Family / Parenting

The parent crunch

This afternoon I spent three and half hours putting my son down for a nap.

He’s been sick all week, and, while he’s on the mend, he’s still cranky and fantastically snotty. The progress we’ve been making in getting him to sleep enough at a stretch that his mamas are functional human beings has been temporarily waylaid.

And then there are our normal lives. An expanding job and less time to spend at it because of shifting priorities. Rush rush rush. Most nights by the time we’ve gotten home, had some time to spend with the baby, and put him down to bed, we’re sitting down to dinner at 8:30 or even later. The amount of bad TV we’ve watched in the past few months is incredible – but the only thing we have the energy for after the pace of our days.

In all honesty, I’m overwhelmed almost all the time these days.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. And I know that it’s not unique to queer families, but I do wonder how that plays into things.

Last week my mother-in-law suggested that maybe two-mom families are more equitable because our culture’s expectations for moms is that they’ll be involved in the day-to-day details of their children’s lives, and so both parents are more willing to roll up their sleeves with their kids when it comes to all the little time-consuming and energy-intensive things kids need.

I don’t want to over-generalize or put too much stock in the stereotype, but I wonder if she’s onto something.

Everyone has heard the statistics about how, because men tend to earn more than women, gay male couples are likely to earn more money than the average and lesbian couples are likely to earn less.

I wonder how this plays into our parenting, into our ways of dealing with the stress and non-stop push-pull of parenting.

What do you think? If you’re a queer parent, do you see yourself handling this differently than your straight-parent friends because of the gender dynamics of your relationship?

And has anyone figured out a way to catch your breath during all of this?

No Comments

  1. I often think that my son ends up getting more parental attention because he has two moms. We’re lucky, though, in that our work/school schedules allow both of us to make time for his appointments and activities–and we do. On the other hand, this also means that we take less individual downtime. And I wonder how much more stretched we’ll be when our second one arrives.

    And the best way we’ve found to catch our breaths? Trips to my in-laws. They’re wonderful and happy to watch him for long stretches while we get a chance to hold real conversations. And once we’ve been there for a few days, we’re finally able to relax enough to appreciate it–not like hurried date nights with a babysitter at home.

  2. We have a very specialized system in which I stay home and my partner works for money. In many ways it’s like a traditional straight couple except that I do think that she spends much more of her “spare” (non-paid labor) time with our daughter than the average working daddy. It’s also different because though we specialize, in fact, we are interchangeable. I could get a job and support us tomorrow (not as well right away, maybe) and she could stay home and do everything I do (not as well right away maybe). And we fully appreciate each other’s work in ways I don’t think is typical in straight families. She understands my labor as a true ecomonic contribution, though it is unpaid. I have read too many sad books and articles that quote men as suggesting that stay at home moms “don’t work” and have luxurious lives at the expense of men’s “real” labor..

  3. Oi, basically, is my short comment.

    Long comment is, I felt a sad deflating feeling when I read Mouse’s comment above “And I wonder how much more stretched we’ll be when our second one arrives.” Ah well. We’ve just rounded the six week mark w/ kid#2, and are “in the weeds,” as they say in the restaurant business. We both work at home right now and have taken all this time off, pretty much (pretty much).

    Next week (meaning in two days) I’ll return to working outside the home part-time, and the birth ma will return to her work (next door). We are shitting bricks trying to figure out how to schedule it all, and we’re totally swimming in familial share care (bro-in law’s family downstairs, whom we swap childcare afternoons with, and a granny who comes over an afternoon every week). If and whenever I can find the time (!) I’ll read Ruth Rosen’s cover piece for the Nation last week, The Care Crisis, and probably feel simultaneously validaded and pessimistic.

    Who knows whether all would be easier if one of us made 20+% more, thanks to male earning power? I’m grateful neither of us feels locked into our roles, public or private, as Shannon describes above. We both value a full life with lots of time with the kidlings Velika Gorica and fulfilling public-sphere work. Still trying to figure it all out. Leastwise we haven’t given up trying.

  4. This is an area that totally didn’t work the way I thought it was going to pre-baby, although over the last few weeks, we’ve gotten into more of a balance.

    For the bulk of the first year, I was the primary care giver for the baby, I would guess doing ~80% of the care when Noah wasn’t at day care. Part of that was biological — I nurse him, Jill doesn’t. Part of it is related to our adult physiology — she needs more sleep than I do, and has as long as we’ve been together. Part of it is different comfort levels with babies — I was a big sister and had younger cousins, I babysat as a teenager, and Jill didn’t have any of those things. Oh and part of it was a serious stranger anxiety phase that for awhile left Noah hysterical if I was 2 feet away, no matter who else was there.

Leave a Reply to Shannon Cancel

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.