On Divorcing a Feminist

Trigger Warning for Unadulterated Bitterness

On a humid summer day, and old friend and sit in a restaurant balling our eyes out, tears streaming down into little bowls of wasabi, as our sushi sits untouched.  I have just told her my husband has asked for a separation.  It was not my feelings about losing him, however, that had us tearful for ten solid minutes as fellow patrons tried to be subtle about their gawking — it was my fears, and her empathy, about losing my kids.

You see, my friend and I have something in common.  We both went through infertility.  We both know how hard being a mother is, but we both know how it feels to fear you’ll never get to be one.  For months now I’ve lay awake at night thinking about what it will be like to someday lay alone in bed in my house knowing my kids are sleeping somewhere else.  And she can imagine all too well what that would feel like, especially after willing our kids into existence against every odd.

Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, my husband sits with some friends over drinks talking over how good I’m going to have it after the divorce because I’ll still have him doing half the childcare.

Meanwhile, somewhere in New Jersey, my own family members laugh aloud about how I’m going to cook and clean for myself now that my “wife” is leaving me.

Marrying a feminist rules, but friends, let me tell you, divorcing a feminist sucks.

Marrying a feminist means a true parenting partnership.  Divorcing a feminist means losing half your access to your kids.

Marrying a feminist means it’s not the woman by default who does the most housekeeping.  Divorcing a feminist makes all too clear the sexist notions people had about your marriage.

A woman does more housework in a marriage and no one bats an eye.  A man does more, and the same people who are ready to erect a statue in his honor are quick to draw conclusions that his wife is lazy, incapable, ungrateful, etc.

No one stops to consider all the ways in which a relationship can be egalitarian, all the different types of work that go on in a household, and the many reasons why one person might end up doing certain work over another.

When I agreed to share childcare 50/50 with my husband I did so in the context of a family.  I wasn’t giving up time with my kids, I was gaining a partner, someone to parent with.  It never crossed my mind that when that partner would choose not to be my partner anymore, parenting together would morph into parenting half the time.

Having a fully capable, fully involved parent in your bed with you at night in case a child gets sick or is upset, is not the same as sending your young child to a strange home without you.  Both of these situations could be called egalitarian, but they are far from the same.

Having time to yourself because you’ve made arrangements with your life partner and best friend to be with your children is not the same as having time to yourself because your children are with a man who prefers to build a life with someone else.  That person’s investment in you, in respecting your wishes, in your general well-being, is never going to be the same.  And your ability to really know him and trust his motives will never be either.

So I’m not just losing a husband and best friend.  I’m losing the family structure that I chose for my kids, and the parenting structure that I chose for myself when I decided to have them.  I know I’m not losing my kids, but I am losing time and access to them.  I’m losing the ability to know who they are with and how those people are treating them, to know what they’re being fed, what substances they are coming into contact with in the their environment, what types of experiences they are having, and what the little expressions on their faces will be when they have those experiences.  It’s missing out on first-times, kissing boo-boos, comforting them, and even knowing comfort was needed.

I don’t say any of this to denigrate my ex-husband as a parent.  He is an incredible parent.  But I didn’t spend three months on bed rest willing my precious O and J to survive so I could miss those things.  And I didn’t make the choice to parent with someone who isn’t invested in me as a life partner.  I guess this is all just part of the terror of parenting, because however we conceive our kids, whether with a partner, a donor, through adoption, a gestational carrier, etc., we don’t ever have complete control.  There are governmental forces, legal forces and unknowns about our child’s other parent(s) that we will never have complete control over.

The truth is I have no more control now that I did in that bed wishing to god my cervix would stay closed long enough.  But that was random, and this doesn’t feel quite so random.  This feels like a betrayal.  It feels like a betrayal of my trust in the person I chose to parent with, because for me, I wouldn’t have chosen to do it alone.

Marry a feminist and you can look forward to a cushy lifestyle of reasonable contributions by your partner to childcare and housekeeping – lofty contributions nearing 50% – which far exceed the average in which women still do twice as much.  But beware.  Every single thing that male does will stick out like a sore thumb to everyone in your vicinity, including him, and the things you do will be as invisible and undervalued as women’s work always has been.  You will know your relationship is 50/50, but someday you may realize that no one else sees it that way.  Because a woman with an egalitarian spouse looks oddly similar in a lot of people’s eyes to a woman lounging in a pool sipping a tropical cocktail, and parenting 50/50 in a marriage can suddenly morph into only getting to parent 50% of the time.

Feminist, if you want my completely jaded, absolutely colored by bitterness and anger, totally situationally-bound, and thoroughly inappropriate opinion… don’t marry a feminist!  Better yet, don’t marry anyone.  Keep your bank account to yourself.  Keep your kids close.  And ladies, if you have to partner with a feminist, for god’s sake, make it a woman!

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Lyla Cicero… Feminist, Sexpert, Divorcee

All questions, no answers...

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”  George Bernard Shaw

I used to think life was about accumulating answers.  The more you learn about yourself and the world, the fewer questions you have and the more answers, right?  There have been stretches of my life (albeit short stretches) were I felt like I was racking up the answers – like I was closing off certain paths and possibilities and narrowing my focus to others.  For a few brief moments, I had this moderately stable, fairly typical identity.  Mother, wife, professional.  I was a happy, content, straight person.  I had answered enough questions that the big decisions were made, and it was time to settle in and “live.”

Lately, it feels like the opposite, however.  Lately, it feels like I’m accumulating questions instead of answers.  The answers I had before seem less and less relevant, and the questions are piling on with a vengeance.  I’m drowning in them.  I find myself re-opening old questions I thought were laid to rest, and wondering what I was thinking with the conclusions I drew in the past.  All this soul-searching leads me back to my faithful friend Q.  Q as in LGBTQ.  All this questioning makes me feel awfully queer.  When I try to put my finger on what happened since that brief moment of heteronormative stability, those are the words that come to mind.  Was I just too queer, is that why it didn’t take?

Then I revisit my other old friend Q – the “Questioning” Q.  I used to think of that label in very black and white terms.  Someone who was not sure of their sexual orientation or gender identity was “questioning.”   Now I wonder if questioning can be an orientation in and of itself.  Other people seem to get to that point where the major questions are answered and stay there.  Was I really too queer for contentment in my former life, or is it more that I’m just a questioner?   Perhaps I wasn’t so much queerer than other people, but just asked more questions.  Too many questions?

Am I the person who picks at a scab just because it’s there when others would just let it heal?   The truth is, Pandora’s Box is always there just outside our comfort zone, ready to render all our answers meaningless and dizzy us in a whirlwind of question-demons.  That box of questions is always there, straight, queer, heteronormative or otherwise.  It seems like most humans manage to ignore that thing, while I’ve just got to repeatedly fling it open just to see what comes out!

What happened to that relatively content straight person?  Was she ever really straight?  Was she ever really content?  Was she in some kind of denial?   Were all her answers woefully inadequate, or was she asking the wrong questions?  Was she choosing the path of least resistance, or was she following her truth at the time?  Why does a woman who had strongly considered, even desired a homosexual existence at twenty conclude she is irrevocably straight, then proceed to marry a closeted homosexual, only to open up the marriage  in order to date women, causing that closeted homosexual to realize he is gay and leave her?  So many questions.  Not an answer to be had.

So what was at the root of the anguish and rage of the last few months – of finding out I am going to lose my life partner because he is gay?  Was it the queer, or was it the questioning?   What it something I set in motion years ago or very recently, or was it an utterly random set of events that was always beyond my control?  Since Seth has come out and decided to leave our marriage, several people have suggested that if I had just left well enough alone, not had to pick at that scab, I’d still have a marriage, and a happy one at that.  There are probably plenty of blissfully ignorant women married to gay men who just left well enough alone, they suggest.  But what kind of existence would that be?  I don’t know, but it doesn’t so bad right about now, as I prepare for my kids’ dad to move out.

More questions – cause that’s the thing – we were happy.  At least I was.  And yet there’s this part of me that just can’t get on board with thinking there wouldn’t be something insidious about staying ignorantly content and never finding this version of ourselves.  It’s the part of me that just can’t leave that damned Pandora’s Box closed – that will probably go to my grave flinging it open letting all kinds of demons and fairies on the loose… letting myself loose… demons, fairies and all.  I may not know much about who I am, but I know this.  I am “Questioning,” and I probably always will be.  The things that feel settled and stable to other people just don’t to me.  The questions that feel long answered are always up for debate somewhere within my psyche.

Does my questioning nature make me happier, more self-aware, more authentic, or just miserable?  Perhaps all of the above.  Who can say.  That’s yet another question whose answer will never fully satisfy me.

Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero