Tuesday, December 14, 2010


When my husband read the last post, the one about the woman at airport security with two tiny children, he got rather irritated with me. Since he was with me at the airport he of course knew the whole story, and he called me out for the part I neglected to include, which I didn't because the post was already long and I didn't think it was necessary in order to make my point, when in fact it makes the point even stronger and clearer. Also, Mitch felt I was unfairly ragging on dads, on men, when the problem is much larger than that, as you will see.

So. After the dad came and took the boy from me, and after I'd put my shoes in the plastic bin and my backpack on the conveyer belt, and after I'd walked through the metal detector, I sat down on a bench to put my shoes back on and generally organize myself. That was when I noticed the mom in the middle of a circle of security folks who were helping her take the baby wrap off, patting her down, going through her suitcases. (of course they were.) I stood by the entrance to the terminal to wait for Mitch, and the little boy tried to dart by me (unwatched as he was for the moment, because his mother was needlesstosay dealing with other shit). I sort of blocked his way, trying to keep him in the general security area rather than running loose in the terminal, but he was determined and going toward something specific, and when I turned, there was his grandmother. I assume that's who she was; in any case a woman older than his mom who was smiling and holding her arms out to him, and he clearly knew and trusted her. 

So not only had the mom been left by the dad to deal with both kids on her own, but the grandmother (we're going to call her that for the sake of simplicity) was there somewhere too, not helping. Again, I know nothing. Maybe she too was dealing with passports and hassle from TSA and no one meant to leave the mom by herself. But I don't think so. If that were the case, then why was the grandmother not over by the mom and toddler just then, while the mom was being patted down, trying to do as they asked and hold out her arms while also holding the baby? Why had the dad or the grandmother not offered to hold the baby? Why were the grandmother's arms empty, not even a bag to carry? Why wasn't she helping????

The point is that it's not just the non-maternalness of men that mistakenly assumes the mom's got it under control. It's ALL of society that believes moms are the only ones responsible for the children. Maybe in past times, when households and neighborhoods were multigenerational, it looked like the mom was doing all the work, but she wasn't--not if it was going smoothly. 

And this is an interesting issue, because I find it bleeding over into my own perception of my parenting. There are times when I ask Mitch to take the kids so I can do--whatever--run errands or go out with friends or go to a doctor's appointment, and I feel guilty, like I'm shirking my duties, because my duties are the children. I feel like I'm not supposed to ask for help with them. The first few days of Frances's life this issue was already in play. I had a rough recovery, couldn't stand for more than a few minutes. But I felt like I had to do everything. Mitch finally said, "I want to help. I want you to tell me how I can help." It was hard for me to accept, to wake him in the night after I'd nursed simply to say, "Would you mind changing the baby's diaper?" I felt like it was silly for us both to be up... I was already up nursing; I should be able to also change her and swaddle her and rock her back to sleep. Truth was, I needed the help. I needed to not be getting in and out of bed so much, because it was painful, and I needed to know someone was there to help me if I asked. 

Someone there to help if you ask. Isn't that what we all need? Just to know that? 

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