Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shunned

"Many died alone, shunned even by their own mothers, who discovered their sons were gay. Others died without an obituary, without a funeral, without even a marker on their grave.

A week or two ago, I saw a documentary - We Were Here - that chronicled the beginning of the AIDS/HIV epidemic in San Francisco in the 1980s. Earlier today I read an article about the AIDS quilt.

I don't know why this breaks my heart, but it does. The single most heartbreaking thing that I can think of is someone in pain, shunned and alone, with no one to care for them. I can't stand the thought of it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Ranty Side

I've been feeling very ranty lately, and for awhile I really couldn't figure out why. Ed and I don't really have fights, so there's no instability in our marriage. We don't have roommates, so there's no internal instability in our home due to other people. I'm underemployed, but I'm not working retail or shift work, and the job I do have is something I'd like to continue doing, albeit on a full-time basis; the only instability there is that I never quite know from one semester to the next if or how many classes I'll be teaching, yet once the school year starts, I can sub as much as I'd like, so I'm still employed in some capacity, and Ed has a good job that provides health insurance; between our two jobs we're making a go of it. Our single biggest stressor - finances - has been largely eliminated, so while we're still watching what we spend, we're not nearly in as difficult a position as we were even even three months ago.

I realized today, though, that what has me on continued edge is my own personal need to have a career. We don't have children right now - having them, either biologically or via adoption is never a guarantee - but there's a very strong culture here of traditional gender roles, especially in a marriage. The wife and mother is expected not only to stay home, but expected to want to stay home, while the husband, being the head of the family, is expected to be the breadwinner (an antiquated notion, if ever there was one). I have issues with this for several reasons.

Two caveats, though: If a wife and mother wants to stay home, genuinely wants to stay home because it's what the parents decide is the best decision, and they're interested in doing so, then I say, right on. Either parent staying home is possibly one of the most beneficial things a parent can do for the child. You can be responsible your child's burgeoning education and be there to witness milestones, as well as control the child's schedule, etc.

The other side of that, which I've mentioned elsewhere, is that often the parents don't have the option of either parent staying home: As is often the case, two paychecks are needed. Not everyone parents with young children lives close to extended family, so there's not always the option of a grandparent or retired aunt or uncle to care for the child. And to complicate things even more, often one parent's salary would not cover the cost of increasingly expensive daycare, so one has to balance what the lesser-earning parent earns with the cost of daycare or pre-school. If two parents have to work, then two parents have to work. If one parent isn't earning enough not only to cover the cost of daycare or pre-school, with having some left over, then the second parent working doesn't help.

It's the intensity of the expectation placed on the wife and mother staying home that bothers me most. What I almost feel guilty about is not feeling guilty for needing to work. I need a paycheck of my own, to feel that I'm financially contributing to my family, in whatever small way I can. No matter what anyone does, no matter what we decide, someone will think we're doing it wrong; someone will disagree. But I have yet to meet any other woman who has children who feels that need to work as well. 

Some women feel strongly that they need children, and that's their life's goal. I don't feel that. I'd like the experience of raising a child or two with my husband, but I don't feel my life would be incomplete if I didn't have children. I'd feel my life would be incomplete if I didn't have my own career.

And, really, teaching is a fantastic career to have when one has children: Since my schedule will be aligned to our children's, we won't have to worry about long-term day care, either during the summer or holidays; adjuncting would be especially great for that - putting the child in daycare twice a week instead of for the entire week. I'd get home (or could arrange to be home, if I'm still adjuncting) at a reasonable time such that we'd have time together as a family. I don't see that I have to make a choice between motherhood and having a career. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Settling Down

"What did happen to me at 30 was that I gradually started to settle down, though not in the traditional sense of the term—by becoming pregnant or putting a down payment on a mortgage or even getting married. For me, settling down is located in my head (for the Buddhists among you, this is called mindfulness). It meant realizing that I wanted to share my days with my long-distance boyfriend without Skype as an intermediary; that I wanted to stop responding so impulsively to everything."


This didn't happen to me specifically at 30. There wasn't a switch; I've never been one to casually date: Either the relationship was on some level serious, or I didn't want to bother with it. I had enough friends; I never wanted that in-between relatioship. If the relationship was a good one, I was happy, but I was equally happy being alone.

And to be honest, I never felt lonely when I was single; I relished being alone. Often in relationships I felt lonelier than if I were single, I knew something tangible was missing, which is why I knew pretty early on that the relationship wouldn't last. I often felt lonelier in the relationship than when I was single, so I never felt a strong compulsion or urge to get married and have kids; I never felt a "ticking biological clock." (This might be in part because I've known for many years that I can't biologically have my own children. Sometimes I'm saddened that being pregnant is an experience I'll never  go through, but I don't dwell on those moments, and I don't find it catastrophic.) I always figured that if I got married, great; if not, so what? If I met someone and we got married and were able to adopt, great; if not, well, I hardly think that falling to pieces is a good way to go about things.

(I'm guessing that one of the reasons people want children is that they want someone to nurture and watch grow. I'm incredibly lucky because I get to do that for a living. I don't feel I'm missing out on that part of life. And one can nurture one's spouse, one's friends, and the children of one's friends as well.)

The men I had dated previously were lovely, intelligent, kind men, one of whom did want to marry me, but I knew that marrying him would have been the wrong decision. I married Ed because I could see that he was someone with whom I could be happy, someone with whom I could spend my life; I hadn't met anyone up until that point about whom I could say that. I met someone who was worth sharing my days with.