from those who DO know.