I just had a super long phone conversation with my mom, and we dipped into feminism.
I try to talk to my mom once every two days or so but our four hour time difference makes it hard. I know lots of people have cool Moms, but seriously people? My mom is the coolest. She was the mom that took care of all the bare-foot kids on the block, and the one who nursed my friends through their first heart-breaks, and the one who pulled my best friend aside when she had an abusive boyfriend and told her, "I know people who will make him disappear for an 8-ball." It's true, she does. She roomed with someone who was in the Hells Angels when she was putting herself through nurses college in the late 70s. I could talk about my mom forever and in a later post just might, but for now I will say this: she is a kick ass mom and wife. and my dad does not deserve her.
I love my dad. He's an amazing dad. He's a shitty husband.
He works about twenty hours a week operating his own business and it is tanking. It has been tanking for years. Other than that he goes out with his friends, disappears during hunting season, and hangs out in his shop doing crosswords and smoking cigars. He can be overwhelmingly sweet. He built my mom their bed, and a matching chest for the foot of it. He once bought her a plane ticket home when we had moved across the country because he knew it was killing her to be so far away from her family. He calls her the smartest, most practical woman he knows.
Romance to him is scratch tickets. And for years my mom has tried to convince everyone that she is okay with this.
Today she was complaining to me about how she has been working really hard lately and is exhausted when she comes home. And there my dad is on the computer, or watching the game. He's done nothing all the day and the house is a mess but hey, at least he walked their dog! On her days off she spend eight hours cleaning and cooking. She bakes things like cobbler, and coffee cake, and Banana cake with Peanut Butter icing because its his favourite. Her days are devoted to their home, and their comfort, while his are devoted to fun.
Today she said, "You know? I'm just tired. Is it crazy that I just think he should help out more?"
I finally snapped and said, "Mom. That's not crazy. Its a shared household and he needs to pull his weight. You do so much for everyone. Brother and Dad and I let you do for so long because it was easier for us. I shouldn't have. I could have been doing my own laundry-"
"Oh, but I liked doing your laundry. I like doing nice things for you guys to show you I love you."
"I know mom, and I do that too. And we appreciate it. But that is something we as women are socialized to do. We show love through service. Men aren't taught to do that in the same way, with the same onus on time. When you and I come home we do chores and cooking and cleaning. Hell, this morning WomBear went to work and I got up at seven on my day off to pack him a lunch and make him coffee. Does he do that for me? Hell no! He sleeps in an extra three hours. Dad needs to start seeing chores as something that comes with having a house, not a favour to you. It's not a favour when he does something mom, it's part of living in a house with someone else. It's his responsibility as an adult." Deep breath.
Then my mom says, "That's kind of my fault. I let it go on for too long."
It was so surreal listening to the bad-ass woman who I have seen physically intimidate men larger than her, balk at asking her husband to learn to vacuum. So I took a big breath and said the meanest thing I have ever said about my dad. I said, "Mom, I love Dad. He is a great Dad. But with this, he is being a shitty partner, and a shitty father. He is being a bad role model for me. Did he ever think about how the way he heaps everything on your shoulder, and tasks you with all of the emotional and physcial care of the house, while not doing anything remotely romantic for you in return would look to his daughter? I know we joke about this, but he honestly modeled behavior that taught me to have zero expectation. Is it any wonder I ended up with someone who-"
"-yeah, is it any wonder I ended up with him when that is exactly the behavior I was taught is normal? And it's not your fault mom. You are an amazing wife. You're an amazing Mother. He's an adult and he makes his own decisions and he decides every day to take you for granted."
Oh shit. If my mom and Dad divorce in the next few months, it is totally my fault!
But she sighed and said, "You're right. He does need to do more. I'm going to tell him to help more!"
Apparently I wasn't done because I added, "Not help mom. He isn't helping you. He's doing his own fair share. Talk about it that way."
"Right. Helping makes it sound like a favour-"
"It's not a favour. And my time is just as valuable as his." She seemed happy now, so far from the frustrated, disappointed voice I first heard.
She asked where I got so smart, and told me she wasn't even half as aware about relationship dynamics as I am at my age. So I told her I have feminist friends who helped me figure it out, and the rest was being raised by a super strong mom, who gave me a safe place to flourish instead of just survive.
Then she called me a stupid bitch for making her cry and we both laughed.
It's weird, fellow feminists, to be the one teaching my mom. But I am so happy that I can finally give something back to her, something she can use to put words to her own frustrations and even after thirty years of marriage be able to look my dad in the eyes and say, "Clean up after yourself."