6

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.

A.A. Milne

My dearest g,

After 6 years together, I finally feel like I’m getting to know you.  I say this mostly to celebrate the fact that I’ve been paying attention.  Like an anthropologist, I find myself carefully observing, trying in earnest (and so often in vain) to paddle upstream of my assumptions about who you should be.

5 was a splendid and terrifying adventure. But 6 is uncharted territory.  It turns out, you’ve taught me, that people do change.  All the time, in fact, but never in ways that can be easily predicted or influenced. Just look at your mother.

We returned briefly this past year to that unspeakable place where I can no longer pretend that I have any say in how long you will be mine.  But , like Tigger, or your beloved Caracal cat, you bounced, showing me once again that you’re so much stronger than my fears.

This little journey is my greatest adventure.  And so to 6 I say this: bring it on!

gio

Homemaker

It was just a line on a fairly unimportant formal document but seeing it in print made me wince.  Occupation: homemaker.  I remembered the conversation – address? phone number? employment?  I had answered honestly. I’m not working right now.  Somehow in my head that couldn’t possibly translate into the archaic term printed before me.  Surely I had little in common with a relic from a time before the feminist revolution, a role that, like the word itself, belonged to my grandmother’s generation.  I think the term is stay-at-home-mom, I remember thinking.

g was not yet a year old at the time and I was awkward in my new identity.  I can laugh now at the memory of preferring to tell people that I was “unemployed”, rather than tackle the subject of how I had utterly failed to combine career and motherhood.  Surrounded by high-achieving parents on the playground, I was withdrawn and uneasy.

But mostly, I was busy.  Despite having only one child, I was working constantly to learn the new skills that I needed for the job.  I was, quite possibly, in over my head.  I learned. A lot. And over time I began to forget about old expectations and stop caring what people might think of my choices.  I took ownership of the decision to stay home and I began to see it as the right thing for us. I let go.

Even more, I began to see the value in my new life.  Beyond the dedication to my tiny son and his giant needs, I began to see how I could relieve pressure on my spouse who needed to work, sometimes long hours, to make rent and secure health insurance. I began to notice the importance of the food choices that I controlled and their impact not just on the health of my family but on our entire political and economic system. I began to recognize how more time at home translated into gradual improvements to our environment, mostly in ways that involved time and thought rather than money.  And I began to appreciate how getting to know our neighbors could have a genuine impact on both our lives and theirs. I discovered that self-reliance and community begin at home.

But I haven’t forgotten my beloved grandmother.  I will always remember her telling of how badly she wanted to work outside the home.  When a job opportunity came up, she brought the idea before my grandfather who agreed, hesitatingly, but warned that she could keep the job only as long as it didn’t interfere with her duties at home.  She kept the job and recounted that story with pride.  Across the distance of generations, I listened in absolute horror.

Power dynamics and gender politics still play an unfortunately large part in the discussion of domestic work. But, I honestly believe, they don’t have to.  There are so many benefits to taking back some portion of caring for our own needs.   Over reliance on convenience leads to a form of corporate paternalism that has enormous social and environmental costs. There is much to be gained at home.

It is ironic that I am compelled to write this now, just as I begin to take my first encouraging steps back into the world of paid work.  I can’t deny that the need for greater participation and a more tangible contribution to our household economy are important driving forces for me.  But I sincerely hope that I can avoid ever returning to 40+ hr work weeks.  Because these years have taught me something that I can never unlearn.  Despite the inherent injustice in my grandfather’s approach to household division of labor, it turns out that we fundamentally agree on one thing about the work that goes on inside the home: it’s truly important.

All things seem possible in May

He’s three.

Copy of IMG_2508

Well and truly three.

At times the overwhelming force of his determination stills me, his unshakable resolve inspiring the most perplexing combination of frustration and awe. But mostly I think that it is exactly as it should be. This power of will has overshadowed my own from the time he was conceived.  It was he who decided he belonged here. It was he who would be born exactly when he was ready, even if that was before any piece of our “plan” for his birth was in place (I, probably more than most, know just how silly the joining of the word “plan” with “birth” truly is).

And thank god.

None of us would care to imagine our home without the deep belly laughs, sweet kisses or gripping hugs, the animated storytelling or continuous soundtrack of cheesy Italian 70’s hits. So disproportionate is his contribution to our lives that it sometimes makes me sad for the woman who dared not even imagine that he might exist.

Happy happy birthday to the best decision I never made.