Thursday, November 30, 2006

Signs of Life

We just spent a week in Boston with my in-laws and I didn't have to take even one Xanax. I believe this is a sign of spiritual and cerebral health.

Other signs of health:
  • There is a reasonable amount of frozen food piled in the freezer drawer. When I have to rearrange the boxes of frozen waffles, Trader Joe's tamales and assorted Processed Organic Crap every time I open the freezer, just so I can shut it again, all is not well in the village. Likewise when the refrigerator shelves boast nothing but a few whithered carrots and a jar of mayonnaise. If there is no frozen food and the fridge is stuffed with fresh produce and meats, I'm either exceedingly energetic or about to go mad.
  • The ratio of time I spend on housewifery and on-the-clock mothering is equal to or less than the time I spend writing, doing yoga, or dancing around the attic with Harvey Danger on my iPod.
  • The strength and fortitude to "waste" baby sitter time on the above.
  • When my feisty 2-year-old starts torturing her big brother, I knock her down with tickles and start a rolicking game of chase with them both throughout the house. This happens far less often than I'd like to say. But it replaces the depressed behaviors, such as yelling and hiding in the bathroom.

Last night we got home in the middle of the night after ten hours of travel and a drive from Sea-Tac in freezing rain. Matt and I put the children to bed directly, then scarfed frozen junk food (Amy's Quiche Florentine) while standing at the kitchen island. We continued our snippy argument over who was more of a jerk in the airport.

"You know," he said, "sometimes when you get tired, you act like you're about 12 years old."

I laughed.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Whose Hide?

Friday night, the news program 20/20 aired a segment about working mothers, and what employers and the government should be doing to help them, and, by extension, Society. The anchorwoman, Elizabeth Vargas, even went so far as to out herself as having taken maternity leave. This was her first story back. Her co-anchor marveled on-air at what full hands she had with an infant, a 3-year-old, and "this job."

I must applaud 20/20 for taking on the issue, and for suggesting that government may have a role in supporting "the family." Alas, "the family" was barely mentioned in this story. Even the co-anchor, when introducing the story and welcoming Vargas back, failed to mention whether or not he also had kids at home along with "this job," and hence, "full hands." Instead, he gave her the old, "Gosh, Hun, I just don't know how you do it."

Here's the question that wasn't asked: Where are the dads? Why didn't anyone talk about the dads? How is it that even now, when some companies offer paid paternity leave, that men are still not universally expected to share the general sacrifice that running a family requires? How can it be that in 2006, affordable childcare and flextime are still talked about as women's issues?

Raising families and running households require sacrifice. The question I constantly bat around is whose hide the sacrifice is coming out of. In an ideal family, the kids would remain in a circle of unbroken love and attention for eternity. Their little hides would never be scathed. But it's not a perfect world. We parents require rest, time off, replenishment, sleep, the occasional shower. Also most of us still need to earn a living. As parents, we are faced with constant demands for sacrifices, small and large. There are only three places where sacrifices come from in a nuclear family:

1. Mom (or Dad)
2. Dad (or the other mom)
3. The Kids

(Okay, there are also the dog, the house, the finances, friends, personal hygiene, but those are secondary and beyond the scope of this post.)

In the 20/20 scenario, it appears the sacrifices of running a family are coming out of mom and the kids. Maybe this is case for those women. I know it is true for many, many, many women. But this is just not the case all the time, in real life. So many dads step up to the job, and so many moms demand it.

So I would like to hear from you about how the dad in your family sacrifices. What comes out of his hide instead of yours or the children's? Put the story out there. The world needs to hear it.