Family issues from all angles…

Kelly Watson, one of the bloggers on Work It, Mom!, posted yesterday about domestic division of labor. One of her best points was made as part of a self-described rant: women don’t inherently have more skills in home-keeping or child-raising just because we’re women, and the partners/fathers in our lives are just as capable at the these things as we are. We need to do more than just encourage their participation – we need to expect it and allow it. If it were the other way around, we’d want that kind of treatment, wouldn’t we?

That topic dovetails pretty well with a commentary in Women’s eNews regarding the evolution of the bonds between fathers and daughters, particularly author Peggy Drexler’s discussion of her mixed emotions over seeing her husband take a greater participatory role in their daughter’s life during a period when he was between jobs and she was working full-time. The bigger point is that as girls grow up in a changing world, the role of the father is changing too.

Meanwhile, Dani Shapiro blogs at the Huffington Post about the working parent’s struggle between dueling commitments, and wonders why schools and other institutions haven’t recognized this better by scheduling events around working hours so that parents can be part of them without rearranging their lives (which some working parents really don’t have much flexibility to do, but that’s for another day). My own theory on this is that the school teachers and staff work too, and these things happen during their work hours, so something has to give – but it would be nice if it wasn’t the parents all the time.

All of these items had some commonalities, from my perspective, but particularly the first two I mention. As I commented in response to Kelly’s post, when my husband’s kids are with us (6 nights and 2 full days out of every 2-week period), he is their main caretaker. He’s their father. I’m not automatically more qualified just by virtue of my gender, and (although this is a particular quirk of step-parenting) I’m especially sensitive about not encroaching on their mother (even when she’s not around). We also divide the domestic chores fairly well – we’re both very capable of cooking and cleaning, and it’s good for the kids to see both of us doing it. And as I observe him as a parent, I’m especially interested in how he interacts with and relates to his almost-adolescent daughter (I’ve only raised a boy myself, and he has one of each), and I see that relationship as pretty progressive in the ways that Peggy writes about in her post. Dani’s post doesn’t really cover new ground, but I totally agree with her point, and as she notes, one way to work around this is for both parents to tag-team these activities. (And that’s how I tie this one in with the father/husband stuff.)

And this last item isn’t too closely related to the rest unless you use a very broad perspective. In today’s On Balance post, Leslie Morgan Steiner steps onto some controversial ground with a piece titled “Pro-Choice or No Choice?” Commenting on a recent article in the New York Times about how the depiction of abortion as an option for an unplanned pregnancy seems to have no place in entertainment today – referencing the current movies Knocked Up (just saw it, hilarious!) and Waitress – she says:

The message from the movies is clear: Here’s another real-life subject that women (and presumably, men) are not supposed to discuss publicly. An unwanted pregnancy is perhaps the most powerful factor in unbalancing a woman’s work and family life. Most working women (at least the sexually active ones) need birth control, including abortion, to plan their careers — sometimes, you need to say “no” to motherhood in order to build your reputation, get more training or an advanced degree, accept a promotion, or simply to work very hard for a certain period of time. Childless women often stay happily childless thanks specifically to birth control. Non-working moms also need the choices offered by all forms of birth control to space their children wisely, and sometimes to put off pregnancy in favor of a current family member’s special needs (including their own).

She’s right about how an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy unbalances a woman’s life, and realistically, terminating it has got to be something that most women consider for more than five seconds before dismissing it out of hand. I don’t agree with her characterizing abortion as a form of birth control, though (although I understand that effectively it is); it’s one of the possible responses to not using effective birth control.

As someone who was unexpectedly pregnant as a 19-year-old student, this subject always hits home. I was grateful that abortion was a safe and legally available alternative in 1983, and I was also grateful I didn’t have to consider it too much for myself; my boyfriend and I had been together over a year and had already talked about getting married – which we did – and my parents were determined that a baby wouldn’t keep either of us from finishing college – and he didn’t. Without that support, I might have had to go another route – and I might not have chosen to end the pregnancy even then, but that’s me. And I haven’t had to look at that decision again, due to consistent use of preventive methods (depending on the time frame, it was either the Pill, celibacy, or a second husband who had a vasectomy after two children), but while I would call myself “pro-choice” for certain, I have a hard time with considering abortion as one of those “preventives.”

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