December 30, 2008

Rarefied Air

Every once in a while, something comes along to remind me what an atypical life I've built for myself. This time it was someone reacting skeptically to PalMD's statement that he worries every day about balancing work and parenting, 'cause, you know, guys don't really do that. Um, what? I wanted, as usual when confronting the combination of rudeness and ignorance that can be the internet, to step on the fingers responsible.

So I stepped back instead. Was there any reasonable place for the doubt to have come from?

Yeah, there was. A lot of fathers really do overestimate their contributions to the household because they're doing more than their fathers did and more than the world tells them they must do. "Equal" parenting, when broken down by what each partner actually does, is often not equal.

So why did I have to step back to remember that? Because in my world, things don't usually work that way. Really. This is my world:

  • Lots of child-free couples. Some because they don't like kids. Some for medical reasons. Some because pursuing vocations and avocations at the same time doesn't leave much time for good parenting. Some because the desire for children doesn't outweigh the hassles of becoming gay parents.
  • Adults who are unpartnered for various reasons. No parents in this group.
  • Stay-at-home parents of both sexes who decided they'd stay home, not for financial reasons, but to work on their art. They were mostly delusional, at least while the kids were too young for school.
  • Gay parents who by default won't be breaking things down by stereotyped gender role, because the trash would pile up or they'd starve.
  • Two-career parents who truly co-parent, usually with the help of family located nearby, because otherwise, they wouldn't get any child-free time to share with each other.
  • A few divorced parents with joint custody.
  • Finally, way out on the periphery, a couple of couples who do things more "traditionally." Dads who bring home the paycheck while Mom is primary caretaker. Even there, Dad comes home from work at a decent hour and unwinds by playing video games with the kids. Any work that has to be done in the evening is done at home after the kids are in bed, which means Dad won't be getting credit for face time in the office.

This is my life. These are my friends of my generation. Does this look anything like the rest of the world? No, and I like it that way. I arranged it that way. But it does give me an unusual outlook sometimes.

In the end, I was a lot more gentle with the uncomprehending commenters at denialism blog, because it made me sad to think they don't live in the same world I do.

But really, y'all are welcome to move here anytime.


Becca said...

But no single career families where the father is the primary caretaker?

No poly co-parenting?

No non-delusion dual artist couples?

you say you want a revolution, yeah well you know...

Stephanie Zvan said...

Well, it was a blog post, so you got the core rather than the extended picture. If you count art as a career, then yes, no single-career families with primary caretaker papas. But almost everyone I know is an artist of some sort or another or pursues a geek passion, so single-career couples are rare to begin with.

The one poly group I know who had children broke up about a year and a half ago. I didn't include them because I don't know what the custodial arrangements are now. There are a couple of others groups I know, but they're not local, which this list all is.

There were nondelusional artist parents. They were the writers who were already under contract when the kids came along or very shortly thereafter, so they didn't have a choice about learning to adapt quickly. The dual artist couples either didn't have kids or at least one put the art on hold while the kids were young. Art rarely pays off during peak reproductive years, and art, living with little money and kids all take large time investments. I'm not saying you can't combine all three, but it's rare enough I'm not surprised I don't know anyone who's managed it.

Is that any better?

Will Shetterly said...

The rest of the world doesn't look like the rest of the world either. Just sayin'.

Will Shetterly said...

Okay, my comment was fast and glib. I meant to say we all have ideas of what's supposed to be and how things are elsewhere, and they tend to be great simplifications. People who talk about what fits the norm are often imagining a norm that no longer exists or never did.

Even so, I get your point. The expectations for an imaginary norm are weaker in some places.

Stephanie Zvan said...

And even beyond that, Will, they're stronger in some places, and I shouldn't forget that some people are still subject to pretty strong coercion from them even if I'm not.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has their own naturalistic fallacy to work off of. It is interesting to look at actual numbers of actual parenting practices.

One of the most astounding facts to every arise from hunter gatherer research is this: Pygmy fathers studies by Barry Hewlett in one area of Africa spend almost the same amount of time as mothers holding the babies (other child care activities are more female). Pygmy fathers studies by Barry Hewlett in a different area of Africa spend almost no time holding the babies.

So much for the monolithic hunter gatherer. So much for the monolithic anything.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Hmm, I'll give you myopia. I'm not sure where the "should" comes in, though, that would make this naturalistic fallacy specifically.

Mme Piggy said...

Hi Stephanie,

Excellent post as per usual. We only know each other through the blogosphere, but feel free to add my example to the mix: My mate, Kermit, and I are a single income family with papa as the primary caretaker and mama as the breadwinner. Also, I am divorced with joint custody with tremendous input from Kermit as her step-dad.

Kermit is a student/artist/formerly 100% stay at home dad. He is only formerly 100% stay at home because both kids are in school full-time now. We used to be a dual artist couple (not sure about the non-delusional part), but we got sick of ramen, and we like our electricity to stay on.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Thanks, Mme. I was kind of hoping this post would encourage a few people to talk about how they don't fit the stereotypes of what "everyone else" is doing.