Wednesday, September 30, 2009

warning: if bad things stay in your head for weeks on end (like me) do not read this.

L. made the mistake the other day of sharing with me a particularly awful story (these stories are an occupational hazard for her).  About a woman being charged with making child pornography of her daughter, from the ages of 3 months to four years old. 

When she told me, I was standing in the kitchen holding Lucy.  I felt as if I'd been punched in the stomach.  Literally.  It was all I could do to keep standing up.  As L. and Oliver went outside to play, I somehow moved around the kitchen making dinner, with sluggish legs and heavy heart.  But I couldn't put Lucy down.   I  couldn't stop staring down at her perfect three month old body.  At the way her eyes crinkle when she catches my eye and grins her toothless baby grin.  At her big blue saucer eyes full of love and trust.  And just then, the immensity of the depth of her complete and total faith in me, her mama, her source of safety and food and comfort, made me sick to my stomach. 

Because I know that woman's daughter looked at her the same way.   I know that by some accident of birth, my daughter will be kept safe and warm and cherished; and by the same accident, that woman's daughter will never know a childhood with that safety, that warmth, that feeling of being truly cherished.

My head knows that something too terrible for words must have happened to this woman to make her do such a thing to a baby, her child, the flesh of her flesh.  My head knows that I should acknowledge that she, too, must be so, so broken. 

But my heart, it is kicking the shit out of that woman in an alley somewhere, remorseless.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chewing the fat: aka Project October

We girls talk about fat a lot.  A lot a lot.  Like, a ridiculous amount of the time.  We obsess about body parts every time we dress or undress.  We say mean things as we grab our bellies (or butts or whatever).  We (bizarrely) use our body hatred to bond with other women.  (This bit is especially fucked up.)   We spend a whole lot of internal and external energy trying to take up less space in the world.  (Again, a pretty sad thing, when you stop to think about it.)   In fact, if women spent 1/10 of the energy we spent criticizing and hating our bodies into changing the world into something better, I'd be willing to bet the world would be changing a hell of a lot faster than it is.

Even those of us who like to think we are immune to fat phobia (that is, a fear and hatred of fat and fat people), myself included here; whjo are fairly media-savvy, politically aware, cultural discourse busting, kick-ass-take-no-prisoners-hello-world-here-I-am feministy kinda girls get angsty over this body business.    Take me for example.  I wrote a rather lengthy (and clever, if I do say so myself) master's thesis deconstructing the body hating and fat phobic culture that we live in.  (In fact, it was so clever that I myself no longer understand many of the theories I was working with, because motherhood has apparently rendered me brain-dead.  Sigh.  I digress).   My point being - I really do understand all of the external cultural forces and all of the money that go into making women hate themselves.  I wrote 256 pages of snappy postmodern theory about it.  Yet I still feel crappy about my body.   I know that I am totally losing my feminist street cred here.  (Insert self-scolding, hand slapping "I am a bad, bad feminist" here).

Funnily (or not so funnily, as it were) enough, in the past few years I've been thinner than I've been for most of my life, and the thinner I am, the WORSE I feel about myself.  How fucked up is that?  Even more fucked up?  I've caught myself talking negatively about my body in front of my kids.  (And I know I'm not the only one here.)  YOWZA.  This is a serious no-no.   The no-no of all no-nos.   I really don't want my daughter learning that it's normal to hate her body.  I don't want my son growing up thinking that either, or thinking that it's okay to judge people by the size or shape of their body.  I really, really don't want your kids teaching mine how to hate themselves, go on a diet, or purge up their wheeties, either.  Just putting that out there.  (You don't even want to get me started on the people who put their own kids on diets.  Them, me and a back alley, baby.)

Now you may be reading this thinking, "ooohhh - but fat is so unhealthy!"  And to this I shout a resounding "HORSESHIT!"  The "unhealthy" is the trump card that gets used to justify hating and ridiculing ourselves, and worse still, hating and ridiculing others.  Fat or thin is not what makes a person healthy.  Health is about treating our bodies well.  Exercising.  Eating some greens every once in awhile.  Being kind to ourselves.  Laughing a little.  Or better yet a lot.  These are things we can do at ALL sizes, and without talking/thinking shit about ourselves (and each other).

Which brings me to my project.  I've got this glass jar, ready and sitting on my kitchen counter.  And for the whole month of October, every time I say, or even think something fat-phobic and negative about my body, I'm going to throw in a loonie of my wife's hard earned money (and yes I mean that sarcastically people.  My feminist cred isn't THAT bad).  And if I catch myself saying anything even remotely body conscious in front of my kids, I'm dropping in a toonie (because did I mention that's seriously wrong?!).  And at the end of October, I'm going to count up that money and write a cheque in said amount to the Edmonton Food Bank (I think there's a certain symmetry there, no?).  I'll report back in November and let anyone who cares to know how I did.,

So let's put our money where our mouths are, so to speak.  If you feel so inclined, join me.  Grab an old jam jar, pick a "pet" social service (in our current economy, which gives our conservative governments lovely excuses to cut funding to all kinds of vital social services, there are a plethora of areas in dire need of our "mouth-money"), and we can be project October buddies.   At the end of the month, hopefully, we'll have a reality check about how often we talk shit about ourselves.  We'll have a greater awareness about what we say in front of our tots and what impact that might have in the long run.  And we'll do a little good in our community at the same time.

And who knows, maybe in the end, we'll all feel a bit lighter.             

Saturday, September 26, 2009

note to conservative SAHMs...

I really wish you would stop assuming that I have the same values as you, just because we have the same job.  I wish you would stop sidleing up to me in the park, waxing and waning about how stay-at-home moms somehow have superior (smarter/more well adjusted/whatever) kids to working moms (as your kid bops mine in the head).  I wish you would stop sounding off to me about the evils of daycare.  I really, really wish you would stop intimating that women who make the choice to work outside the home are selfish.  (And don't even get me started on how annoyed I am that no one ever says this about fathers that work outside of the home).  It all kinda makes me want to kick you in the knee.  Hard.  Really. 

For starters, my choice to stay home is just that.  A choice.  What is best for me, my partner and my children.  Not all women.  All partners.  All children.  Though we are making a considerable financial sacrifice by having one stay at home parent, I recognize (and I wish you would too) that even having the ability to make this choice is a luxury many, many parents simply cannot afford.  

Daycare is not evil.  It's a great way for kids to socialize and to learn.  Of course not all daycares are created equal.  But the good ones rock!   (Maybe if our backwards conservative government would make children more of a priority, there would be even more good ones available.) And for the record - I often worry that my kids are missing out by NOT going to daycare.

And though working parents don't have as much one on one time with their kids as us stay-at-homers during the week, I often wonder whether the time they do have is better quality time than I have with my tots, because although they may be tired from work; they might be less annoyed, frustrated and frazzled at their kids at the end of the work day than I am.  (Ie. They spend less time in the day yelling at their kids than I do and probably feel excited to see them at the end of the day, whereas I generally want to stuff mine in the closet by 5 p.m.).

Every choice is a trade-off, with positives and negatives.  In the end, the thing that matters is this.  Happy parents = happy children.   Unhappy parents = unhappy children.   Though I am frequently jealous that my partner gets to leave the house every day and talk to adults, I feel content, fulfilled and rewarded (more days than not) to be at home with my kids.   But not all people feel this way.  Some people feel caged, held back and frustrated (more days than not) working in the home.  This doesn't make them bad parents.  It means they have different needs, aspirations, desires than you might.   Period.

Taking for granted that all moms should want to stay home with their kids is like saying everyone with money should want to be an accountant. (All accountant jokes aside).  Do we judge people for not deciding to be an accountant?   No.  Do we assume that all non-accountants make bad financial decisions?  Nope.  Well okay then.

There's been this itsy bitsy little movement known as feminism...

Friday, September 25, 2009

religion on the brain

So Oliver and I (and Lucy in the sling, of course) were swinging in the backyard.  We do this quite often - my kid can swing for hours.  And we were watching the planes coming to the land at the City Centre Airport.  We do this a lot, too.  (Oliver is obsessed with planes.)   There was a helicopter flying pretty low overhead, and I told him that the helicopter had the word Canada written on the side.  Oliver was sure that I was in fact wrong.  "NO mama. That helicopter says Ramadan!"  Ramadan has just recently entered Oliver's vernacular because we live in "Little Lebanon," and there are lots of streamers up at the local market for Ramadan.

So I, yet again, explain to Ollie that Ramadan is a special celebration that people who are Islamic celebrate.  "Can we celebwate too?"  he wanted to know.  "No buddy..." ... "Only people who belong to the faith of Islam celebrate Ramadan."  He looks confused, so I try to clarify.  I am grasping here.   "It's just like people who are Christian celebrate Christmas or Easter."    And just as soon as it slips out of my mouth, I think "Oh crap - now I've stepped in it!"  I hold my breathe waiting to hear the inevitable question to follow.  It doesn't come.  Instead he stares blankly at me for a second, then smiles and says "I like Christmas!"  Phew.  Exhale.  He's not ready for this conversation.  Clearly, neither am I.

The truth is, I don't know what I'd have said if he'd asked if we were Christian.  We're not.   But it seems kinda wrong to say "No buddy, we just like the presents, chocolate and eggs hunts."  (And that isn't the whole truth anyways.)

This isn't the first time religion has come up, either.  Our neighbour, a sweet little old Italian lady, keeps asking "When she baptismed"? of Lucy.  I haven't had the heart to tell her we're not even remotely catholic (although you'd think the queer bit might have tipped her off).  Anyways - I've sort of  been waiting for him to ask about that one too.   (And again - what do I say about it?)

I have to admit that I have a knee-jerk response to organized religion.  People use the Bible (and various other religious texts) to excuse all kinds of hatred and exclusion, even persecution, especially when it comes to us 'Mos (that's shorthand for Homos, in case anyone isn't up on the lingo :-).  Although I have known and still know plently of sweet, wonderful, non-judgemental Christian folks, when I hear the word Christianity, I still immediately conjur up images of Reverand Larry Phelps picketing the funerals of gay men with signs saying "God hates fags."   I think of the selective use of bible passages like Leviticus to justify hatred of gays and lesbians, while they ignore other bible passages that say things like touching the skin of a pig on the Sabbath is a sin (think Sunday night football here people). I think of the "justifications" used to stalk and shoot doctors who perform abortions.  I think of the millions of women who are told that they can't control their fertility without seriously pissing God off.  I think of my grandmother being told by her priest to go back to the man that beat her,over and over, and all of the other women who have been told the same thing.  I think of people being told that exploring and enjoying their sexuality is sinful. 

So I guess I'm pretty clear on what I don't believe in.  

But what do I believe?  (And how do I impart it to my kids?!)

I'm not an atheist.  I consider myself to be a spiritual person.  But what the H does that mean?  Ummmm - I'd certainly like to believe in Karma.  I believe in people's capacity to do good in the world (even though too often of late, this capacity seems vastly underused).   I think I believe in some kind of otherworldliness, though not in a way I can easily articulate.  I believe that the divine, whatever that is, is inside of each person  (but I can't imagine telling my kid I think God is inside him.  I can just picture this poor kid being freaked out about some person called God is in his tummy :-) 

All this pondering makes me think about a quote from one of my all-time favourite shows . . . Roseanne. 

D.J.: I just had some questions about God and stuff.

Roseanne: Well why didn't you come to us if you had questions? There are no two better people to answer your questions than me and your dad.

D.J.: Okay... what religion are we?

Roseanne: I have no idea... Dan?

Dan: Well... my mom's mom was Pentacostal and Baptist on the side of my dad. Your mom's mom was Lutheran and her dad was Jewish.

D.J.: So what do we believe?

Roseanne: Well... we believe in... being good. So basically, we're good people.

Dan: Yeah, but we're not practicing.


Kids have this amazing way of challenging our taken-for-granted assumptions in life.  Clearly I'm going to have to do some more thinking about this (and a gazillion other things) before Oliver really does start asking the hard questions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

music to my ears....

I think kid's music is a really important part of kid's development.  So we have lots of it.  Oliver loves it.  I hate it.  Anyone who has had "toot toot chugga chugga big red car" stuck in their head for days on end will support me when I say it makes me want to stab my eyeballs out.  I've been sucking it up and taking one for the team, so to speak, by putting Oliver's enjoyment of music before my love of my own eardrums (which consequently spend a lot of time screaming for mercy). 

Recently, some very lovely Haligonian friends of ours adopted a 15 month baby girl!  (Shout out to baby A!).  And one of Baby A's mommies did something brilliant.  It is so brilliant that I am rather vexed I didn't think of it myself, before I spent two years suffering through "toot toot chugga chugga big red car" (Do you hate me yet for putting this in your head?!).

What she did is this...

She googled:  "Kids music that is tolerable to adults."    So simple.  So brilliant.  So so brilliant.  

So fellow parents - let's share some music info!  If anyone has any other suggestions for kids music that doesn't make their parents want to crash into the car in front of them.... suggest away!

Here's a few tried and true gems I've found that don't make me want to slit my wrists:

Barenaked Ladies - SnackTime.
Okay. So I've never really love the BNL's. But this album is fun. Oliver gives it two thumbs up. And - as an added bonus - if you buy this one, you can brag that you bought the BNL's last album before they broke up because Steven Page got busted for cocaine.

Dogs on Fleas -
Just got their latest album "A Beautiful World" from the library. Hallelujah. It's fun. It's weird. It's funky. More than one kitchen dance party with Mama and Ollie shaking their groove thangs has occured since we brought it home two days ago.

If you like a bit of twang in your life - check out The Hollow Trees (Self-released). It's kids tunes a la bluegrass and Oliver LOVES the banjo bits.

Here's some by bands that I love that I didn't know had kids albums.  Think folk/funk/indie rock stuff.  I cannot wait to find them. 

The Nields' "All Together Singing in the Kitchen"

Veda Hille with Duplex - pegged as Indie Rock for smalls and their minders
ablum by duplex

Here's some others that sound pretty cool to check out (the descriptions aren't mine - they're taken from various reviewers on the web!)

Jam Toast, "Silly Grown-ups, Punk Is For Kids."

Juanita the Spanish Lobster. This is the third release from the Stories in Music series, featuring the London Philharmonic, and it's a great one to listen to in the car, especially if you'd trying to avoid the popular automobile DVD player. The story is pretty simple: Juanita's a crabby crustacean who pines to live on land, but it's the combination of the cute, interactive story and spunky flamenco music -- among other music genres -- that make this a natural gateway to the kingdom of audio books.

The Terrible Twos  - If You Ever See an Owl...
Matt Pryor has channeled his considerable talents into kids' music and the result is wonderful. The Terrible Twos are actually the New Amsterdams (Pryor's adult band), so expect a melodic, thoughtful brand of quiet pop.

The Quiet Two - Make Some Noise (Not Big)
This Brooklyn-based duo draws inspiration from psychedelic British pop and their own wildly imaginative brains. Think the Small Faces playing a free-form variety show for kids.

And here's a really cool blog I found about kids tunes....definitely worth a look!

So folks - here's to happier listening!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

playground politics

When at the playground with other children, and said children's parents and/or caregivers, there are certain rules that need to be followed. Make sure your kid plays nice and doesn't break their neck.  Everyone with me so far?   Yes?   It all seems pretty common-sensical to me.  But apparently not so.

Let's work with an example:

You notice that your child is being pushed around by some other kid at the playground.  Their parent/caregiver is oblivious, chatting with their mommy/daddy/nanny pals. 

There are generally 3 options here.  Do you A) talk to the caregiver and let them handle it (or not), B) intervene on your own (no way you want to be the one to tell them their kid is a bully), or C) let them figure it out themselves. Kids will be kids, as they say.   

If you answered A or B, we could be probably be playground buddies.  I generally work with some combination thereof.  If a parent's around and I know who they are, I'll wait a second for them to do something, and if not  - I'll make meaningful eye contact with them (I've worked on what I think is the perfect "what-the-F-is-wrong-with-you-your-child-is-being-a-big-stinky-bully-and-here-you-are-watching-like-it's-payperview" look.  It comes with an eyebrow raise, which as my wife can tell you, is kinda intimidating) and intervene myself.   If they aren't around, I try jump in and send the kids in opposite directions, so noone gets squashed or otherwise traumatized.   

If you answered C - chances are your child is a bully, or at least veering towards the bully end of the spectrum.  There.  I said it.  I'm calling you out.  That ain't right.  This isn't survival of the fittest.  It's not an episode of Survivor.  It's children on a playground.  They shouldn't have to be watching their backs.

Let me be clear about this.  I'm not saying we need to grow eyes in the back of our heads, or intervene for every little thing that happens in child world.  But there are certain things I consider to be PIO's, or playground-intervenable-offences, whether done by my kid or someone else's.  You know - pushing, shoving, hitting, biting, obvious verbal abuse and the like.   

I ran into one of those "C" people at the park today with Oliver.  We were playing in the sandbox with toys that we brought from home.  I'm all about sharing toys, especially when you take them with you to the park.  But this little dude, at the park with his grampa, keeps running into the sandbox and grabbing the shovel right out of Oliver's hand.  I waited for grampa to do something, but he just laughs and says "he sure loves to shovel."  No shit.  So I give him "the look" and take charge.  I take the shovel gently from the toddler monster and hand it back to my kid, (who's just standing there looking really forlorn) saying "right now, it's Oliver's turn for the shovel, little dude."  But little monster dude does it again.  And again.  I try to distract little monster dude with trucks and cars that Ollie has brought.  Nothing doing.  So the next time little grabber gets all grabby, I encourage Oliver to let little monster dude play with the shovel, hoping this will appease the wee snot.  Oliver (rather graciously, I think) okays this and waits for his turn again.  But again, the little monster dude starts grabbing the shovel away from my kid.  Grampa laughs again and says "he sure is persistent."  No shit.  So I actually pick the little bugger up and move him, with some sand toys, to the other side of the sandbox.  Still, grampa does nothing, and just watches as little monster dude comes back and takes the shovel.  Oliver, at this point is starting to lose his cool.  I can't really say that I blame him.  (I'm about ready to pop gramps in the kisser, myself).  Finally I say, loudly, to the little dude, but loud enough so gramps can hear- "you know what little dude, grabbing someone's toy like that isn't very nice."  Gramps shoots me a dirty look, but takes his "sweet" little puddin' pop, kicking and screaming, to the other side of the playground and then, eventually, home.  

(As a bit of an aside, Gramps there is turning out to be my playground nemesis.  Last time we were at the park, he let little monster dude ride Oliver's tricycle around without so much as asking permission.  Twice. Without a helmet, to boot.  The apple clearly doesn't fall very far from that big rude old tree.  Just saying.)

But seriously - if you know that your kid, your little prince or princess, is a grabber or a hitter or a biter or what have you, ya'll need to spend less time chatting with your mommy/daddy/nanny friends and more time supervising your tot until they can behave like wee human beings around other kids. 

My kid is far from being a saint.  I am even farther away from sainthood.  I've been known to let my mom radar tune out from time to time.  So I sincerely hope that if I'm not paying enough attention catch see him terrorizing some other poor tot, the adult who does see will step in and say something, either to me or to him.   It takes a village, as they say.

Now you might be reading this and thinking something like - "that kid needs to toughen up and learn to deal with things for himself."   Or "When he gets out into the real world, he's going to need to know how to take care of himself."  Or something of the like.  But here's the thing.  All of us folks who now inhabit "the real world," where pushing and shoving and general rudeness abounds; we all started out in the playground. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

a repost from facebook.... mom day from hell

A small excerpt from a momming day from hell...

Wake-up. RAIN. Big rain. Lots of rain. What to do with the exuberant todder? Decide to try and go to indoor playground, though it is far away. Endure two giant toddler meltdowns while trying to pack up car snacks and supplies for baby. Try to get out the door, juggling umbrella, baby, diaper bag and Oliver's hand, so he does not go ripping out into the downpour. Pack up Oliver in car and hit my head on cupboard door in garage. Swear. Put Lucy in carseat - wailing commences. Crank up children's tunes and drive off. Wailing continues. Realize I forgot the sling at home. Turn around. Wailing continues. Leave kids in the car (bad, bad mama) and race across lawn to house. Lose one shoe halfway up the lawn. Turn back, pick up shoe, drop keys. Finally get sling, and return to children. Lucy - wailing. Oliver, impatient. "Did you forget the sling mama? Mama - did you forget the sling?" Bite tongue and drive off again. Soaked. Head onto highway. Try to sing Lucy lullabies to calm her. Nothing doing. Give up and return to insipid children's music in an attempt to drown out the wails. Nothing doing. Listen to Oliver's constant questions. "What's that mama? Mama, what's that? (and it gets louder the longer you don't answer) What's that?!" Internal voice says "that's a motherfucking truck, Oliver!" External voice says "What do you think it is Oliver?" Wailing continues. Get to the indoor playground, 15 minutes later, after narrowly avoiding several crappy truck-driving Edmontonians. Lucy stops crying as we park. Oliver says "Can we go home?" Mix up internal and external voices. Crap.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I got the look. You other parents will know what I mean. The bad parent look. The why-weren't-you-watching-your-child-more-closely-and-see-now-look-he-got-hurt-look.

That is indeed what happened. We were at the food court, stuffing ourselves with inappropriate-and-unhealthy-for-children-fast-food, when Oliver, who was, unbeknownst to us, dangling perilously on top of a food court table, took a header into the floor. And as L. ran to scoop him up and assess the damage, this woman with her own child at another table caught my eye and gave me the look. I felt suitably yucky and bad-parent-y. You know the feeling.

We parents are a judge-y bunch. Especially us moms. I've always liked to think that I'm not one of those moms who sniffs "I can't believe she.... (fill in appropriate blank)." But I totally am. There, I said it. I'm judge-y.

I caught myself doing it just last night. L. and I went to the Public Health Office after the food court incident, to get Oliver's immunizations (another dicey topic - one for yet another blog). And I felt myself tensing up watching this other mom let her wee one march all over the Public Health Clinic floor in bare feet. And then I heard myself turning to L. and hissing "I can't believe she's letting her kid walk all over this germy floor in his bare feet." Oye. L. (very gently) called me out for it and I felt appropriately guilty. I have not, as they say, walked a mile in her shoes (or lack thereof).

It seems that, given my earlier rant about the lack of respect afforded to parenting work, and mothering in particular, that the tendency of parents, and again mothers in particular, to beat up on the parenting choices of other mothers is, counter-productive. At best.

So - I've decided to let it all hang out. In the spirit of living and let live, I'm going to air my dirty laundry. I'm going to confess (some of) my imperfections as a parent, and then I'm going to toast them.

Deep breathe. Here goes:

1. Oliver uttered his first F-Bomb when he was 20 months old. He totally learned it from me.

2. My house usually looks like a bio-hazard site.

3. I let Oliver play and occasionally eat off of the dirty floors in said house.

4. My thirty second rule is more like a thirty minute rule.

5. I let Oliver (and now Lucy if she's awake) watch too much television in order to get a workout or quiet coffee time in.

6. Lucy is lying on the guestbed beside me right now, gurgling all cute-like, and all I want to do is have some me time with my blog.

7. I try to feed the family organic healthy food and usually just run out of time and energy.  PB &J rules this house (and it's the kind of peanut butter with saturated fats and sugar. Oh yes it is).

8. I wanted to be all cloth diaper-y and did for awhile but I've totally let it fall by the wayside.

9. I drink too much caffeine, even though I know it gives Lucy gas.

10. I yell too much at the end of the week (and sometimes at the beginning and middle too.)

11. I've let Oliver play for way too long in a dirty diaper just to avoid the diaper change tantrum. And then he got a really bad diaper rash.

12. It's within the realm of possibility that my son will be in kindergarten before he's potty trained.

13. I've been known to barter juiceboxes for good behaviour.

14. I totally tune Oliver out and pretend I'm listening sometimes. He talks a lot.

15. I am apparently oblivious to my son dangling perilously atop of food court tables.

This list, I think, could go on for pages, and I'd bet the farm that yours could too. We parents are an imperfect lot.

So if there's any other parents reading this today - I encourage you to find another parent or two and confess. Air your dirty parenting laundry (you know you have some) in the face of judgement. Maybe if we all did a little more looking at our own dirty little parenting secrets, we'd go a little easier on the parents we see around in the playground, at the food court or the Public Health Office.

Because they're slogging it out, 24/7, just like us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just a Housewife

I am a feminist. I believe firmly that a woman's "place" is wherever she wants and needs to be. (I wish very much that we lived in a world where that were possible for all women). I also believe that happy (reasonably) well-adjusted parents make happy, (reasonably) well adjusted children, regardless of whether those parents work outside or inside of the home. So why is it that I find it so difficult to answer the question: "What do you do for a living?" I find it equally distressing to respond to the ever present: "So, when are you going back to work?"

I hate the word housewife. I hate the word homemaker. These words are so loaded with patriarchal bullshit that I can barely utter them in any seriousness, much less use them to describe myself or what I do. Yet that's the check-box that applies to me. And because of it, I get dismissed by the folks at the bank, the car dealership, and occassionally, other parents. It feels like a pretty limiting check box. But what else do I call myself? How can I encapsulate what I do, day in and day out, without sounding either overly-simplistic or self-denigrating?

I have a master's degree in Gender Studies. I'm a nerd and I love researching and writing. In fact, it's one of the only things I've ever been really good at. I always thought I'd be an academic, and was planning for a return to school for my PhD immediately following the birth of my son. But things didn't quite turn out that way.

Being at home with my son was a real learning experience! Some days were amazing and I felt thrilled and gratified at being able to witness and guide the growth of this little being. Some days were horrendously frustrating and tiring and what I couldn't wait to get "back out in the world." All of the days (and often nights) were long and challenging. But when that first birthday rolled around, and it came time to look at putting Boy-o in daycare, I simply couldn't do it. The very thought of it made me want to cry and throw up at the same time. I just wasn't ready to let go of my role as stay-at-home mama. When Boy-o was just shy of two, I started to feel a bit suffocated, and decided to look around for some part-time work outside of the home. And then, I got pregnant with Girlio. So - I've been out of the paid workforce for almost three years now. But not out of the workforce.

To say I keep my household running would be an understatement. I make it possible for my partner to focus on her paid work because of all of the behind the scenes work I do. Cooking, cleaning, child care and sock washing. (It is invisible and undervalued work, but work nonetheless).

I don't deal in the economies of paychecks (at least not mine) - I deal in the economies of scraped knees, band-aids, juice boxes and swing pushes. I struggle each day to instill creativity, love of life, respect for the earth and for humanity in my children. I am working my ass off to raise children who will not be sexist or racist or homophobic, who will value difference and do their part to make this world a better place. I do this while struggling not to let my identity become subsumed in the world of my home and children. Some days are better than others. There are many days when my cats rubbing against me for attention at the end of the day makes my skin crawl, because if one more thing "needs me", I will die/cry/spontaneously combust. And seldom a day goes by when I don't find myself wishing I had more contact with a world outside of child raising, more money, more time on my own, more positive feedback to nurture my sense of self and importance in the world.

But this I know for sure. Child raising is labour. A labour of love, most certainly, but labour nonetheless. Hard labour. The hours are crap, the pay is worse, and the acnowledgement from the world around us pretty non-existent.

What do I do for a living?

I'm a teacher and a doctor and a therapist and a laundrymat. I'm a playgroup leader and a chef and a nutritionist. I'm a personal shopper and a cleaning lady and a librarian. I'm a taxi driver and a soccer coach and the occasional jailer. I'm the CEO of this operation, and I'm pretty good at it. I'm up to my eyeballs in laughter and tears and dirty diapers and snotty kleenex. I'm on call 24/7. Fit that in a check-box.

When I am going back to work?

Fuck off.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

queer parent 101

Upon finding out that I am a queer mama, there are a number of common responses I encounter. As I don't have a sign advertising my "queerness" and veer towards the girly side of things (thus screwing up peole's weird ideas of what a queer girl should look like), I often come out after inquiries about my husband. (Because every woman with children clearly must have one of those, right?! That's a whole 'nother rant altogether.) This happens on a daily basis... from anyone to store clerks to other parents and caregivers at playgrounds. Having kids makes you come out A LOT! I cannot lie -I get sick of coming out all of the time. It's inconvenient and anxiety-producing and awkward and taps into my own internalized crap and having to be the "educator" all of the time gets old pretty damn quick. But I owe it to my kids to be out and unashamed, so I try my best. (Some days are better than others).

I've encountered a number of reactions to my coming out -

Of course, there have been positive responses, these are the folks I've snapped up as friends, because, for this and many other reasons, they are marvellous human beings. Once, someone (a stranger) apologized for assuming I was straight. Her, I wanted to hug (after almost keeling over from shock and surprise!)

But more often, I get the "embarassed silence then edge slowly away" response. Sometimes I get a dumb struck and/or confused look (um, but you have babies!) and sometimes they pretend I didn't say anything at all.

And then there are the doozies...

1. I hate, hate, hate it when people I've just met at the park or the supermarket or some playgroup pretend to be cool when taking in the news of my queerness, and then lean in conspiritorially (to further demonstrate their smooth and laid-back acceptance of my queerness, naturally,) and whisper "Do you mind if I ask, you know, how you did it?" This is really, really, really common. I always have to bite my tongue from saying "Yes, asshole, I mind. Do you mind telling me how you and your partner got knocked up?!"

The thing is, they always seem to be wanting something salacious - like hearing that I went out and found 10 sailors for a mad-wanton-porn-star-lesbot-babymaking session. Nope. No sailors. (Poor, poor, lonely, lesbian-less sailors). Just me, L., a nurse, a speculum, and a teeny weeny vial of 3168.

2. What do you know about the dad?/What about the dad?/Don't you think kids need a dad? or some variation of the above.

Yikes. First or all, my kids don't have a dad. My kids have a donor. Some anonymous guy who spoofed in a cup so people like me and people struggling with infertility could have babies. I love you 3168, wherever you are, for spoofing in a cup for us, whatever your reasons. But spoofing in a cup does not a dad make. Dads are people who are involved in their kids' lives - who read stories and play soccer and change diapers and get barfed on, and so on and so forth.

I think kids have really basic needs. They need love and encouragement and good role models. (I do sometimes worry about my kids' lack of male role models - but we're working on that, and that's an issue for another blog!). I think kids need folks who are engaged and involved in their lives. Peole who worry about them. This, my kids have in spades.

3. Do you think that's fair to your kids? I mean, kids are cruel. Aren't you worried about bullying/teasing/other forms of social trauma befalling your kids?

Yes, yup, uh-huh. You bet I'm worried about those things! All of the time. But do I think being born to two moms who love and nurture them is unfair to my kids? For real? I think what is really unfair to my children is that we live in a world where it's still okay to bandy about homophobic bullshit wihtout even having the grace to be a bit embarassed about it. Sheesh.

4. It must be hard not to be able to "make a kid out of your love" or something to this effect.

First of all, most kids aren't made out of love, they're made out of sex, cheeseballs. Whether or not that's an expression of their parent's love isn't up to me.

And second of all... my partner and I tried to get pregnant with our son for over two years. Two years of incredible highs of hope and devastating lows of dissapointment. We laughed together and cried together. My partner held my hand at every appointment and ran home from work on more than one occassion because I called her crying when I got my period. Again. When we finally got those two red lines on the pee stick, after two years of living on a roller coaster, we cried and laughed and danced and sat together in shock and disbelief and elation. My daughter was conceived at the same clinic, with my partner holding my hand and my 1 1/2 year old son sitting on my belly, squishing my face and sticking his fingers up my nose. And if that isn't being conceived as a part of our love, then I don't know what is. (Who's the cheeseball now?!)

5. The absolute worst, though, is when we are out as a family and get "Which one of you is the mom?" We inevitably explain that we are BOTH our children's moms. Then, almost without fail, we are asked, "yeah, but which one of you is their "real" mom?"

Okay people - this is assinine, and so hurtful to non-biological parents. Neither carrying a child to term, nor giving birth makes someone a mom, just like spoofing in a cup doesn't make someone a dad. Coming through, being there, taking those highs and lows, doing the hard work, holding that sick baby through the night, or comforting that kid whose body is wracked with sobs, being a disciplinarian, a teacher, a cook, a playmate ... that's what makes you a parent. My wife is the most amazing parent. She is patient and gentle and devoted to both of our children. I've worked in the social services long enough to know that biology is not what makes you a parent. Biology doesn't mean shit. Being a parent - that, you have to earn.

Whew. Feeling better already.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


So why start a blog??

A little over a year ago, my partner L, son Oliver and I moved across the country from Halifax to Edmonton for L's work. Shortly after arriving here, we became pregnant with our second child, Lucy, who is now three months old.

Being a stay-at homer, my work is pretty portable, but also pretty invisible. That's probably the most pressing reason behind creating this blog. Whether anyone reads it or not, creating my own record of my day to day existence as a stay at home parent is a way for me to feel less invisible.

I also wanted to create a space where I could record and share the joys and frustrations of parenting in general, and lefty, pinko, feminist, queer parenting in specific. Though we have met and know some lovely people here in Edmonton, the political state of this province, and the attitudes of many of the people we run across in our day to day lives can present real challenges and stresses for us that your average straight parents don't have to deal with. And having a place to blow off steam now and again is mighty inviting.

And also, my tendency toward sarcasm and pithiness is lost on my children - so to blogging I will go!