Last night, we were all sitting around the table, eating breakfast for dinner which is what I fix when I don't want to go to the grocery store and purchase real food. Given that my car was under about 3 inches of ice and snow, this was not based solely on my own laziness. Anyway, we were finishing up, and my son asked for seconds. I got up to get him some more, basically just happy that he was eating (my son is a finicky eater, and a great deal of my time is spent begging, pleading and cajoling him into sticking something into his mouth), and he goes, "Yeah, you have to serve me because you are a WOMAN."
And that is when my heart fell fifty feet, landed in my toes, and decided to peace out for the next few seconds while I fumbled with the pancakes and tried to think of something to say.
I talked to him and found out that he thinks that women are supposed to do the laundry, feed the babies, clean the house and do the cooking. He said this, not with the usual silly grin on his face that he uses when he is telling me that a robot that frequently turns into a truck is the star of a movie he is going to make, but a look of full-on earnestness. This is what he thinks.
And he has no reason to think otherwise. As I was sitting on the couch later, holding the baby, watching Law and Order and trying to hold back my sobs, I realized that this is what Sam sees me do. When Sam is around his mom, the most influential woman in his life, I am always doing one of the above things. Every time I am at home, I run around, going in seven million different directions, trying to do laundry and keep the house from looking like something from Hoarders. I cook nearly every meal we eat because we live in a rural area and healthy restaurant choices are few and far between. I also try to keep a cookie jar full of cookies at all times, especially now at the holidays. Really, the only time I sit is when I am nursing Alice.
I tried to explain to Sam that women don't have to do those things, and that women do other things too. I tried to tell him about my job, about why I do the things I do, but he just stared at me, his placid blue eyes imploring me to shut up and say something interesting about the Transformers. He doesn't care what I say, because he only sees what I do. And that sucks.
I brought it up to my husband, who was typing a paper for a class he is taking and therefore, totally not in the mood for any of this. He goes, "Well, he'll be happy about it later and have good memories of you keeping clean clothes on his back and good food in his stomach." WTF?!? I explained that that wasn't quite good enough, and he goes, "What am I supposed to do about it?"
And what indeed. I have sat through waaay too many Women's Studies classes for this to be my reality. But I don't know what to do about it. If I don't do those things (cleaning, laundry, cooking), they will not get done. Period. My husband wouldn't know what to do with a chuck roast if it sat in his lap and called him "mama." He tries to help every now and again, but he is so slow in his tasks that I always get fed up before he finishes and do it myself. We started out as this couple who used words like "partnership" and "50/50" and somehow we have ended up here at this traditional, awful place. And I'm miserable.
Well, I take that back. Not miserable. Just tired. Part of it is a good tired, a kind of tired that I actually crave. I love the busy-ness of having three kids, love the constant noise and motion. I grew up an only child, and was always kind of jealous of the commotion I saw at other people's houses. I have it now, and it is infectious and wonderful. BUT. I am also just plain tired. I get up every morning and go to work (where I mentor and tutor homeless kids--a very emotionally exhausting way to spend six hours) and then I drive home, swing by my kid's school and pick them up and meet my mother in law to pick up my baby. When I get home, I either head right back out again to either dance or karate class or I spend the afternoon with the kids--cleaning, and talking with them. I discuss the day's dramas with my 10 year old, construct Lego fortresses with my son, coo at and tickle the baby. I fix dinner. I get everyone in the bathtub and do laundry. Since Alice is now going through a phase where she will only sleep when I am asleep next to her, I hold her until I finally collapse in bed at around 11. On the weekends, I am just up doing this same schedule, minus the work part. Which means that on Monday, I end up getting up even more tired than I was on Friday evening.
I would love to have some time just to sit down under a blanket and read. Just an hour. Sometimes I think I would give up anything just to have one evening at home alone where I could take a bath, drink some wine and watch Lifetime movies. I daydream about that. Sometimes in the daydream, I am wearing a Snuggie. I don't own a Snuggie, and I have frequently made fun of them. I am tempted by them now, and I suddenly realize the appeal.
I remember sitting in a women's studies class my freshman year of college and discussing how one raises feminist kids. I will do that, I thought. And here I am. It saddens me. Somewhere, I have lost that girl who sat in the University Center (it is not even called that now) and passed out petitions for better lighting on campus, that girl who inhaled theory like air. She is not here anymore, that girl, and I am left here, and I am sad and I want her back. I just want her to come back long enough to show Sam what women can do. That is all I want.