Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mamas and Papas

I just boarded “Thomas” and kissed my boys good-bye for five days. Five days. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. I’m already crossing them off of my mental calendar, the way I used to as the end of the school year approached, or the holidays drew near. Today is day one.

It’s never easy to leave my family, but I try to focus on the positives:

  • For the next few days the only person I have to feed, clothe and put to bed is myself.
  • I don’t have to make my own bed or fold my towels.
  • I am still passionate about my career and realize that if I have to spend time away from the people I love, I am blessed to spend that time doing work that I love.
  • Most importantly, after this week, I’m on vacation for 10 days! We’re not going anywhere and we have no concrete plans, but spending all that uninterrupted time with my family sounds perfect!

While I’m away, predictably, well-meaning colleagues will ask about my son. I’ll tell them he’s great – he’s smart, funny and perceptive! Then they’ll ask, “Who’s caring for him while you’re gone?” I will say, “My husband!”

The response often includes something similar to, “Wow! You think you’re husband can handle that for five days?!” To which I respond, “Um….yes, my husband can certainly handle it – in fact, he can handle it better than I could!”

The reality, however, is that this week will not be without challenges! It’s likely that my husband will take my son out to eat this week. It is also likely that the restaurant will not have a changing station in the men's room. It’s also possible that my husband will want to take my son to story time at a local bookstore or library. It is also pretty possible that the story time will be called, “Mommy and Me”.

So, while I’m working to positively influence the socio-cultural norms that continue to influence women's lives, my husband will spend his week being influenced by the gender biases that continue to negate the power and influence of fathers. I will be on Capitol Hill with fifteen young women, discussing the impact of health policy on women and mothers and my husband will be home, fighting a grassroots battle to shift expectations and assumptions about family roles and, more specifically, the role of the father and husband.

And….secretly, I will struggle with my own internal conflicts – those of my identities as a mother, wife, and professional. But, after a moment of emotional torment, I will take a step back. I know that these identities are fluid – always changing and evolving and trying to challenge a world that says that I cannot have it all – that I cannot be all of these things. I just don’t buy it. When I look at my family – joyful and grounded, respectful and appreciative – I see a world of possibilities. We define the terms that shape our identities.

I am a woman. To break that down into more specific categories is a daunting task, as I am many things and on any given day, one part of that identity may be more prominent or influential than the others.

This week, one part of me is a mama that will live in envy of the fun my family will have without me. I will miss smooches and giggles and big books about trains (or spiders…or dogs…or ocean animals). I will crave little boy cuddles and big belly laughs. I will miss my husband, who always provides perspective when I’m feeling overwhelmed or conflicted.

But, I will not worry. My family is in very capable hands - the hands of a man who is generous, patient, funny and strong - a man who won’t allow a tiny detail like the absence of a changing station in the men’s room or the name of a class deter him from embracing the part of his identity known as, “Dad”.

Happy Father's Day!

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