In the past 2 days, I have had a lot of feedback and discussion about a previous blog post, including a conversation with a friend over lunch (mostly about sexuality and gender identity, but there is a link between those two concepts and parenting) that has garnered much thought on a couple topics I feel have become more entertwined.
The "Publification of Parenting".
In the video prepared for the It Gets Better project, queer Canadian celebrities talk about their experience, and then how it got better. One woman in particular, a TV producer, talked about how angry people got with her sexuality.
Sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity have always been perceived as "public property", something to comment on, perceived or real. The general population feels they have the "right" to ask deeply personal questions about something that does not pertain them. It's overall getting better, but I am still asked on occasion "so, who is the man and who is the woman?" by well intentioned pedestrians who are trying to place us in their social network.
I shit you not.
(btw, that's the point of being queer, there are no rules, no expectations, so pressures... there IS no "man" or "woman", both of us do laundry, fix things and clean the house).
Some of my trans friends have been asked "so, what's your 'real' name", implying that their chosen gender identity is nothing but a joke. As there is more education done regarding the rainbow of gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation, it will slowly get better.
The recent media explosion of baby obsession, "bump watching" and Celebrity Mom has turned parenthood into a media circus. Books like "What to Expect While Expecting" are excellent examples of what not to read just before you go to bed. Flipping through it on occasion, I felt like a lot of the book was warning of what not to do, lest your child be "damaged" in some way.
Let's Panic About Babies has an excellent blog article entitled "More Things a Pregnant Woman Shouldn't Be Allowed to Do". It's good for a laugh, and there's more crazy things. The whole site is a parody on the current obsession over pregnant women.
Westcoast Families' most recent issue contained an article on exercising during pregnancy that highlighted AND underlined the judgment faced by pregnant woman when doing ANYTHING that may be perceived as "harmful" to the fetus.
The idea that a perfect stranger knows what is best for your body while you're busy growing a human being is rather silly (unless that perfect stranger is a doctor or midwife, and in some cases a doula). I shudder at the idea of being manhandled by perfect strangers who think it's OK to touch my belly while pregnant without asking. I may be even more of a bear when J is pregnant.
So, this concept that pregnancy and parenting, like sexual orientation and gender expression, has become public domain is both new and old.
You can follow all your "celebrity babies", thanks to People's website, Celebrity Babies, see judgement everywhere about losing the baby weight (those millionaire celebrities with all their personal chefs, trainers and hoard of child care providers do it so easily, why can't you??) and obsess over the newest fad in strollers that cost as much as a car (I obsess, because for god's sakes, it's a STROLLER, and the coolest stroller I've ever seen is the City Select by Baby Jogger, but my reasons for drooling will wait for another blog post).
My own search through this topic has made me much more aware of how I talk to pregnant woman and new parents (for example, when seeing a very close friend, I make sure to acknowledge her and hug her FIRST, before kissing the toddler and the baby, a practice I started after she told me she felt invisible after the birth of her first child). I have ceased a roll of advice and incessant questions (unless solicited for and now the only thing I tell my with-fetus friends is to read "Bear With Me" by Diane Flacks and make them sit down and bring them things. Or help them with their shoes.
Mostly because it's none of my damn business what a woman does with her body. That is between her, her partner, her family and her health care provider.
I am staunchly pro-choice. While I don't think I could go through with an abortion (therapeutic termination of pregnancy due to fetal malformation is exempt), it is not my place to decide the private lives of my fellow citizens. Since I want to choose when and how to use my uterus, I fight to keep EVERYONE's choices and when and how their reproductive organs should be used. It's important to me that our kids have, known and understand their options.
The notion that parenting and pregnancy are considered "public property" was driven home when I was watching a toddler of a family I used to be really close with, and the toddler decided to have a 45 minute melt down, complete with screaming, whole body dead weight and the lying on the ground/rolling in the dirt. Since there was absolutely nothing I could do (and he didn't want to be held), I simply let him cry. I had parents throw me sympathetic looks, and the "how could you let your child cry like this" (being 22 and looking older, I was assumed to be his mother, or else it was the calm serenity that I had on my face as my charge continued his meltdown).
Eventually he did stop crying and wanted a snuggle, at which point I happily obliged and got covered in toddler snot and tears as a result (since his tearful face was too much for me and I couldn't even be bothered to wipe his face before he smashed it into my t-shirt).