Archive for the '. . .and Marriage' Category

25
May
15

parenting, marriage, and feminism

First, read this.

How American parenting is killing the American marriage.

And then go and join this page.

And think about these things:

1.  Your children won’t like to hear it (I know Only Daughter didn’t), but your marriage SHOULD be the most important relationship you have. Your children will (hopefully) go off someday and have one of their own. In which case, you are left with this person you have ignored for the previous 20-30 years, and shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t have anything to talk about.

2.  If your whole life revolves around them YOU’RE not getting any adult satisfaction

and your children are growing up thinking that the world revolves around them. And that’s not good for anybody.

For example, there is a lot of pressure on parents to go to EVERY sports event in which their child participates. If the parent has to work, the other parents may even make snarky comments such as “I don’t know what x’s father is thinking” or “I can’t believe y’s mother never comes to these things.” (I actually overheard this at one of the few of First Son’s soccer games I was able to attend.) But, in fact, it’s better for the children if the parents stay home. You can express your interest by asking about the game over THE DINNER THAT YOU EAT TOGETHER, but leave the coaching to the coach, and the cheering to the teammates, and let your child have ownership of something that doesn’t have anything to do with you.

They actually prefer it that way.

3. Children need to do things for themselves, fail, try again, maybe even fail again. They need to do their own homework and their own science projects and face the consequences if they don’t (staying in from recess to finish a homework assignment or getting a bad grade gets the message across a lot more loudly than mom standing over his shoulder at the dinner table yelling at him); and clean their own rooms (and live in their own filth if they don’t) and put their own cream cheese on their own bagels. Nobody gets better at putting their cream cheese on their bagel if somebody else is always doing it for them.  Yes, you could do it better, and neater, and faster. But that’s only because you got lots of practice. (Am I right?) If your child is washing dishes and they’re not clean, position yourself as rinser, and silently hand them back to her to wash again. Hire your child to clean the whole house (not his or her room; that should be automatically their responsibility); if it’s not very clean, don’t pay him very much. He’ll figure it out. (I did this with First Son; he actually sent me a text a few years ago thanking me for “teaching him how to clean.” I never really taught him anything, except that it wasn’t the act of cleaning that counted, but the result.) If they’re not very good at something, have them do it more; it’s clear they need lots of practice.

I teach at a summer arts/music camp, and there are always a few campers whose parents come and hoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhoverhover. These campers don’t usually do very well, and often leave before the end of camp. I don’t think it’s because the campers weren’t ready for camp, but because their parents weren’t.

helicopter-parents 4

This isn’t helping. Maybe there should be a camp for parents, called Hawaii. Or A Life.

If you don’t let children fail, they will learn that “failing” is too awful to contemplate, and probably something they can’t recover from. If you hover around them, you’re telling them that you don’t think they can succeed, and their failure is too awful to contemplate. If you let them fail, and give them encouragement to try again and maybe just a wee bit of guidance or advice to help them succeed (but only if they want it, and only a wee bit), they learn about tenacity and optimism and hope. It seems pretty obvious which of these two we want our children to be learning.

4. Most (not all, but most) of the women I know, myself included, made professional sacrifices in the name of “raising their own children.” Most of these same women are still working part-time, in less challenging/suitable/interesting jobs than they could do, and make significantly less money than their husbands do. And all of you women out there in your 20s and early 30s reading this, and nodding, and thinking, well, yes, of course, but that’s a) not going to happen to me, or b) I won’t mind. The thing is, you might mind. I mind. And the effects of those choices may actually impact your professional choices FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. And, in case you haven’t realized this already, YOU CAN’T GO BACK AND HAVE A REDO.

I used to think that feminism meant we all get to choose what we want to do (and be paid the same for it as men), and nobody gets to give us a hard time about it. It’s kind of that, still, I suppose; but I also think we have a responsibility, to ourselves, our spouses, our children, to

  • have work we love
  • make enough money that we could support ourselves if we have to
  • devote as much time cultivating the relationship we have with our spouse as we do cultivating all the others (children, friends)
  • not feel compelled to sacrifice any of the above without asking our (male) significant other to make them of the same magnitude, and
  • STOP FEELING GUILTY

But maybe it’s just me.

 

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21
Jun
12

We can all, actually, have it all (but who wants it?)

Kristin Howterton posted recently on the underlying tension of gender roles in the pursuit of an egalitarian marriage. You can read it here.

The underlying premise is that, despite our (meaning, mostly women’s) efforts to find equality in both the home and the workplace, many women still feel guilty getting home to see their husbands cooking dinner with a crying toddler on his hip or wonder whether it’s fair to expect that men should PROBABLY contribute to the household chores if their wives are working outside the home.

I know, right?

Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but this kind of thing does not make me feel guilty.

I responded at length, including replies to other commenters.

Most substantially:

I think we all learned the lessons of our childhood, and watching our parents, and have to struggle with these lessons, maybe just a little. But when I read these two sentences:

“When I walk though the door and see him cooking dinner with a crying toddler on this hip, I get a gut check that says, ‘Oh dear. I should be doing that.'”

and

“I think people our age have wised up to the idea that if a woman works, then the husband should probably step it up and help with some of the domestic duties as well.”

I just want to weep.

You think you should be doing that, but he shouldn’t? And the husband should PROBABLY step up? Ugh.

It’s his household as much as yours, his children as much as yours; and even if they’re not “his” children, but, say, maybe even “only” his stepchildren, his marriage to you makes him an equal partner in domestic needs if he wants to be an equal partner in domestic bliss.

I think there are ways people can balance things. I knew a couple once where the mom stayed at home, so the “housework” was her job, but when he was home, the childrearing was shared. That seemed fair. I guess you could do a proportional thing: he works 40 hours per week to her 30 so she does 60% of the housework. I guess you could even divide it proportionally to reflect the amount of money brought in, but I think that’s a terrible idea and think I shouldn’t even suggest it. (The jury will disregard the last statement.) My husband make 50% more money than I do, but my scheduled work time far exceeds his, so he does most of the cooking, laundry, and shopping. I clean when I can get to it. It works for us.

No shoulds, no probablys about it.

Fortuitously, Anne-Marie Slaughter writes in the issue of The Atlantic about “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”

It’s a very good article. It’s long, but worth it. Some of the best stuff is at the end.

Her arguments could be summarized thusly:

Women can have it all, but only if there is a radical paradigm shift, including if men start demanding the right to have it all, too. Meaning that it’s not a sign of unprofessionalism or a lack of commitment for ANYONE to want to take time to take care of their children, their aging/ailing parents, or even, GASP, themselves.

The idea that women who take a different track so as to raise their own children are NOT less ambitious; the realization that one of the biggest challenges is that the hours of a school day continue not to coincide with the hours of a work day (we won’t even talk about the havoc wreaked by snow days and 2-hour delays); the fact that women have to make trade-offs that men do not — these are realizations that can and should trigger real change, change that requires an effort by the majority of us out there, male AND female, or they won’t.

Ms. Slaughter ends with a goal, if not a challenge:

I continually push the young women in my classes to speak more. They must gain the confidence to value their own insights and questions, and to present them readily. My husband agrees, but he actually tries to get the young men in his classes to act more like the women–to speak less and listen more. If women are ever to achieve real equality as leaders, then we have to stop accepting male behavior and male choices as the default and the ideal. We must insist on changing social policies and bending career tracks to accommodate our choices, too. We have the power to do it if we decide to, and we have many men standing besides us.

We’ll create a better society in the process, for all women. We may need to put a woman in the White House before we are able to change the conditions of the women working at Walmart. But when we do, we will stop talking about whether women can have it all. We will properly focus on how we can help all Americans have healthy, happy, productive lives, valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek.

That’s the ticket.

Where do I sign?

08
Nov
11

feminist financing

I bought my house in July of 2007. Came back from my summer camp job for one night (stayed at a friend’s), signed the papers the next day, collected my keys, and drove back to camp without even going to the house (I didn’t have time). When I did come “home,” 3 weeks later, it appeared that a tree had fallen across the road and some mysterious fallen-tree-removing elves had come and cleaned it up. I waited for months for the bill.

Anyway. This was a big deal for me. I had separated from Former Husband about 8 months earlier, a man I married while in graduate school, and this was probably the first actual adult thing I had done by myself.

Of course this was right before the mortgage crisis really hit. If the bank had looked past my stellar credit rating (I was told it was in the top .1 of the top 99 percentile) at my laughably meager income they wouldn’t have loaned me quarters for the parking meter. But they did. And here I, and Husband, live happily with Only Daughter, Sophie the cat, Bear the snake, and (someone should really name the fish) the goldfish (I don’t name them because I usually kill them. Accidentally of course. This one, interestingly, has lived for a year and a half, and is still nameless). Oh, and maybe-to-be-named-Dexter the puppy who comes home a week from today. (So much for the rule of never having more pets than you have children.)

When I bought the house, I was granted the wonderful interest rate of 6.5% Seemed like a good deal at the time.

Now it’s 3.5%, so we’re refinancing.

And putting Husband’s name on the mortgage too.

These are both good things.

But I feel kind of strange about it.

I “found” the bank guy, but my schedule’s crazy plus I have to keep all this time free to write on my blog, so Husband is doing the follow-up.

He’s been asked for pay stubs and W2s, but it isn’t clear if mine are needed, too, so right now he’s sending his.

I know that this doesn’t really mean anything. He makes enough money to qualify for the tiny little mortgage on this tiny little house, and we will make sure that both of our names are on the mortgage, but a part of me feels irrelevant, marginalized. Not because of anything anyone is doing or saying, mind you, just because.

For the past three years I’ve been trying to convince Husband that this is His House Too, even if his name wasn’t on the mortgage, but I don’t think he ever really felt that way. And now I kind of understand. Because there’s this tiny little voice that’s saying to me, “But it’s your house.” And I can’t figure out where that voice is coming from.

Maybe because it is, really, the only thing of value that I own. My retirement fund is laughable. I do own a Baldwin grand piano that’s 111 years old. And a Prius. But that’s it.

Maybe that’s all it is.

I joke that Husband actually married me for my money, and this is all just of his diabolical scheme to get his grubby paws on my dough.

Ha!

But I think it’s more “feminist” than that. He makes more money than I do, he has a lot more saved for retirement than I do; maybe subconsciously my ownership of the house helps level the inequality a little. I guess I could ask to have my name put on his retirement account (guess I just did), but I don’t think that can be done, and that’s not something I’m worrying about anyway.

Is this a reaction to something that is purely symbolic? Or does it represent something more significant, more important?

In a related story he, laughingly (I found out later; I thought he was serious) suggested we roll in enough to put a hot tub on the deck. I’m angling for a heated driveway so I can get my little Toyota up the hill and into the garage all winter. Shall I open it up for discussion?

31
Oct
11

midlife crisis stage 7 (8? 135? who’s counting?)

As far as I can remember (being too lazy to walk into the other room and get “the book” in order to cite it directly) women go through various “brain” stages, almost entirely dependent upon hormonal changes. (I know, right? So much for thinking we’re “making decisions” or “finding ourselves.” Apparently we’re all just victims of estrogen and/or testosterone and/or progestogens; oh, that’s funny, at first I typed protestogens — Dyslexics of the world, untie! —  is that Freudian?)

So teenage years are rebellious, as burgeoning women fight for freedom and independence and search for sexual identity. (Again, I’m not quoting, I’m “remembering,” and probably citing as much from personal experience/memory as from anything any psychiatrist or sociologist said.)

The twenties are dominated by an ambitious tendency, gradually ceding into “mommy brain.”

In her thirties, a woman is wrapped up in nurturing her children, while perhaps trying to hang on to (by her fingernails, probably, if the first priority is any priority at all) her professional identity.

In her forties a woman begins to look beyond all of the people she has been taking care of and starts to think about taking care of herself.

In her fifties (supposedly, I am despitewhatyouallmightthink NOT THERE YET), a woman becomes quite “selfish” — looking to have HER needs met, and a last sprint/gasp professionally, so to speak, before the retirement years set in.

I don’t even want to think about what might happen in the sixties. I’m having a hard enough time with the fact that I’m going to be 47 in a few weeks, which is a helluva lot closer to 50 than it is to 40 and actually seems a helluva lot older than 46. Just sayin’.

Is this funny? I think so. But maybe that’s just my “Indecision Nucleus” talking. Oh, and btw, women can spell. Snap!

Anyway, I find I’m belying the 50s expectations in that my professional ambitions are waning. Yes, there’s a part of me that is kind of tired of being “mom” (sorry, Hannah) and ready to move on — looking forward to years with Husband and travel and beautiful meals together without anyone wrinkling up his or her nose and asking if it’s “spicy” or why we can’t eat hamburgers like normal people. (At the same time I would likeitverymuch if Only Daughter stopped trying to figure out how to be 18 and was just 10 for at least a little while longer.) But I’m finding that I just kind of want to do my job, be respected and paid fairly for it, and then come home and take a nap on my couch or knit or beat OD at Rummikub or get a dog or something.

Speaking of which, we might be getting a dog.

I’ve found a breeder that I know of and therefore trust who has a new litter of Coton’s — hypoallergenic, good temperament, small, and local, so I can visit and become acquainted with the puppy rather than adopt from a rescue (enough of that, have been on that emotional roller coaster for several weeks now) or buy from someone in another state and have the pup shipped sight unseen.

I’d post a picture, but the breeders aren’t very “techie” so there aren’t any available. Am hoping to visit next Thursday, so will keep you all posted.

Here’s a “generic” Coton”

Can a dog be cuter than this? I didn’t think so.

ANYWAY,  see? I can’t even keep my mind on my “work.”

Ha.

I’m supposed to be planning Friday’s seminar right now.

Instead I’m drinking way better Scotch than I can afford (thank you, Husband dear) and wondering if there are 30 Rock reruns on cable.

So much for professional ambitions.

And the funny thing is, I don’t really care.

Although maybe that’s the scotch.

15
Oct
11

soupy sundays, except on saturday, and not soup

Have to go to a conference tomorrow, so won’t be making soup, and won’t have time to post any recipes. Thought I’d post today’s instead.

But first — our day. Husband and I went and bought a couch:

Cuz the one we have is squishy and poorly made and falling apart, and this one was $200 off and we decided that if you only spend $300 on a couch you don’t mind if somebody’s (ahem) piano students climb all over it and stuff.

I really wanted red or purple, but they only had it in “espresso,” so we bought 4 throw pillows, in various colours and embroideries, which cost $90 altogether. Not sure this ends up being a good deal, but you can’t just have a brown couch.

Then we bought groceries. Grocery shopping has been fun since Second Son, a.k.a. Eating Boy, has gone off to college and is eating his money’s worth of (room and) board. We have been spending under $200 every week, even last week, when we bought $96 of wine that would have cost $192 if not on “special”. We call this “saving money.”

This week our groceries added up to almost $300. Maybe partially because we spent/bought so little last week, but we also bought $20 worth of lobster tails and $25 worth of tuna steaks because they were having this aMAzing seafood sale (see? “saving money”); and $12 worth of pistachios because I love pistachios and have decided not to eat gluten for a few weeks to see if I feel better (hypothyroid; it sucks) and am trying not to eat potato chips. We also splurged and bought $7 worth of pine nuts — about a half a cup. Why are these so expensive? And where do these pine nuts come from? Are we negotiating with some really hard-core squirrel unions or something? Are they that hard to grow?  I’m going to sauté green beans in garlic-y olive oil and lemon juice, and then sprinkle 7 pine nuts on top for “flavor.” I’ll let you know if it’s worth it. (It totally was.)

(Do you ever get the feeling that pretty much everything I do, personally and/or professionally, revolves around what I’m going to eat and/or drink next?)(Yeah, me, too.)

Then we came home and raked some more leaves. We live in the forest, and there are a lot of leaves, and there are still a lot of leaves in the trees, but if we wait until they all fall there are too many to rake, so we did what we call stage 1. (Although I did stage .5 yesterday when I raked them all off the driveway so my poor little Prius could make it up the hill without slipping. Wet leaves = snow when you live on a hill.) Husband and Stepson did the front yard, and I did the sidewalk (for the second time today) and the deck and the back path to the compost pile. It was quite windy, so leaves were swirling around me in great wooshes of golden light, and the air is just cold enough to feel crisp and fresh without being so cold to need a coat. Especially when you’re working hard raking. It was lovely. Except for the fact that it felt like I was throwing a half a ton of leaves over the fence onto the compost pile, it was fun. (It probably wasn’t quite that many, but it was a lot. And I’m allergic. And I have a bad back because First Son weighed 10 lbs. 10 ozs. when he was born I’mnotmakingthatup and 30 lbs. when he was a year old but he still wasn’t walking because he couldn’t get his girth off the floor so I carried him around on one hip and walked like someone who has one leg 3″ longer than the other one for a really long time. So yeah, there were a lot of leaves. And I’m a big baby. I like to say “I’m a delicate flower” but Husband usually just snorts before he remembers that he thinks so too. Anyway.)

I have Husband’s permission to post our salmon recipe. This may actually be, basically, why I married him (see two paragraphs above; NOW the secret’s really out!!!) That and his mushroom risotto. And, well, never mind.

The Best (some call it Only) Salmon Recipe Ever

For a 1 1/2 – 2 lb piece of salmon filet:

Chop 1/2 – 3/4 c. olive-packed sun dried tomatoes (the more natural, the better; we do our own; I know, we might be psychopaths)

Chop 1 bunch curly parsley really really fine.

Sprinkle 10 cloves of garlic with a generous amount coarse salt and chop fine.

Mix these three things together and drizzle with olive oil until it kind of holds together.

Stir and cover and let sit for AT LEAST 2 hours.

Put the salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil with the edges of the foil folded up to make sides. Cut through the salmon flesh without cutting through the skin — make a cut down the middle lengthwise, and then slashes every 2-3″ crosswise. Stuff the slits with the tomato/parsley/garlic mixture, and then pack the rest of the stuff along the top of the salmon. (Don’t put this on the portion Stepson will eat, because he will just scrape it all over into a pile in the corner of his plate, and you can’t just throw that away, it’s like $7 worth of sun-dried tomatoes.)

Cook on the foil over red-hot coals (close the lid of the grill) until salmon is thoroughly cooked — 15-20 minutes probably, depending on the thickness of the flesh.

Serve with brown rice (we like organic short-grain) and a lightly-chilled chardonnay.

Apologize to everyone you sit next to the next day because of the garlic aura with which you are surrounded.

It’s totally worth it.

For dessert we’re having Pomegranate Gelato

Mix the seeds from one Pomegranate with a cup of water and simmer over low low low heat until the seeds are pale and soft. (Or you could be a little less of a psycho, and buy the POM stuff.)

Mix 2 c. whole milk with 1/2 c. sugar and 1 1/2 T. of cornstarch. Whisk until foamy. Heat over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbly and foamy (don’t boil it over).

Remove from heat. Drain the juice off the pomegranate seeds into the milk mixture.

We were pouring brandy off of raspberries after 6 weeks, so we squeezed 3 c. of raspberries through a cheesecloth to get the brandy and raspberry juice, and added that to the milk mixture. If you don’t happen to have some of that handy (ha!), add 1/2 c. of raspberry, cranberry, or cherry juice.

Chill.

Process in an ice-cream maker until frozen.

Put into a plastic bowl, cover, and then put in freezer ~ 1 hr. before serving.

23
Sep
11

to my husband

Just tracked this down to write in a wedding card

Wish I had had it on our wedding day. I can think of no better vows — just change the “you” to “we.”

The Master Speed
By Robert Frost

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have a speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will.
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still—
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

06
Sep
11

night

it doesn’t seem to matter
how late I come to bed
or how deeply asleep you are

but when I lay down beside you
you roll to me

and the whole world is there
between your hand and my skin




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