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I used most of my first paycheque to get an annual family membership to the zoo. Our new house is much closer, and the membership is the kind of splurge I prefer, one that allows for outside time, learning adventures, and exercise all in one. I hoped Rowan would love it; I knew I would.
We started our first trip with a visit to a prowling tiger, and although it wasn't actually the most exciting part of the day (that honour goes to a lioness who was acting very much the playful house cat through the plexiglass window), the tiger was by far the most beloved. She was amazed at every animal she saw, but ever since, Rowan nevertheless approaches every outdoor enclosure with the demand that I show her where the tiger is. A pen full of llamas? "Mama, tiger?" with her hands raised in question.
We went back yesterday with G, and R showed him the tigers; in turn, he showed her golden lion tamarinds (with a baby!), a spider monkey, a very close-up capybara, and a flock of flamingoes. She marvelled at the giant pink pigeons.
I've been reading a lot more poetry lately, which is an endeavour I come to and leave in sporadic bursts of adoration. Poetry, good poetry, makes me feel full and grounded in a way not many things do, but it's also one of those things where if I do too much at once I get a little numbed to it and have to leave it for awhile. Still, for the moment my library hold shelf has a few books of poems I'm really looking forward to digging into, and I'm hoping the centeredness I get from them will prove motivating.
There's a lot to be done, you see. The flowerbeds need planting and tending; the house needs airing and dusting; the baby needs walking and swinging and exploring. The novel needs a new chapter or two, by the end of summer. There are emails to send and picnics to have. The world needs care and we need energy to do the caring.
I read this article about men and family-work the other day with a simmering rage. If you're among mothers online, you probably saw it, and if you're not, suffice to say it's one of those pieces that highlights just how devalued care-work is. Last week, a friend who does work similar to mine posted to instagram that she vastly prefers working with other mothers (which I expanded to people who have experience being the primary caregiver for dependents) because they're understanding of the fact that even if you work full-time in an office and have abundant childcare options, being a working primary parent is complicated. The demands on your time, energy, and (maybe most importantly) focus are plentiful and widely varied. That doesn't mean we can't work, but it does mean that our work life often looks different than the work life of someone who isn't fulfilling that role. Even G, who I truly feel pulls his weight in the family- and care-work arena, has a lot more freedom and flexibility to do his work because I'm at home with Rowan and can handle things on short notice. He handles scheduled appointments (specialists, the dentist, technicians who in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen still talk to me like I'm an idiot because I'm a woman even though I'm the one who typically knows about the car and the plumbing and...*ahem*), but if Ro is sick in the middle of the day and needs to go to the walk-in clinic, I'm here to take her, and that benefits his work tremendously. It is a detriment to mine not in any inherent way but because the structure of work at the current historical moment doesn't make a lot of room for that kind of thing.
And look, this is our marriage. It's a balance we work hard to maintain and that sometimes falls painfully to one side or the other and has to be fixed. We have to make a point to check in and be willing to adjust. It's not impossible, but it's not going to happen by itself, either. To do it, to do any of this stuff as a progressive family, we have to always, always think of ourselves as a single organism, one that might prioritize one system or another at a given time but that ultimately has to re-balance to stay alive. We are one thing, and if we fail to think of ourselves that way, it's going to come apart.
However it looks for an individual household, that unit is the base-level of social structure. A group of households makes a neighbourhood, a community, a city, and on up. We build on ourselves, linking together, but if we fail to see the connection and make it into something that balances out, we come apart. Sometimes we struggle; that's ok, as long as it's a struggle toward wholeness. We need the arms and the legs and the hearts and the skin and all of it; we don't all have to be the same. What we do need to be is whole. We have to think of each other as part of ourselves.
And if one system has been prioritized for long enough that the others are weak and stumbling, we might have to balance that out by offering a little bit extra in those directions for a while.
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