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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Pot Envy

Trigger Warnings:  Drugs,  Written while in a dark, jaded mental state

It’s 4/20.  That’s right… four–twenty, and I am sitting here staring at a bottle of Zoloft.  I just returned from an evening jog through town on my way to the pharmacy to procure said Zoloft, with my kids in the jogging stroller.  I live near a university, so there are many graduate students in our town (I used to be one of them).  But tonight I was passing so many groups of students, some carrying cases of Corona, others with large bags of Thai take-out, some decked out, others casual, but all with a bit of a spring in their step.  What is going on tonight, I kept thinking – the weather has definitely gotten warmer – and then it hit me, four-twenty, and I thought about my plan for the evening which included showering and deciding whether to take this Zoloft.  After a serious pang of jealousy, I realized, I have pot envy.

Back in college, 4/20 would have been met with an eye-roll followed by staying in my dorm room alone while my friends (all much cooler than I) went out to some party I wouldn’t have approved of.  It wasn’t so much the pot itself that I had a problem with, it was the peer pressure.  Ever since I can remember, I’ve responded to peer pressure by spitefully refusing to do whatever I’m being pressured to, even if that refusal defies all logic and reason.  This same phenomenon lies at the root of my utter obliviousness toward pop culture.  No, I’m not really too dumb to remember the names of celebrities, television shows, and movies.  I’m simply so oppositional that I will myself not to know.  The more people that are doing something, the less likely that I do it!  Every-time I heard, “Oh, come on Cicero… Cicero’s gonna smoke tonight… tonight’s the night… Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!” my will to never smoke became stronger.  I would NEVER give them the satisfaction!!  So I dug my heals in, and they’ve pretty much been dug in ever since… except I’m almost 35 years old and no one’s pressuring me to smoke pot anymore.  In fact, the peer pressure now is quite different.  Not only am I supposed to totally overdo this mothering thing, but I’m supposed to love every minute of overdoing it, obliterating my soul in the process!  Mindfuck.  Enter Zoloft.

As a therapist, I am forever suggesting that patients go consult with a psychiatrist.  It’s part of my job.  I can’t prescribe meds, and for some people psychotropic meds are the only way to maintain functioning.  For many others, they relieve unnecessary suffering.  Despite this, I have always been vehemently against taking anti-depressants myself.  I rode out a serious depressive episode in college, my mother’s fight with and death from brain cancer, and a lifetime of anxiety without them.  I have resorted to sleeping pills (“benzos” as we therapist-types lovingly refer to the class of drugs including Klonopin, Zanex, Ativan, etc.), starting after mom died, and on and off since then.  The last few months have been one of those times.

So I finally found a psychiatrist I can get along with.  This is no small feat as my interactions with psychiatrists (as well as most medical doctors) typically end with increasing levels of hostility followed by me refusing to return, then having to find another doctor who I know will be an even bigger asshole.  But he is strangely immune to my provocations.  So I told him at our first session two months ago that I’ve always been anxious, that I’m have post-traumatic stress symptoms most likely related to my own childhood and triggered by being a mother myself now, as well as by the miscarriage I had in December.  Like any respectable psychiatrist, he suggests an anti-depressant.  (For those non mental-health nerds among you, anti-depressants work fairly well and are the first-line pharmacological treatment for anxiety).  I politely refuse.  Shortly after that, my best friend (also a shrink) tells me I need to go on an anti-depressant, after I tell her for the millionth time about how emotional I’ve been over my marital problems.  Well this gets me thinking, but I decide to give it a few more weeks.

So today I saw Dr. Strangely Reasonable, and I had to admit to him that on top of everything else I’d mentioned before, I’ve now resorted to sleeping in a tent in my backyard to try and get rest… and here I am with this prescription.  The thought that if I could be less anxious it would probably be better for my babies has also crossed my mind.  Plus, he was just so damn nice about it.  He didn’t try to push me at all… unlike those pot-pushers in college, he knew just how to draw me in!  Subtle bastard!

Which brings me to my primary question as I sit here on 4/20 staring at a bottle of Zoloft – should I be using pot to control my symptoms?  After repeatedly telling anxious patients to go see a psychiatrist and hearing how well pot is controlling their symptoms and how they’d rather use a natural remedy than psychotropic meds, I’ve started to wonder.  Another anxious mother.   A young man with bipolar disorder who is able to keep a job for the first time by smoking pot whenever he can tell he’s in danger of a problematic outburst at work.  A transgender patient who is saving his marriage by smoking pot every night so he doesn’t lay awake wishing he was a woman – do they all know something I don’t?  Physician heal thyself… with weed?

I even have colleagues who subtly advise patients toward marijuana over anti-depressants, especially for anxiety.   Some of those colleagues also prefer pot for their own symptoms (we shrinks are an anxious bunch, hence choosing a profession where you’re basically paid to be anxious and obsessional about other people’s problems).  I always prefer natural solutions, and I’m not at all sure putting my money into the drug trade is any less problematic than funneling it to the pharmaceutical companies.  So instead of popping pills should I be embracing the ganja?  Is this what I’m missing?  Is this how the other grownups are dealing with toddlers, twinsanity, marital problems, work-life balance, the general absurdity of existence, the fact that we’ll still be paying off our student loans when our kids start college, and the recognition that the government is spying on us even with Obama in office, while big agra and big pharma work together to keep us fat and sick as the FDA looks the other way?  Am I just an arm of the corporate machine pushing pills that will numb my patients out to the reality of the modern condition thus preventing revolution?  Is Zoloft the new opium of the masses?

Even my best friend’s DAD smokes pot.  He is some kind of expert in it.  He knows which kinds pick you up, which bring you down, he’s a regular weed-kipedia.  I feel like I’m doing things backward sometimes.  What was I doing in college when everybody else was experimenting with drugs, and apparently learning how to manage their mental health symptoms in the process?  What was I doing while everybody was experimenting with different sexual partners and in some cases, orientations?  I was distracted by righteous indignation.  I was trying to save my mother from my father, and later from a brain tumor.  I didn’t trust people enough to have sex and I didn’t trust myself enough to do drugs.  So can an old dog learn new tricks?  My friend’s Dad has.  Ani DiFranco’s latest album features a song which hails the benefits of promiscuity, but ends with how she’s monogamous now and happier for it.  If Ani can choose monogamy, can’t I choose pot?  Why does the trajectory have to be from wild to restrained, kinky to vanilla?  Is it too late for me to go through my rebellious phase?  Promiscuity could be tricky at this point what with the marriage thing and all… but I never vowed not to become a pothead.

Ani’s a mother now too.  At her shows this winter she bemoaned the fact that she tried to raise her kid gay, but it wasn’t working.  Even HER daughter is obsessed with princesses.   Does Ani herself struggle with unrealistic expectations of mothers?  Does she feel closeted and invisible as a mother, married to a male?  Does she struggle with how to stay true to her feminist/radical/queer ideals?  Ani, how do you balance work and family?  How do you balance being a mother with being the fucking coolest person in the world?  I bet you pick up a joint from time to time.  Or are you too staring down Zoloft bottles?  What’s a girl to do, Ani?  There are so many questions.  Where would I get the pot, there’s the whole legality issue, what about my lungs, I guess I could get a vaporizer, or I could do the baked goods thing, but that combined with the munchies could prove really dangerous for my ass.  Please, Ani, I’m sitting here in my tent waiting for a sign from goddess…

 In the meantime, I guess I’m going to go ahead and take this fucking Zoloft… bottoms up!  God Bless America!

Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com, All Rights Reserved.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero