In the early days our relationship, probably before we were engaged, and back when he had long hair, Attic Man and I talked about marriage as an institution. We liked the idea of a public committment. We felt that the promises we would make to each other would pull us through times that we’d want to throw in the towel. We also talked a lot about the problems and limitations of the institution of marriage especially as it pertains to gender politics. We agreed that we’d have to make a conscious and concerted effort to avoid sublimating my career to his, for instance, or having him ‘help’ with the housework or ‘babysit’ our kids. Indeed, as the first days of our marriage unfolded, we found ourselves constantly challenged to live out our ideals. I found, for example, that I had a much harder time with the gendered aspects of housework. I had to be willing for Attic Man to take ownership of the running of the house as much as I did, even though I had a hard time letting go of the prejudice that he couldn’t possibly do it as well as I could, having grown up a boy (his mother did teach him to do housework).
Nowadays, with the Snapper on the scene, we’re testing out our theories about childrearing. Tonight is a big moment: as we speak Attic Man is giving little man a bottle of pumped milk as part of his evening parenting. After a kiss and debriefing this afternoon, I handed the boy over to the man, did a load of dishes, moved the laundry, and walked the dogs. It feels amazing. It also feels like I am skirting some kind of essential responsibility, and it’s hard not to let the guilt consume me (and also the ‘helping’ urge: I’ve been in three or four time to advise. it must be driving him crazy). But the feeling of freedom–mainly mental freedom–is more than making up for it. The hardest thing about trying to do school work as a new parent (for me) is creating the mental space for it. I’m overwhelmed by feeding and changing and soothing and burping and stimulating to the extent that it’s hard to remember where exactly Ireland is on the map and why I care. But these evening sessions give me that mental space. Nevermind that I am not actually working on the diss this evening; knowing I would have this evening allowed me to work on it during his first nap (he actually took one! hurray! …after a half and hour in the sling, of course, with bouncing, shushing and swinging).
I’ve heard a lot of mothers say that they’d with the time it takes to pump they’d rather just do the feeding themselves. While I respect that, I’d rather have a block of time that I’m guaranteed some rest. I know that fathers can bond with their babies other than feeding, but I also know how intimate the feeding time is and I want that for him (and he wants it too, which is more important). Besides, the double pump allows me to get the same amount of milk in half the time or less.
Now! I’m going to use the bathroom alone!