I had a wealth of fears about becoming a new mom when I was pregnant.

Would the baby be healthy? Would I be able to make her happy? How would my life change? How would my relationship change? What if..? How, how how?

What I didn’t expect was how isolating it can feel.

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See, we’re one of the first in our friend group to have a baby. And though that comes with a wealth of benefits – our friends come to us, they have more attention for Adeline – it’s still nice to have friends who are going through what you’re going through.

So Marco and I began to expand our social engagements to meet other parents. That’s how we found ourselves at an odd but not unpleasant dinner with some acquaintances and their 2-year-old, with the father explaining to us the ways of the world. Or, err, his world.

“Because let’s get real Marco, we’re just the dad. We’re never going to be the one the kid is searching out. And it makes sense,” he continued. “I mean it’s the mom who feeds him and changes him. She does everything, am I right?!”

Marco and I glanced at each other… How to answer our particular truth — that this acquaintance’s description was absolutely not the case for us — without emasculating Marco and making me seem like a degenerate mom?

Because it’s not like that for us. Because in our household we both take care of the emotional labor.

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Hold your hate mail: I’m not saying we’re perfect. What I am saying is that Marco is as involved and present in childrearing and managing the household as I am and that Adeline seeks him out as much as she seeks me.

If I go out with friends for an evening, I’m not fretting the entire time because my husband doesn’t know his daughter’s bedtime routine or because she has a slight fever and absolutely needs me. I know he can handle it all just as much as I can, because he does.

And why shouldn’t it be that way? We both work outside of the house so we both work inside of it as well.

… But we can’t seem to find any other parent friends who can say the same thing….

In one way or another, all I see is women doing the vast majority of the childcare work. 

Listen, I’m only speaking from my personal, and extremely limited, experience. If anyone actually ever commented on this blog I’m sure there would be someone who could say “that’s not true in my case!” or “you’re an idiot!” but my sense of isolation comes from the fact that this is true for me. 

And I’m probably not the only one.

The female employment rate in Italy has grown – nearly 50% of Italian women work outside the home – but it is still the second lowest rate in all of Europe, and women in Italy with children are still doing over an hour more of work per day than her partner.

“All this comes at a cost to women’s well-being, as mothers forgo leisure time, professional ambitions and sleep,” reports a New York Times article on modern day motherhood and “good dads”.

And I believe it. 

Marco’s support was the only thing that held me together during the wee hours of infant care, and yet. And yet. “Do you feel exceptional?!” I leveled at him post-play date. “Do all these lazy dads make you feel exceptional?!”

Poor guy, he didn’t see it coming. But I’m not sorry.

See, if I raise my daughter, if I make her a special meal then give her a bath and change her and clean her nose and cut her nails and read her a book and rock her to sleep then go back and do the dishes I’m not considered exceptional. I don’t get a special mention in conversation.

I’m just considered a mom.

And yet so many new fathers can get a pass because their own fathers never cooked a meal in their life or changed a diaper or talked to their kids until they hit puberty. “Look!” they say, “just look how much better we are than the last generation!”

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After a play date with a new friend, Marco and I both lamented the fact that in the end we weren’t able to talk with the other mom at all. She was busy with her child the entire time (though we tried to help) and the conversation was stunted.

Whether women are doing more because it’s expected of them, because they want the control, even subconsciously, or because there is no other option, I seem to be the only mom who is able to sit down at times because my husband takes turns with me.

It’s impossible not to notice how many other fathers do so, so much less childrearing.

It’s not a polemic, but a simple observation, a modern day conversation, a necessary thing to notice for progressive parents.

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“I know I want kids one day,” a close friend told me, “I just can’t imagine taking the leap to actually having them and all the extra work that goes along with that.”

That’s because the only examples we’ve ever had show how difficult being a mother is for a working woman.

My answer?

Being a mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but I think that is especially true because I’m not doing it alone.

Written by ginamussio

6 Comments

Amanda Overcasher

First of all, I comment on this blog all the time so get that self deprecating line outta here.

Second, Brandon and I do take turns when we’re with company so that I can have a full conversation. I won’t say that we share the work equally, but I will say that he acknowledges when I’m overworked and he tries his damned hardest not to let me get there. We also both come from single-mother families so there’s little to no “example” for either of us to pull from in that department. Parenthood has been the biggest challenge of our marriage and we frequently debate responsibilities. It’s a hot topic in our house, along with raising children with feminist values. Basically, we’re wingin’ it & we just try to be better every day.

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ginamussio

Yesss, my one true fan! xD

I was so hesitant to publish this because I know how hard it can be. I also know that what is “present” for one person isn’t for the other. Every couple needs to find a balance!! But it was something we’ve been grappling with here where we can’t seem to find much of a balance with other couples so far. When we go out it genuinely does seem like I’m a terrible mom and Marco is super dad, if you compare us to other young parents. Debating responsibilities (especially when not screamed! ahaha) is so so important!

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Sabrina Kindell

Thad and I share responsibilities. While I still do a bit more, it isn’t for lack of trying on his part. I am the “researching” type. Also probably known as TYPE A. I have to echo what Amanda said – we do not share the work equally, but Thad picks up things in other areas and really and truly tries to take on whatever extra he can when he knows that I am reaching my limit. He was up with me every night with Madigan and yet, he was still fast asleep before I had put her back down. We take turns now putting her down for the evening. That was hard for me though – to give up that control. He does get accolades for being such a GREAT DAD. I don’t disagree. He is a great dad. I rarely hear the same about me being a great mom. It is just expected of us, to be that way. Also, for what it is worth, I read all of your posts, but I am typically nervous to reply because I do not have the writing abilities that you and Amanda do :) <3 you.

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ginamussio

haha thanks Sabrina!! All comments are welcome, regardless of writing skills! Anyway I’m with you – what drives me crazy is that the expectations are different for moms than dads!!

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Amanda Overcasher

To be honest, we don’t “go out” – Caleb is 7mo and I’ve never missed his bedtime (#judgeaway). I have a very small circle of girlfriends/couples that are mostly in the same place, recently new moms or older couples who “get” the new mom thing. It’s extremely hard to connect with friends without kids right now, which is a whole other topic in itself. It’s also extremely hard to connect with the majority of moms who want to dive into personal details about my breastfeeding or tell me how I should be making my own purees, or judge me for having another coffee at 6pm. Additionally, I truly mean it when I say, I want to spend every free second I have with my baby. I work M-F 40hrs/wk, with a 30-40min commute from home. I have actually put him down for bed and cried because I miss the weight of his little body. So… sorry to break it to you, Karen, but I’m not interested in your ‘happy hour’! Heh.

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