Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Confessions

Much of what I write slants in the direction of feminism - from my political leanings and my ideas about social justice to my ever shifting theology. Claiming my feminine strengths, finding a balance, wishing the world did not require "manning" up, finding the feminine side of the divine, hoping my girls grow up with a different paradigm than I did consume much of my writing time and energy.

But here is the confession: I live a VERY traditional life. I've been faithfully married to the same man for almost 16 years. We've been together since I was 22. I have two daughters, whom I've stayed home to raise since my oldest was born 11 years ago, leaving my career as a computer programmer, where I had worked hard to establish myself. I do most of the cooking and cleaning and laundry and doctors visits and carpool. For many years we went to church every Sunday, without fail, unless we were out of town or sick (this morning, I'm sitting at my computer instead, enjoying the quiet of the house before everyone else is up). I volunteer at school. I've been a girl scout cookie mom. I do however, draw the line at sewing! There is nothing wrong with any of these things. I am not ashamed of them. But unless you know me in real life, you might get an idea from the words on the screen that my life looks a bit different than it really does.

But, there is a bit more to the story. When my first daughter was born, my husband and I made the decision, together, that I would stay home with her for a while - an indefinite period of time. I HATED my job during that time and did not see my work situation improving much. So staying home was an option I took - gladly. And it was the hardest thing I have EVER done. The next year proved to be a time that stripped me bare and left me puddled in a heap on the floor. My life came untethered and I found myself completely adrift. Looking back at that time, I can see how it laid the foundation for where I am now, by ripping me away from my moorings and forcing me to remake my life. I had no idea how to be a mother. Courtney's birth ripped me apart, both literally and figuratively. My marriage almost fell apart. I lost my identity, an identity I had worked for with unrelenting focus since 5th grade. I had no support system. I had no idea who I really was or what I was doing. I had to dive deep and I had to grow up.

And through that process, I found myself. I discovered what it means to nurture. I began, for the first time in my life, to make friends with other women. I learned to embrace the rhythms of the days and the seasons. I nourished my family, physically and emotionally. I learned I had untapped resources that were of value. Eventually, I re-framed my own life, and began to see more accurately my own personal myth and the value in my story. I braved a 180 degree change in my "career path" and now am on the cusp of doing what I am really designed and equipped to do instead of sitting behind a desk working on a computer all day. I found the feminine by taking a route contrary to what most radical feminists would prescribe. I found wholeness somewhere among the laundry and the dishes.

And there is another aspect to the story, that today, needs acknowledgment. I could not have done any of this without the support and encouragement of my husband. While our role division appears traditional, he is the least traditional man I know. He can and does cook and clean and do laundry. He nurses sick kids better than I do. He wanted another girl the second time around, because he feared a son of his would get picked on for not being "macho" enough. He believes our girls can be anything they want to be, and he encourages them. Just last night, at the dinner table, he facilitated a discussion with them about not settling for a man who would not or could not take care of himself. He told them not to knuckle under to social pressure to get married. He will teach them to be strong, independent women. He does as much to raise feminist daughters as I do.

And he has been an unfailing support to me during this period of remaking my life. He has not once complained about the juggling of schedules, he has given me time and space to study and grow, he has been a true partner as a parent, and he has loved me and encouraged me even when I wasn't completely sure of myself. My life would look very different without him by my side. So on this day created to celebrate fathers, I celebrate the father of my daughters, the man I love, the partner I would not trade. Thank you my dear, for who you are. Happy Father's Day!

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