Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ahhh, inequality...

...on a regional level, concerning the world outside the home...
And then Jonathan asked us if we had started thinking about schools.

I had not as...School is Mike's department. Another linchpin of our Marital New Deal, aside from trying to use the night for actually sleeping, is that of improved...Delegation. Delegation...and Trust.

As we discovered in therapy, during that first parental Year of Hell...My notes indicate that Sandra often does not Trust Mike, as a Co-Parent, to Successfully Complete Certain Parental Tasks. Whereas in fact, as Mike and his (mysteriously sympathetic/consistently partisan!) witnesses Ruth and Kaitlin would point out, the problem is not that Mike Is Not Completing His Half of the Parenting but that he is Not Doing So in the Exact Same Way That Sandra Herself Would Do It. Okay! While seeing it there on the page, I admit it doesn't ring a bell for me, but that's what my notes say.

So far in our great parenting Voyage in Los Angeles, I have located the pediatrician, the day care, and the preschool. Kindergarten, we agreed, would fall to Mike. A project he reports he has been making great strides on. I'm vaguely aware that Mike has a manika folder titled "SCHOOL" on his volcanic computer pile. A folder which, by the terms of our agreement, I would never look into. Because of the Delegation...and the Trust.....

...And, while dazed in this reverie, I hear Mike say, "Oh, yeah. No worries."

Aimee puts down her BlackBerry.

"What's your school district?" she asks, in a weirdly light, unconcerned voice.

And Mike replies, "Well, I don't know. City of Los Angeles? I guess, what, that makes us L.A. Unified?"

And now here is what happens.

Both Jonathan and Aimee imperceptibly freeze.*
...aaaand on a local level, concerning the world within:
Mister, you’re not supposed to be household help/staff. I do not expect you to clean like a maid, iron like a laundress, cook like a chef, etc. and you do not expect the same of me. Doesn’t mean shit doesn’t need to get done. A household is a job in itself. There’s always more to do than is possible if you do anything else. Women have generally made this work invisible. And covered it in cream cheese frosting and multicolored candy sprinkles. When the work becomes visible, it becomes grating to all involved. It’s the nature of the beast. Housework is like Palestinian-Israeli relations or the pro-life/pro-choice wars or racism, this huge HOT ISSUE—each side wants credit for what it has, and sometimes hasn’t, done and the push and pull starts and ends there, starts with faces pinched and arms tightly folded because somebody might say Boo instead of doing, not doing, talking, or not talking. Nagging should have no place in any of it. Creating a list for someone to uphold your standards seems like is a nonstarter to me. Win the skirmish for what? War is about making winners and losers, not resolution, action, change, or decision-making. War doesn’t change hearts or minds, not in a positive way anyway. “War,” “conflict”—too much heat for this discussion because there is no fight here. That said, I don’t think your involvement in household maintenance has always been as high as now/recent history. Does that make you an asshole? Only if you call yourself one because I never did. And still am not. You are not Mister My Maid or expected to be. I’ll take down the post if you want but in exchange I want my tongue-in-cheek language back.
It all reminds me....the kiddo got stung by a green caterpillar playing hide-and-seek in the synagogue garden last night. Who does the kid ask for when he gets home, after I've soothed his hurts (with the assistance of an entire congregation and the on-duty police officers guarding the shul), put antibiotic ointment on the welt on his leg and a large Band-Aid covering it, and taken him home and read to him?

Well, let's just say that it did give me a smidgen of satisfaction to see Dan's discomfort this morning when I told him the little guy asked for him last night. I'm human. I'm not a saint. I've been mostly alone in my miserable sufferings from a cold this past week. We all snap sometime in the smallest of ways.

And yeah, I could pull a Faulkner Fox and start compiling lists of Frequent Parenting Miles, but I'm just too damn lazy, tired, and, this particular week, sick to give myself even more work like that. Always have been, really...and, having grown up in a household where screaming, yelling arguments were the norm (an experience that also had me boycotting cursing for most of my childhood and adolescent days), I hate escalating things to that kind of conflict, because I also know I will end up being the irrational, crazy one in the mix who has no logic supporting her end of the conflict and thus does not count.

But the world of the home and the world of parenting are irrational spheres, for God's sake. The processes of applying the logic of my husband's greater income, his longer hours at work and traveling to and from work, and his stresses from the adult world on this house and this child ought to be studied as scientific phenomena in themselves.... phenomena, that, by all rights, ought to fall into a black hole just outside our front steps and outside the grounds of our son's charter school and religious school....but his attempt to apply his logic to all of this is illogical in itself. Like his stated belief that the streetcar operates on a schedule.

So all I'm left with is appreciating the intricacies of the mess we're in as marrieds with child...and still, even while being the slacker mom that I am, having to do more with the little guy, his school, and the home than my husband does.

I'd say we're turning back the clock if it weren't for the fact that I think we already live in parallel universes.


*And yes, I know Sandra Tsing Loh has proclaimed her affair, divorce, and subsequent dissatisfaction with the institution of marriage in the past year. I know also that her criticisms and those of her friends in the Atlantic article about marriage aren't universally lauded. But this stuff keeps on coming out for many, many reasons, and they're not just personal and one-on-one dynamically based - they are symptomatic of how we are most emphatically not changing for the better, but, if we are changing, it is after having run out of excuses and having been dragged, kicking and screaming, against our wills into it. Now how logical is that?

Update, 5:38 PM: Perhaps if we all started out with this cake on the wedding day, we'd all be a little happier.


saintseester said...

I, too, take on much more of the duties of the home. In the past, it made perfect sense, because I was only working a little bit. Now that I am working a lot more, it is starting to fray my nerves that I still do the lion's share of the "hard" housework (cleaning toilets,etc). It isn't so much that my DH doesn't want to help, or see the need to help, it's that those things being dirty bother me so much more than him. So, I break down because I cannot stand it, and do the dirty work.

Ah well, I think this parenting life is short, and they'll be out of our care before we really want them to. I can continue to muddle through and be the best slacker mom, as you put it, that I can be.

There's a t-shirt in there somewhere. Slacker Moms Unite. Or go get coffee.

Leigh C. said...

One medium hot mocha, coming MY way, for certain...after my sinuses will quit swelling my cheeks up like balloons.

I just find myself on occasion wondering if we can't trade chromosomes for a few days so I can see what it is in men in general that makes him less concerned with all the cleaning and garbage removal and all. And even then I'm not sure if I'd really get it.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I love reading stuff like this.

As of right now, I am 100% responsible for all my tasks. I know exactly whose fault it is whenever there is any clutter here, a neglected errand there. There is no deferred responsibility or need for passive-agressive conflict resolution; there is only the looking at my face in the mirror, thinking "I'm startin' to stink, guess I'd better shower sometime this week, yeah."

Thus beginning the internal debate about whether my hair is in a sufficient state of neglect to need washing with actual shampoo.

Leigh C. said...

Spoken like the man who introduced my son to the joys of emergency flares. Dude, tip for you: when in doubt, wash the hair and lose the Kid Rock hat.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

What is this "doubt" of which you speak?