i had a long talk with three grandmothers today. women full with wisdom, with decades-long experience in the ranks of the women’s movement. women who were determined to birth their babies at home alone with their husband – one even during a hurricane, women who run funding organizations with so much money that people continually wonder who their white male boss is – and there isn’t one. Caribbean women who are politically conscious, plain speaking and generous with their advice.
‘hug up your baby’, one of them said as i was on my way out, ‘and make some time for your husband’. this turn in the conversation started because i was discussing the ‘make one child or make two children’ dilemma with them. they agreed that two were really hard in the beginning and, yes, chronic, long term, insomniac-grade sleeplessness was part of the deal. but, in the end apparently, two is better than one. they learn to share and keep each other company.
only thing i added, my husband didn’t really want one and he definitely doesn’t want two. he loves his one and he loves not having two. oh, they said, that changes everything. you all should just have one.
it seems husbands miss their wives and the easy, carefree relationships they had before babies come. they all nodded like this was common and well known. for women, especially those who breastfeed, babies bring so much intimacy and bodily involvement, it’s easy to not need any more from anyone else at the end of a tiring day. on the periphery of mother and baby wrapped up together, husbands stand lovingly looking on, wondering when their cool ganja-smoking, staying-up and sleeping-in late girlfriends turned into vitamin popping wives, the kind that go to sleep at 9pm, do that sexy breast-pumping thing and hum the alphabet song to themselves while folding clothes.
and while the first baby might end up working out because she’s your only love child, and the two of you will always cherish that you made one from two, maybe the second time around won’t be so fresh and new. two might be more crazy, exhausting and expensive, and you’ll be sleeping even further apart, barely holding on to the edges of bed, hoping one day to return to the pre- two-babies-monopolising-the-middle years.
in the mix of managing to barely keep my head above water at work and making quality baby time full of joy, patience and endless hours of being nice, i have to make sure to look after my husband too? and i’m not supposed to think about it like another thing to do, i’m supposed to look forward to the extra effort of care. i get it and i hear them, but i think i’d be into it more if i was simply less tired.
anyway, of course i came home and asked stone if he felt neglected and resentful as a husband because these women said, trust them, he misses you, he wants you back, he wishes you were just still his and he doesn’t want you to forget you were his first. and of course stone feels kinda neglected, but of course he doesn’t really mind because he knows i try my 95% best as i always do. and also he’s got three computers, a 55′ tv, an ipad and two ipods to keep him occupied and truthfully he’s happy to be left to hang with them all in peace. so, we are good. but i was reminded of an important lesson today, not to let motherhood make me take marriage for granted. one helps the other and both are good for me, him and Zi.
the great thing about getting advice from strong no nonsense feminists is that you know they are sharing life-earned lessons meant to keep you focused on what most matters. one day when your baby has gone off in search of her friends, he will still be there to hold you tight, whether its a quick hug when you drag yourself in the door from the office or a long sleep, deep with warmth and familiarity. you know they are not telling you about husbands and marriage because of some idea of your role or status or duty, but to remind you that strong women need strong love too, and getting requires giving. and when they tell you about men’s needs, its not to excuse or indulge, but to suggest you that a little sweetness always feels good. isn’t that why you are in it too? most of all, its easy to stop appreciating good marriages and supportive partners, so it’s wonderful to be so powerfully reminded to value what you may give so little time and thought to.
i’m really lucky to have feminist foremothers willing to mentor, who know that when the personal and the political come together, its about as close as you can come to having it all. so work, baby and husband it is…as much as it can be.
somewhere in there is self, though i’m not sure where, hiding in a dark corner probably…. trying to catch some zzzzzzssss.