Every week or so, one of us will post a new question related to parenting, gender, and being gay, and then each blog a response, not to exceed 500 words. If you’re a blogger and have something to say on the topic, we’d love for you to join the conversation. You can post your answer on your blog and then link to it in the comments of the original question post.
Here’s this week’s question:
Do you think of yourself as a “mother”? A “father”? Something in between? Why?
As a kid, I was mortified when school activities peeled us off into groups divided by gender. Being trapped in an all-male space, like the boys’ cabin at sixth-grade camp, made me feel like an alien. The boys reported things to each other rather than talked with each other. They constantly tried to impress or outdo each other. They were too physical. I didn’t know how to enter the fray.
And besides, I was attracted to some of them. That put some distance between us. I would have been more comfortable in one of the girls’ cabins.
I never felt like a typical boy; I felt queer. It’s how I feel today as a parent. I’m not a father, and I’m not exactly a mother. (I’ve written before about being a parent, not a father.)
In our home, I tend to initiate discipline more often and am quicker to lose my temper. I usually avoid roughhousing and am more likely to sit and play a game or do artwork. I worry more that Miles will hurt himself while climbing around. I get emotionally entangled in daily, parent-child dramas. I’m very physically affectionate. I multitask parenting with cooking, cleaning, and household projects.
Where do these traits and behaviors land me on the spectrum of mother to father? I think somewhere in between.
When he was a baby, I sometimes worried that I was not enough of a “mother” for Miles, that I’d later find out we had engaged in a horrible experiment. That in fact, babies need mothers and can’t appropriately bond with men. Instead of shaving every three days like usual, I shaved daily so my thick stubble wouldn’t irritate his baby-fresh skin. I went to infant massage classes so I could promote attachment and connection. I carried Miles in a sling with me wherever I went. I obviously didn’t give birth or breastfeed, which are massive experiences I’ll never know. But in every other way, I had the experience of losing my bodily autonomy and my independent self, an experience that is the historic and exclusive province of mothers not fathers.
Yet unlike at sixth-grade camp, I don’t want to be in the girls’ cabin of today, the Mommy Club. I feel like I can mother Miles but I don’t feel like a mother.
When around groups of mommies in our fairly conservative, traditional community, I grow irritated by their overly sweet voices. I’m not one of them. Once in awhile, I’ll admit that I wonder if they talk that way because they’re real moms and I’m not. But mostly I suspect they’re performing mommyness instead of just being themselves.
I long to be around other parents—not “mothers” or “fathers”—who also feel like they’re somewhere in between. Fortunately, blogging seems to be connecting me with more of these regular-type folks.