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.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

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.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

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.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

Love is For Everyone – A Poem in Honor of Marriage Equality

My big, fat, feminist wedding.

While I continue to work on my treatise on gay marriage (and why it’s really all about gender, and not gayness or marriage), I thought I would post this poem I wrote for my partnership ceremony in honor of the marriage equality battle being waged this week.  It, as well as most of our ceremony, was meant to highlight our desire to create a conscious, feminist, non-hetero-normative union, rather than a marriage in the traditional sense.

Even back then, before we really knew just how queer our union really was, I think we felt like we were getting away with something, even above and beyond our extreme unease at getting married when so many others couldn’t.  Thinking now about bisexuals getting just highlights the absurdity of making marriage dependent on gender.   Anyway… more on that soon.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

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

 

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

The Walk of Lame – On Regretting NOT Hooking Up

Right before I met my husband, I flew to another state for a graduate school interview.  After we landed, I kept running into the crew from the plane.  Turns out they were staying in the same hotel as me, including a very attractive man around my age, who I assumed was a flight attendant.  He invited me to dinner, and in a very uncharacteristic move (I had to get up early for my interview),, I agreed.  That was my idea of living on the edge!

Turns out the guy was the co-pilot and quite a hot, charming co-pilot at that.  After Cuban food and an excellent mojito, I went back to his room to see his “flight plans.”  Uh-huh.  So we were making out, and it was cool.  I didn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable, or any of those things “they” warn you about.  I was having fun.  So what did I do?  I excused myself and went back to my room to rest up for my interview (an interview, mind you, I didn’t really care about).  I think I am still feeling the sexual frustration from that night to this day.

Why did I leave my pilot friend (and myself) so unsatisfied?  I had learned somewhere along the line to assume that I would regret a casual hook-up.  I didn’t have any personal evidence for this.  There wasn’t anything at all about the situation to suggest I might regret it.  The guy was a perfect gentleman, and I really liked him.  And yet, regret was the only possibly outcome in my mind.  There was no part of me that considered the possibility that I might be glad I had hooked up with him.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

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.

Continue reading

It Shouldn’t Feel Wrong to Admit I’m Alone and Happy in Hawaii

Hawaii Surf... Ahhhhh

Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker.  ”Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning.  I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here.  The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.

“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right?  It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend.  I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up.  But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window.  I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter.  I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery.  At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.

Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone.  No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately.  I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.

The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy.  It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient.  You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment.  All that was real to me was time.  This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

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.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2013 Lyla Cicero

A Newtown Every Three Days – Race, Class and Gun Violence

Close your eyes.  Picture Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  We all have an image in our minds of innocent, white children in a quiet, middle class suburb being suddenly, and horrifically exposed to gun violence.  Now close your eyes again.  Picture the same scene, but this time the children are black.  What do you imagine our national reaction would be to this tragedy?

Now close your eyes again and picture 20 black children who have been exposed to gun violence all their lives being killed one by one in the cross-fire of all-too-familiar neighborhood violence in an inner-city setting over the course of three days.  What do you imagine our national reaction would be?  Wait.  We know what our national reaction would be, because this scene, like the first scene in Newtown, has actually happened.  It is happening right now, to approximately one child or teen EVERY THREE HOURS.  That means a Newtown EVERY 3 DAYS in America!

So what is our national reaction?  Our national reaction is nothing.  No media frenzy, no demands for better security, for arming principals, no calls for tighter gun control, no focus on mental health access, no conclusions that the world is a dangerous and cruel place, no tears from our half-black president, no frenzy of blogs, no discussions on listservs, no terrified white parents trembling as they drop their children off at school, no mental health professionals scurrying to assist grieving parents in explaining these events, no discussion of post-traumatic stress.

Continue reading

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero