Thursday, July 28, 2005

Patriarchy through disability

Dunno about the rest of you dads, but I pride (prided?) myself on trying to pull an equal share of the load as a parent. Without debating whether that's actually possible (it isn't -- mommies always do more work), it is true that I was trying to pull as much of night work as I could with our baby girl when the strange twitching and muscles getting stuck on the left side of my body began to happen. My goal was to let my lovely wife rest in bed when the baby needed bouncing or comforting. I was working a full schedule then, plus commute. This is the sound of one hand patting me on the back. Of course, nature has a way of giving the mammaries to the mommy, so in terms of actual night work and sleep disruption, she had the more.

But I tried.

Once I was diagnosed, my lovely wife began to do ALL the night work for both kids. The theory is that sleep is good for me. And I concur. It helped a lot and still does. On the days when I was physically tired, or undergoing some medical indignity (usually involving needles), my lovely wife did all the work for both kids.

Still, I kept trying to do all that I could.

But there came a time, a few months ago in my view but probably quite a bit earlier in the opinion of others, that I would find myself exhausted when trying to get dressed after a shower, or just plain tired, when the thought began to enter my head that I could just rest in this chair and let her handle the wild, screaming, running, laughing, weeping kids. That began to happen more often. It was the beginning of me letting go of the idea of equal parenting.

It was the beginning of my willing experience with patriarchy. Back in the day, fathers often left all the parenting work to mothers. There were many who never changed a diaper. My lovely wife now does much, MUCH more parenting work than I ever do. There are still things we share, though. Two nights ago for example I got my daughter into bed while my lovely wife did the same for my son. We still have a system of switching off between the kids each night. But when the going gets rough, for example if the kid I am supposed to handle is having a major emotional breakdown, or is sick, or is being the rebel, then my lovely wife handles it. This is often the part of the day when I am weakest, stumbling, having trouble standing, and even crawling can be a challenge. My lovely wife does the work when I'd rather not.

Patriarchy through disability, I call it. It's not a willing visit to the past. I don't want things to be this way. But my recent experience does shed some light on historical modalities. Or in your case bud, maybe current events.

Left grip is 33 pounds (31, 29, 33), right grip is 84 pounds (78, 84, 82), left leg balance is 11.87 seconds, and inhale volume is TK mL.
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