Dressing our Daughter in Pink & other modern parenting dilemmas

Back in a time before Baby, I had a lot of opinions about parenting.

One of the things I developed a fairly strong opinion on in the run up to starting a family was gender-neutral parenting. What modern ‘liberal’ free-thinking middle-class woman hasn’t thought about how to give children positive messages about the fluidity of gender and enable them to make informed choices in their life which are  unconstrained by social conceptions of gender even if they are eventually conforming? I am keen to make sure traits and preferences are not gender-coded; that all clothing  and job choices are seen as valid options. I want blue and pink to just be colours, fairies & dinosaurs to be fun. But what if we overdo it, I worry that our little family is not equipped to demonstrate and articulate expressions of traditional femininity  – girly isn’t really our thing…
Then I look at the reality that snuck up on us.
A lot of the clothes we have for baby are second-hand or are gifts from relatives. Financially, it is daft for us to even contemplate not taking the help we have been offered. So pink it is.
Plus it turns out not only do some people just love buying girly stuff, only those with female shaped (and coded) babies been happy to donate clothing and actually it is surprisingly hard to buy things other than in very gendered blue or pink (ie no blue flowers or pink robots or green well anything)
But as I watch relatives and complete strangers flail around desparately trying to gender our child if they cannot see blue or pink cues I realise that this is not a battle that can even be fought just with accessories – perhaps it is more important that Small realises that even when they have to dress to conform for safety or other reasons that doesn’t restrict the way they fee lor their intrinsic worth.

One of my most difficult dilemmas is parent naming.
Small has 2 mummies and a daddy. But should the mummies have different names to her? How should we introduce ourselves? How should I enforce making relatives give Mummy W appropriate recognition? What if neither of the mummies have ever been entirely comfortable with the idea of motherhood? What if Daddy is wrapped up in a very traditonal 2 parent model?
And this is the key area of difficulty what are the boundaries and responsibilities of 3 parents? And how can we make that work for a small human who has her own needs?

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Absent without leave

So its been over a year since I last posted – I feel guilty, I do, but I do have an excuse or two.

  1. (chronologically rather than importance-wise) B & I became 2 out of 4 joint leaseholders of a pub; spent a month refurbishing said pub, opened it and set about making it a profitable business  before; falling out with our business partners and thus needing to become more responsible for the project whilst having less time to do so because:
  2. I got pregnant and had a baby

yup. Here it is in  (slightly less) brief:
Jan: Planned for pub & got keys
Feb: Spent 15hrs/day refurbing pub; opened pub
Mar: Ran pub; found out I was pregnant
Apr: Ran pub, prepped for beer fest; felt rubbish
May: Ran pub, saw proto-baby for the 1st time, climbed a mountain with my Dad
Jun: Hols with W, Ran Pub, visited in-laws
Jul: Ran pub, 2nd Scan, publically acknowleged pregnancy
Aug: Ran pub; failed miserably to organise maternity cover but did lots of paperwork
Sept: Ran pub beer fest, hol with B, failed to reconcile difference with business partners
Oct: Ran pub, desparately rearranged staffing, agreed change in role of business partners
Nov: Took maternity leave, went home, had baby
Dec: fed baby, changed baby’s nappy, tried to sleep

Small was born almost exactly 9 months after we opened the pub (probably not a coincidence) and in the meantime I navigated the ups and downs of running a small business whilst also trying to find my footing in the new way our relationships with the each other and the world would work.

W, B & I did not smoothly negotiate the new patterns in my working life, new timetables and new fiscal entanglements; we also did not resolve issues surrounding our desires and responsibilities to the precious life we have been gifted with
W’s parents have not been wholly supportive and she had a breakdown in her mental health in the last months of my pregnancy. Similarly, the failure of our business partners to put the time and energy we expected from them into the pub, coupled with differences of perspective led to conflict and a lot of stress.
And despite the hertache I now have 2 impossible dreams growing in front of me…..
Now not to fail them

 

 

 

 

Samhain

This pagan threshold of the living and the dead is my marker of a New Year begun.
It is also the date that marks the very first vows my wife and I exchanged.  The words of our handfasting were for a year and a day to give ourselves time to reconsider – but I knew as clearly then (11 years ago) as I do now that they are for the remainder of our lives.
I don’t earn as much money as I should, I don’t keep the house as clean and tidy as I could, I recklessly fell in love with someone else, I often cry for no good reason, regularly eat all the cheese and rarely cook but still she loves me.
She spends on fripperies for others and skimps on her own needs, is always losing something about the house, is hopelessly forgiving of her demanding family, has dreadful PMT and steals my chocolate but still I love her.

And so I say again:
I promise to take you as my best friend, and as my lover; to be yours and to keep you in my heart and soul through whatever we may yet live through; to support you, and to protect you – since we are one. I promise to learn to have faith in myself and to not falter in my trust of you and I promise to listen, and to give, so that together we can be strong. Lastly, I vow to live every day in consciousness of this gift and to remember and thank-you for our love.
And 
everyday I choose you, choose to spend the rest of my life with you. I take you as my wife, my friend and my lover, through the bad times and the good- through every twist of our lives. I promise you my respect and my trust, I promise to share my hopes and my dreams and to offer you my strength and my care.

Darling wife, you have ridden with me through the storms of our depressions and put aside your fear to live with my polyamory and I feel so privileged and so humbled by your love – tell me how to show you my joy and trust in you, how to demonstrate my love and trust in you. Together we are stronger than any storms, together we can face the unknown and build our dreams, even if we have to leap into the unknown. I will always be yours. Ta ghra agam duit my wolf

Outside the sanctuary I would pray for her, and to the last I shall continue to seek her.
From her blossoming to the ripening of her grape my heart has taken its delight in her. My foot has pursued a straight path, I have sought her ever since my youth.
By bowing my ear a little, I have received her, and have found much instruction.
Thanks to her I have advanced; glory be to Him who has given me wisdom!
For I was determined to put her into practice, have earnestly pursued the good, and shall not be put to shame.
My soul has fought to possess her, I have been scrupulous in keeping the Law; I have stretched out my hands to heaven and bewailed how little I knew of her;
I have directed my soul towards her, and in purity I have found her; having my heart fixed on her from the outset, I shall never be deserted;
my very core having yearned to discover her, I have now acquired a good possession.

Another Year

Yesterday marked 5 years with B.
(Happy Anniversary my Love)

Soon it will be 12 years since I left home for university and a little later in the year 11 since I made my commitment to W.
It seems almost unimaginable how much my life has developed and changed in those 5 years and in the 7 before that.

A civil-partnership, a house, a doctorate. 2 strong, committed and positive relationships.
What did I do right?

Lucky Me.

 

What’s in a name?

A friend of mine recently commented about her resistance to changing her name when she wed and shared a link to this article.

As a woman in the “Western World” it is still usually assumed that you will take on your husband’s surname and yet as civil partnerships become more common and people who have delayed marriage til later in life find that their professional life is dominated by the name they built up this must surely be becoming as much a practical issue as it is a gender politics one.

Personally I feel no more strongly about changing your name if you get married than I do about keeping the name assigned to you by your parents – neither is automatically your identity so much as they are about your family and your connections. Sharing your surname with your parents or your children marks out a sense of belonging (in both a negative & positive sense) and builds up history. A similar trend must surely be seen in the continuing desire for many people to give their children the same names as their parents or grandparents (even if it is often relegated to a middle name).For some this is a burden and for others a sense of joy.

Whether you feel more strongly connected to the past in your own parents, desire a connection to the family who you marry into or wish to forge a new family bond and new name must surely be a personal choice in this day and age…

More importantly I feel that we should not question an individuals relationship with their name – for some it is a torture (be that through bullying at school or the gender assumptions it carries) for others it is an intensely personal point of pride. What is interesting, socially speaking, is the expectations we put on people:

  • That women will change their name at least once in their lives [and those who don’t are spinsters, lesbians or uber-feminists (which may because they are both of the first two of course)]
  • That men won’t change their’s [and those that do are milksops to their wives or hiding something]
  • Hypenation is an ugly postmodern cop-out that suggests you are a bit too right-on
  • If one half of a homosexual couple changes their surname to match their partner’s they are the more feminine party
  • That wanting to change your name substantially marks you out as odd
  • That children having a different surname to the main adults in their life is undesirable

I think that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about how tied we are to a traditional family structure despite the number of possible variations currently experienced…
Food for thought.

 

On a completely personal level – I have no desire to change the name my parents gave me (indeed with the exception of my online persona and the pet name my wife uses for me I have never settled into any nicknames); I never expected to change my name even as a child despite the attitudes of most of my schoolfriends; my name is my brand academically speaking and is even more so for my wife; we are all (all 3 of us?) slightly attached to the connection to the history and continuation of our families as represented in our names; we have not been able to settle on what surname we would give any children but agreed that something new is the best choice/compromise for our blended family….

Timing – scheduling & biological clocks

Tonight I am thinking about planning.
As I try to juggle the google calendar to make sure that W & B get an equitable division of my time each week that fits around all of our various commitments and work on what holidays we can arrange I am acutely aware of the drawbacks of my ‘lifestyle choice’. Both W & B are permanently compromising even more than most people to make this work and sometimes that is really hard.
How should I decide what will make them feel valued? What about individual emotional crises or changeover periods? How much do I take control and how much input can they have to the overall schedule so that they both feel involved and yet don’t tread on each others toes or feel embarassed about asking for stuff?

It makes me worry about how much more complicated it will be if I get a full time job.. a brand new set of negotiations and compromises and perhaps more fragile feelings. I know that we can manage because actually each of us are committed not only to each other but to making sure that as little pain as possible is involved. I know that sometimes I worry too much and that everyone has bad days or needs that they aren’t sure how to communicate straight away but that we can manage.

And this leads me to my other topic…
Children
More and more I notice how much W is tempted and terrified by the idea of kids, I know that B would secretly like children but feels that soon he will be too old and that there is no way the hurdles can be negotiated.
I am torn. I feel more like I could build a family with both of them than I ever knew was possible – that whilst children frighten me, it wouldn’t be a chore to watch my wife be the mother she should be or my boy giving that extra part of himself, maybe just maybe they would enough to make me good enough to be a parent.
But will time run out before the worries and troubles can be overcome. How is it possible to give W the family she craves which doesn’t make her, B or me feel alienated?
And if we did how would I possibly manage my calendar?

 

The Book and other tales of affection

A few years ago the wife and I when the wife and I were having a rough patch I decided to start writing her love letters.
Since then I have tried to write her a note for most of the days that we are apart in a big A4 hardback book. I write them in advance so she can pack the book in her luggage – which means trying to think of things to brighten her life and remind her that I am thinking of her sometimes weeks ahead of time. Initially, I wanted to remind her that even if I am with B in her absence she still has an important place in my heart and in my life and now, whilst that remains a meaningful part of my letters, I try to focus on planning our future and building a record of good memories.
Christmas and New Year are probably one of the most difficult times for us to be apart and I look forward to when she and I can really settle into our own family christmases in our own home but til then words will have to do. I hope that even when our separations are fewer and less painful she will keep our book to make her smile and I will be able to hold on to the importance of making that extra effort despite all of the little things that take up our time.

It is that same sentiment that makes me grateful for the evenings we commit to spending with each other, both W & I and B & I and sometimes all three of us. Its too easy to slip into the comfortableness of just being in the same place as each other but that never feels the same as agreeing to spend time with each other, talking, watching tv or cooking together are as good as going out to dinner and a damnsight better than faffing on the computer barely interacting. I think it is important to both of them that I make an effort to give them some time that is theirs and to do it regularly. Without it W would feel like I was only with her for convenience and B would feel like he didn’t matter and was always 2nd in my thoughts and I think I’d go mad without the chance to connect.

Still it’ll be fun to spend christmas on my own recharging my batteries and getting ready for new routines and new challenges.

When you don’t love you

How can you help someone who doesn’t believe they are worthy of love?

When you love a person who automatically assumes that everything they do is wrong, when they think that they aren’t lovable, when every day they fight their sense that their choices are fundamentally flawed etc… then you in turn fight everyday to remind them that you find them intrinsically lovable and that you trust them.
I know how the depression monster eats away at every feeling of worth and I know what it feels like to believe on a truly fundamental level that simply by being every action and word of yours is flawed and yet I struggle to deal with it in other people – especially when I care about them.

How do you deal with the fact that someone you feel passionately is beautiful, funny and caring, not to mention smart and engaging can’t even believe in your love for them?
How do you assuage the fear and anger that goes with the sense of powerlessness and hopelessness of low self-esteem?
What do you do when you know that your actions and existence only make the person you care about more anxious and feel less certain of their actions?

Some days I am reminded more strongly than others that my relationship(s) require a lot of time, work and patience; some days I am reminded that the battles we face with depression and anxiety will be with us for the rest of our lives and some days I am especially reminded that my feelings and choices not only have long and heart-rending consequences but also that they are probably less important to me than the long term feelings of my girl.

Grounding

When stress and work constraints get the better of you it is easy to let family time slip away.

Today I was reminded how much difference it makes just to sit down and eat together.
My wife made a beautiful sunday dinner – it was nothing short of a gift for B & I, warming, homely and thoughtful (not to mention damn tasty). I hope that she felt good to be able to share that with us.
I take for granted the moments we sit and laugh together and I shouldn’t. Stopping to eat together or watch trashy tv has always been a way to escape even when our relationships were at their rockiest and no matter how painful and personal the process is we are closer for it. I think on balance I am glad for separate spaces (extra cleaning but better escape clauses) but sharing is good.
Thankyou my loves