Wednesday, 15 April 2020

A New World is Coming

I keep seeing jokes and talk about the COVID baby boom, and I get it, but it's so glaringly the observation of childless people discussing the experience of other childless people, the luxurious boredom of boinking like bunnies through this ceaseless isolation, seeking pleasure and connection to ease uncertainty.

Is it enough to counter the the opposite push, though? What about all of the women who might have had another, but have instead been forced to give up everything to tend to the child/ren they already had?

How about that sexism that has so many families choosing his job over hers? Or those households where her vastly increased emotional and physical labor to keep the ship sailing right are rendered invisible, even if she is also trying to work remotely as she becomes a substitute teacher?

What about this reality check that, at any moment, you could become solely responsible for your child, or children, and that help is really not coming? Or the creeping feeling--which many parents keep at bay in the best of times--that we are not enough for this task and that the math simply doesn't work, might actually be the reality?

I can tell you, I've got a husband who is working every day, not just at his job, but also to take on an impressive share of household and childcare duties. We are by far at the good end of how these things shake out, and I'm still feeling utterly spent most days. Hell, I started off feeling burnt out, trying to claw my way out of unpaid domestic servitude toward something that actually felt fulfilling, like a true calling. Yet, here I am again, in perpetuity.

Honestly, it's got me feeling like the only elective medical procedures I'd leave the house for would be a tubal ligation or an abortion.

I love my kid so much, and the idea of having another has begun to terrify me. He is amazing and magical, and most days he feels like way more than enough.

We work to correct the balance, but still a lifetime of sexism has brought us to a place of imbalanced incomes and opportunities. Our most active efforts are noble, and are still executed in a world of systemic bias and unequal outcomes.

My husband and I grew up in different classes, and in many ways we live in different classes still. I remember, when I was studying international development a long time ago, a discussion about this very idea: that partners in the same household could be in different socioeconomic spheres, and how this affected the impact of aid.

That insight was striking, but it took me over a decade to realize it was my reality, too, albeit in a softer way. My climb has been a steep one, and I'm never more than a few moves away from tumbling. And nothing has highlighted the precariousness of my position more than becoming a mother.

I wish for us to remake society to restore the communal joy of childrearing. Children were never meant to be raised in isolation, by one or one-and-a-half or even two overstretched adults. They require peers, intergenerational connection, a community to support them in exploration of the joys of existence.

I hope, when this is all said and done, that the women of this country go on strike. I hope we follow the lead of our Icelandic sisters and demand parity, that we take over the government and rebuild something equitable and efficient over the ruins of patriarchy. We must demand ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and we must grant women absolute power over their reproductive capabilities.

We have to survive the shredded remains of this iteration, but I hope our anger can empower us to build an improved incarnation in the aftermath. A new world is coming, one way or another.

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