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!

Copyright 2013, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

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I Was “Leaning Out” of My Career Before it Even Began

Why was I sacrificing for motherhood before I even decided I wanted children?

After working his ass off to land a job in “big law,” my husband left his firm after less than two years.  He explained to a dumbfounded male partner that he felt he could not avail himself of the options open to female employees to improve work/family balance.  The partner merely agreed that as a male, doing so would make it impossible to have a future at the firm.

Our infant twins were around six months old when Seth concluded that in order to be the involved, egalitarian dad we both wanted him to be, he was going to have to “lean out” of his career, and “lean in” at home.  This Times piece suggests men must “lean in” at home in order for women to be able to take Sheryl Sandberg’s now famous advice to “lean in” at work.  Indeed, Seth needed to make changes to his career so that mine could continue.

Seth and I were both angered and shocked at the workplace barriers that existed for him.  Taking a 70% schedule, as many of the successful women in his office had, would have meant career suicide.  Instead, he made the choice to leave “big law” all together, in favor of a job where he would still work extremely hard, but have more control over his hours.  Along with this came a massive pay cut of almost 1/2 his salary.

As Rampell point out in the Times piece, parental leave options are dreadful in the US.  But if those options that are available are, either systemically, or culturally, not options for men, that essentially forces women to “lean out” of the work world, while preventing men from “leaning in” at home.

Continue Reading HERE at RoleReboot.org.

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The “Sex Talk” Way Outside the Box

Our daughters deserve to know about the rabbit!

I recently read this post on the wonderful Raising My Rainbow blog.  In it, “C.J.’s mom” talks about how she assumed her husband would be the one to talk to their boys about sex, until it became clear her gender variant son might be gay.  (Let me pause here to say that C.J.’s mom is one of my mommy and blogger heroes, and despite using her post as a jumping off point into the far reaches of my radical brain, I have nothing but utmost respect for her).

I think many of us approach the idea of talking to our kids about sex by following cultural scripts we don’t give much thought to.  If we stop and ask ourselves why, however, we may realize these scripts are not at all the best way to raise empowered, feminist children.  Why does a same-sex parent give the sex talk?  What message does that send?  Why a “sex talk” at all?  And what should be said in the talk?

I know some of you think you have many years before you answer these questions, but the truth is, we have to start when our children are learning to talk by teaching them the proper names for body parts in a casual,  natural non-shaming way.  I tell my two year-old daughter during diaper changes “I need to wipe your vulva.”  This is the very beginnings of her sex education, and my son’s as well.

So why “sex talks?”

Recently, a group of friends at a dinner party went around a talked about whether we had had a “sex talk.”  Turns out not a single person at the table had had one.  We were all basically “self-taught.”  So the fact that many folks who are parents now are thinking about and planning “sex talks” is admirable and important.

But is the “sex talk” enough?

In my opinion, if I’m planning a “sex talk” with a kid, I’ve already missed an opportunity.

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Would We Say That to Dads?

Full post appears here on RoleReboot.org.

Working Dads Risk Damaging Their Child’s Prospects

Working Dads Are Healthier, Study Finds

Working Dads: Don’t Feel Guilty

The 10 Commandments For Working Fatherhood

5 Comments To Avoid Saying To A Working Dad

The Myth Of The Rich, Selfish Working Dad

Have you seen these headlines? No? That’s because they don’t exist. Links to the real headlines appear at the end of this piece. They, and the millions like them, are actually about working moms. Working moms are without a doubt the most picked apart, analyzed, written about, advised, talked down to, talked up to, monitored, and micro-managed group in society. And when working moms speak about being working moms, we listen, and then we attack.

This article is not meant to weigh in on any of these debates. Rather, this article asks the critical question: Would we say that to dads?

If the topic du jour sounds absurd when the word “Dad” is substituted for “Mom,” we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if our energy is being well utilized. Instead of answering and re-answering the age-old questions about working moms—Are they harming their kids? Are they helping them? Are they too selfish, too rich, and spoiled, too frazzled, pulled in too many directions?—let’s ask a different question. A critical question.

Why aren’t we talking about dads?

Click here to read the rest!!

Then check out these additional ridiculous headlines, gathered and re-gendered by reader Mark.  Thanks Mark!

Runner Dads: A running dad’s guide to jogging with the stroller

The New Unmarried Dads
More Dads Say Full-Time Work Is Ideal
Working dads, don’t try to be perfect at home
Tired Dads Are More Dangerous Behind the Wheel Than Drunk Dads
More Work and No Play Puts Today’s Dads in a Tough Bind


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To Our Village: Please Don’t Gender Our Children

I dread the day when my little boy realizes he isn't supposed to play with Minnie and will be mocked for his exuberant cries that "Minnie have a bow!"

This post is the email I sent friends and family asking them to assist Seth and I in creating a gender-flexible, non-hetero-normative environment for our twins. 

It truly does take a village to raise a child.  All of you are part of ours, and we are grateful beyond words to have each and every one of you.

I have been thinking about this email since before my children were born, and the time has come for me to sit down and write it.  When I thought about what I most wanted to communicate here I think what it boils down to is that we need your help.  Beyond Seth and I, you form the closest circle around O and J – a circle that has the power to build the kind of world in which they grow up.  We can’t necessarily change the realities of the outside world, but we can create a buffer, an alternative, a safe place to fall, a refuge, a place where they can be who they truly are.  It is with that in mind that I ask you to open your hearts and minds and consider how you can wield the great power you have in J and O’s lives in order to help us create that safe space.

When I went into my kids’ room this morning, my sweet J was standing up in his crib, exuberant, clutching his stuffed Minnie Mouse as he does every morning.  He shouted gleefully, “Hello Minnie!  I kiss Minnie!  Minnie have a bow!”

“Hello Minnie!”  I responded.

Across the room, my precious O was clutching the matching Mickey with a sly smile on her face.  She did a little shoulder shimmie when she saw me.  The night before as we headed up to bed, she had said softly, “Minnie?” making sure her companion would be in her crib with her.

No, my son doesn’t prefer Minnie to Mickey.  The fact is, my kids don’t know the difference between Minnie and Mickey.  They call them both Minnie.  Either doll will suffice at night when they can’t go to sleep without “Minnie.”  Why?  My kids don’t know what gender is.  Yes, they are too young, but also, we haven’t taught them.

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Why I’d Love a Four-Person Marriage

Originally Appeared on elephant journal.

A few years after finding and marrying each other, Seth and I found our couple-friend soul-mates. Over the few years that followed, in an entirely platonic way, we became more than just friends. When there was something going on in one of our lives, there were four people, instead of just two, who put their heads together and figured out what to do. Instead of Seth and me planning our social schedules together, all four of us would coordinate. When one of us was being bullheaded, there were three other folks there to gently but persistently provide an “intervention.” Let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to get your partner to hear feedback on his behavior when there are two other people there backing you up!

However, the biggest thing I took away from that experience was that the business of life felt a lot less like work during that time. Life felt less burdensome and more fun. With four adults facing the world together things just felt a bit less daunting. Spending time with friends stopped feeling like it required elaborate planning or impossible scheduling feats. There just seemed to be… time.

When our couple-friend soul-mates divorced, Seth and I were devastated. We all joked that Seth and I were more upset than they were, but I think in some ways we really were. We were losing this family unit we’d created, except we didn’t have any of the motivation for wanting to move on that they had. We were perfectly happy in our sexless, four-person marriage. We hadn’t signed on for divorce.

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What’s in a Name? On Being DadaMama Instead of MaMa

Sometimes I still wish to be the one who walks beside my children, while others follow.

Originally Appeared here on RoleReboot.org.

Only when my twins were 20 months old did they master the correct use of the words “mama” and “dada.”  They took quite a long time to even SAY these words, despite beginning to talk about six months prior.  Their first words were “uh oh” and “ba ba” (bottle), (ba)”nana,” “hi,” “bye” and “boon” (balloon).  I figured, okay, as long as they are starting to say words, no problem.  But on the inside I was wondering what was wrong.  Was I, as Mama, not as important to them as I should be if they learned “boon” first?  Had I been neglectful somehow?  I couldn’t help measuring myself against other moms with kids younger than mine who were constantly saying “Mama.”

In the next few months the twins started throwing around the words Mama and Dada, but they didn’t seem to be in reference to anyone.  Sometimes they would point at the window or a light switch and shout “Mama.”  Sometimes they were directed toward Seth or I, but also toward the babysitter, Grammy and Grampy, aunts and uncles, etc.  What was this about?  Wasn’t I supposed to be much more important than these other folks?

My anxiety only increased when their words started to get more complex.  They started saying “window,” “shake it” (when we danced) and “okra.”  My daughter started to refer to her Minnie Mouse doll as “Minya Minya Maow” and her stuffed kangaroo as “Kanga.”  Really, I thought, you know Minnie and Kanga and Hippo and Poo Bear and not Mama?  I was starting to feel peeved.  Okay, maybe even a little hurt. Then something strange began to happen.  One day my daughter looked right at me, and with a big smile, and great exuberance, as though she’d had had a revelation, she shouted “Dada!” and pointed in my direction.  Over the next couple weeks both babies began to refer to my husband AND me as DaDa.

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The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

I was thinking yesterday about the Olympics, and how I couldn’t possibly be more oblivious.  Then I realized I am participating in my own Olympics.  Yes, that’s right people, I deserve a medal!  In honor of the Summer Olympics in…?  Ah well, here we go:

The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

PLAYGROUND CHASE - Helicopter Parenting Event


Clothing – Olympian must cloth toddler as quickly as possible

Judging:  Score based on best time.  Missing limbs off of toddler result in disqualification.

Retrieval of Dangerous Objects – Olympian must retrieve objects from a number of toddlers before they become injured, such as sharp items, plastic bags, and items that are small enough to swallow, hot, and or could remove the eye of another toddler.

Judging:  Score based on bodily integrity of toddlers in one’s group at conclusion of event.

Medicine Administration:  Olympian must administer oral antibiotic to screaming toddler with ear infection.  Sedating toddler is prohibited.

Judging:  Toddler who stops screaming the soonest is assumed to have received the most medicine, thus rendering the corresponding olympian the winner.

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From Diapers to Dyke March (Happy 6 Months Undercover In the Suburbs!)

My First Dyke March - NYC 2012

Last Saturday I did something I shouldn’t have.  I took my kids to the summer celebration of our mothers of multiples club.  Sometimes I feel like one of those rats in a cage that keeps electrocuting itself over and over, never learning where to go and where not to go.  In my defense, I wanted to do something fun with my kids that morning, but I somehow managed to block out yet again how out of place those moms make me feel.  Yes, folks, for those of you who’ve been around long enough, these are same moms from this post about being a closeted egalitarian parent.

As soon as we got to the “celebration,” I started to feel twitchty.  I saw some people I knew.  They weren’t very friendly.  I took my kids out of their stroller, but they were acting strange.  Typically if I let them loose on a playground, they run in two different directions nonstop until I beg for mercy.  But they just stood there.  I parked them both on one of the landings of the jungle gym.  Again, they just stood there, looking around sheepishly and clinging to me instead of being right up in the big kids’ faces as usual.  Could it be they were uncomfortable too?  We sat there for a good long while, with no one coming up or acknowledging us except to ask if I wanted my 18 month-olds to have an Italian Ice off of a truck.  They paused long enough to act like I was a horrible, depriving mother when I said no, then moved on.

While I sat there, looking around, I was reminded of everything about these people that made me feel icky inside.  It was just like being in high school again.  I was surrounded by rich, white, heterosexual and gender normative (at least in performance) folks who have no concept of their privilege.  Look, I’m white myself.  I’m cis-gender, and most people probably see me as heterosexual too.  But there are just so many of them, and they’re all the same!  They seem to have no idea that there’s a great big world out there beyond their little corner of suburbia.

How come none of them were divorced?  How come none had same-sex partners?  Where were the single parents?  Where were the moms of color?  Where were the parents who don’t feed their kids McDonalds?  Where were the moms and dads who head to BDSM clubs or go out swinging when the kids are in bed?  What about the parents who are too busy doing cool stuff, or too poor to keep their lawns perfectly manicured and their houses freshly painted?  What about the moms with tattoos?  And where were the other egalitarian parents?  I’ll tell you where those parents were.   Anywhere but there.  Duh!  They wouldn’t feel very comfortable there either!  They just weren’t running around getting electrocuted again and again like me and those rats in the undergrad psych lab.

The dads were at this event too, which was creepy – not because I don’t think dads should be at kids’ events – quite the opposite.  It was blatantly obvious that playing with their kids was an unusual and not totally comfortable experience for these dads.  They were trying really hard… too hard.  Have you ever played on a playground with your kids before, I wondered?  It was like they were giving off this I’m not a real dad but I play one on tv vibe.

A few hours later, after I dropped my kids off safely at Grammy and Grampy’s, I emerged from Penn Station in New York City.  As I stepped out into the midtown chaos, I felt my whole body sink with relief.  I could breathe again.  I realized I’d been feeling all clenched up since that morning.  I looked around.  It was as if every kind of person in the world was on that street.  I looked down the block and saw the two gay boys I was meeting waving to me.  I whipped out my pride flag.  Good riddance rich, white, cis-gender, heteronormative, child-obsessed, icee-pushing mommies.  I needed a stiff drink and a good old fashioned Dyke March.

Dyke Marchers

Later that day I marched in the NYC Dyke March with my husband Seth.  Only the most accepting, loving, comfortable-in-his-own-skin husband would accompany his recently-out-as-queer wife to something called a “Dyke March.”  It wasn’t Seth’s first choice of Saturday activity, but he approached it with an open heart and mind, and didn’t complain a bit.  For those of you who’ve never been to a dyke march, I’m no expert, but it appears to be a female-centered and more political, or at least advocacy-oriented event, than the pride parades, that’s meant to bring visibility to the female queer community.

I’d like to say I felt totally free at that march – like I could finally be myself, the way I couldn’t at that horrible kiddie party.  But the truth is, my suburban mother identity felt as squashed there as my queer/rebel/feminist one had that morning.  Let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of representation of moms, or of queer women partnered with men, at events such as this.  Was a suburban, pansexual, feminist, socially deviant mom as out of place here as I’d been that morning?  Probably.

So I still don’t have a place where I can look around and see myself reflected back in the faces of others.  I still don’t have a place where there’s room for the full breath and depth of my identity, where nothing is assumed (not that I’m a more involved parent than my husband or that I would rather talk about my kids than my career.  And not that I’m a lesbian and the man next to me is my gay male buddy). What I do have is a partner and a few friends who can witness all those parts of me, and still look at me and see a coherent whole.  More importantly, I can do that for myself.  I can walk into a room of mommies and not feel quite as closeted as I did when I wrote about feeling closeted at playdates.  I now know who I am as a mom, and I know not being like other moms doesn’t make me a bad one.

I’m not a bad mother because my career gives major meaning to my life in addition to my family, because I cause trouble on the internet while my kids are stuck in their high chairs eating, because I go out with friends, because after a certain amount of time on mommy duty I need a break, a long break, in order to maintain my sanity, because I read books, or even because I have a filthy potty mouth and a dirty mind.  I know now that I need all those things.

You’d better believe after a weekend of dyke marching and pride parading, I was thrilled to go back to my little snugglets, recharged and ready for their twinsane toddler antics.  I guess balance is the best we can ask for.  Time for changing diapers and time for dyke marches, so that even if we don’t feel completely visible in any one place, we can feel close to ourselves and not lose that.

I need time with my kids – I need to be attached and connected to them.  I also need my relationship, my career, and something for me that makes me feel whole, that reminds me who I am even when so much of my life and work feels like it’s about caring for others.  That something is right here.  When I look back at my blog posts, I do see myself reflected back.  I have created this space where I put all the parts of me together and try to make sense of it all, like here, (and yes, I see the irony in the fact that none of ya’ll know my real name).  I can’t completely blow my cover – otherwise I wouldn’t be “undercover” anymore!



Your Faithful Spy, Lyla

 Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.


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I DO Want to “Have it All,” Starting with What Women in 178 Other Countries Have

Featured on RoleReboot.org.

Iceland, Germany, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Latvia, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Czhech Republic, Macedonia, Bosnia, Croatia, Ecuador, and a total of 178 countries have federally mandated paid maternity leave.  Fifty of these countries offer leave to fathers.  (Yes, they all should!).  The United States has no federally mandated paid parental leave.  ZERO.  See here for specific parental leave policies.

I have read so many reactions this week to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article Why Women Still Can’t Have it All (which discussed societal barriers to women achieving the work-life balance the feminist movement has been striving for).  So many of these responses have disregarded and negated an important feminist policy agenda by blaming women and feminists for the inability to “have-it-all,” and drumming up in-fighting among groups who should be banding together to advocate for the policies Slaughter calls for.  They have crticized the idea of wanting to “have it all” as a privileged, selfish pursuit, bemoaned women expecting too much and having too high expectations, and discussed the fact that men, too, struggle to “have it all.”  They painted an overall picture of neurotic, perfectionistic modern mothers driving themselves crazy and needing to take it down a notch.

Ok, maybe no one “has it all,” as this Jezebel article argues, but women in Malta have 14 weeks of 100% paid maternity leave. Women in Sweden enjoy 16 months of 100% paid parental leave which they can use or share with the child’s father until age 8.  In France, every child has access to free daycare, early childhood education, and healthcare.  Clearly the women in these countries need to stop buying into some fantastical feminist line about a work-life balance no human being can attain!

Continue reading at http://www.rolereboot.org/family/details/2012-06-i-do-want-to-have-it-all-starting-with-what-women-in



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