questions for equality

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: book. My second entry for the prompt today.

Skimming the reader’s guide at the back of a book today, I read one question and halt. Here:

“You’ve managed such an extraordinarily successful writing career along with being a full-time father. What has it been like to juggle the two?”

Yes, what has it been like? Because I changed the gender. I can’t imagine this question being posted to a male author. The layers and the sexism in this question are spectacular.

First of all, what is a full-time mother? Does it mean one who is “home” with the kids? Not working “outside” the house. Maybe we should call it at work with the kids if it’s full-time. If she is a writer is that work but it’s not work if she is a housewife? Is she a “full-time” mother with a writing hobby unless it’s successful and then she’s a “full-time” mother with a successful career? How are they defining success?

What is a full-time father? Does it mean the same thing?

Are there part-time mothers? Is a mother who goes to work outside the house a part-time mother? I work. My husband was the househusband. We also had some daycare. Was he a full-time father? Was he a slacker because he took care of the house and the kids and played golf? Our son was six months old when I started my family practice residency. Was I a part-time mother?

The question feels to me like more of the same gender discrimination and devaluation of both genders. A woman who is a “full-time” mother AND a successful writer, wow, that is made noble. But I have never heard a man called a “full-time” father or any questions of a successful man about how he juggled his fatherhood and his career.

It remains infuriating.

The book is Anna Quindlan’s every last one, Random House, 2011 and the Random House Reader’s Circle asks the questions.

Well, gentle readers? Are you a full-time or a part-time parent? Why? Was your father a full or a part time father and was your mother full or part time? And do they mean the same thing?



kitchen window with cat

In the early morning before dawn
the orchids keep me company
cat and computer as I sit and write

I tried a desk but the sky doesn’t lighten
windows on three sides, the orchids and I
await the sun, cat now on my lap

this table was my grandmother’s
my mother loved flowers
my daughter says “The laptop’s in the way.”

Thank you orchids, cat and table
Thank you laptop, teacup, dawn
Thank you grandmother, mother, daughter

kitchen window blessing


kitchen window

My mother had plants all over a shelf running the length of their kitchen. She did a pen and ink drawing of the riot of flowers and pots and leaves. She then did a second one but this time the snapdragons were dragons and there were elves and fairies and monsters in all the plants.

My orchid is blooming riotously right now, with abandon, to the point where the pot barely stays upright. I love orchids, how long the blooms last, and how they would rather not be watered too much, and a flower that perches up on tree branches in jungles: how delightful and romantic is that? This one is in my kitchen window and makes me think of my mother.

cottage

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: cottage.

My family has cabins on Lake Matinenda in Ontario, currently in a trust and jointly owned.

In 2012 my sister died in March. In August my daughter and I went to the lake. No one could bear to stay in the cabin that she had used the most the last few years. My daughter and I spent a day facing the mice and clearing. The mice had made nests in anything they could use.

Mouse nest in an ankle brace.
In Chris’s cabin


Empties.
Recycling.


Shoe nest.
Fabric with potential mouse nests. We had to go through the containers.

My daughter helped me and bless her. I was still feeling paralyzed with grief. We garbaged bagged the mouse nests, went through all the fabric, loaded the trash, recycling and empties into the boat and took them to the dump and to town. Then we bought half a dozen plastic containers and put every fabric thing and shoe that didn’t have a mouse nest into containers.

I went back this summer and a friend and I worked on the roof. The books and the glass containers are sad now, not doing well as no one has used that cabin since 2010. I didn’t think to box up the books, except for the log that my mother started.

Books and canned and bottled supplies.

This summer my daughter and I took four large containers in the boat and then by car to the laundromat. We washed everything and donated most of it to a local second hand shop. I put a wool blanket back in a container and moved some of the dishes my mother made in another container to a cabin that is in better shape.

Our cottages are full of memories.

painted sky

I took this on Friday morning. The sky was so glorious and changing, a water color in transition. My mother painted watercolors and when I see a sky like this, I wonder if she is up there with a brush. Sending love in this season for everyone who is missing someone.

all sounds become music

I am in RainShadow Chorale. My father was one of the people who started it in 1997.  I moved to Port Townsend in 2000, because my mother had cancer. She died in May of 2000. My father died in 2013. I had the joy of singing with him in this group for 13 years.

Our concert is weekend after next and I really love this one. We are doing a wild mix of pieces and moods with the theme from a Walt Whitman poem. In this time of so many people being afraid and angry and stirred up, going to chorus is healing. All of these people, unpaid, coming together to create these two concerts of beauty and unity and joy. A gift to each other and a gift to the community.

Ticket information on the website.

All the things she had at one point wanted to be

someone said

we all contain all the archetypes

which archetype do you reject?
you say no, I contain no mother no father
no murderer no priest
rich woman poor woman beggar woman thief
doctor lawyer indian chief

princess is the role I reject
as a child as a girl
fearing to be used
fearing to be taken
wanting to be mine not his
not his ever
not chattel
not property
not owned

divorcee is a role I reject
realize I scorn it
then turn my face from abuse
and embrace it fully

lonely is hard
alone is easy

what is the difference?

my uncle says
I’ve never been alone before
I’ve always been the most
important person in someone’s life before

at least he thought so

which archetype do you reject?

we all contain all the archetypes

all the stories
all the stories that we know
if the only story that we know
is of poverty and despair
and hiding and war
discrimination and hatred
while the lighted box shows happiness
elsewhere while we suffer

the arch of the rainbow
may not be a story
that can be imagined

all the stories that we know
and tell

tell

_________________________________________________________________________

I will add this to the Ragtag Daily Prompt #54: reflection. Because it fits.

 

Taking the baby

My daughter is graduating from college. She is not very interested in it, but will go through the ceremony and process, for my sake and the sake of the family.

She and I and my son are going to do a graduation errand, turn in the money for the cap and gown or something like that. There are various errands.

We stop by a daycare. My friend B’s third child is there. A girl, a baby. I make her laugh. I take her with us on the errand.

I don’t tell anyone. I don’t even think of it. My daughter is disapproving, but my children are used to me charming strange babies in restaurants and often getting to hold them. They think that this is weird, but parents are always weird. We get to the van and I realize there is no car seat. That is beyond the pale. I also realize that I have taken this baby, no, kidnapped it, and no one knows where it is. I am horrified. My daughter drives back to the day care, my son in the other seat. “I am the car seat,” I say to the baby, knowing that I am not. It’s a VW van in the dream, with no seats in the back, a high bed to sleep on. I hold the baby and pray.

My kids drop me at the daycare. I go in, immediately bursting into tears of apology and guilt. The baby has been fine through all of this. B has already come and gone, deeply upset. The police have not been called yet, I think they suspected that it was me being an idiot. The woman who runs the daycare takes the baby. I am terrified that B and her family have driven to Eastern Washington and I want to offer to take the baby to them at this instant, but I know that no one will trust me with this baby. Ever again.

And I don’t deserve to be trusted.

A man is there. He says that B is working at a restaurant. I want to go to her, to apologize, but I am crying just thinking about it. I would be disruptive. He will go tell her. He leaves.

I wait, guilty. The baby is changed and tucked into a bassinet, safe.

B comes. She looks grey and worn. I am crying. She sees me and goes down on her knees, covering her face, bent forward. I am crying, “I am sorry, I am so sorry, please forgive me!” I am hugging her, “Please will you still be my friend.” She says nothing.

I wake up.

My daughter has two years to graduation. B does not have a third child. Our van is a Ford, with seven seats. My children are the right ages in the dream, young adults. I have not been in a daycare for years. I don’t know either the woman running the daycare or the man. In the dream they are acquaintances, archetypes, people I know but not specific people from my daytime world.