The Womanist/Feminist Parenting Primer has been honored with the following contribution from Anonymous.
In this piece, Anon discusses her experience raising a child with a white cis man who hasn’t explored his privileges and doesn’t wish to, who actively perpetuates kyriarchal notions and undermines her attempts to oppose them. She explores the privilege of having a supportive coparent from the stance of someone who has never yet had such (but is looking forward to in the hopefully-near future), first being partnered with a “kyriarch”, and currently separated and sharing custody with one. She describes the compromises she has had to make, and the lessons — good and bad — her child has learned from those.
She reminds us once again that no matter how noble our intentions, we can never eliminate the kyriarchal influences on our children — and sometimes the very people we are parenting with, whom our children rightfully adore, are the influences we have the least ability to counter.
Anon wants you to read her bio first, for some context of what she writes:
Anon is an adult, white, cis, temporarily able bodied, somewhere between working and middle class, queer, fat, mentally ill woman. She lives in the UK with her two year old, Jake, and two kittehs. She works as a typist in the mornings and as a present mother for her child in the afternoons. She likes both her jobs. Her ex husband has Jake some nights during the week. Anon is engaged to Anna, but Anna lives elsewhere and will for a while yet. Anon isn’t a “welfare queen” but does rely heavily on government assistance which she sees as her wages for her afternoon job.
My Kid Loves a Kyriarch
How do I start? I’ve written a long bio because it will help you understand where I’m coming from when I write this. But really, it’s difficult.
I’ve read many of these wonderful WFPP posts and found myself nodding along with them and waving my metaphorical pom poms at points! Yet I feel like there’s an aspect of most of them that is speaking from a position of privilege, possibly without realising it. The privilege of having a present co-parent. Better still, a present co-parent who is mostly on-side with your parenting ethos.
I’ve never had the latter. When I was with my husband, I did have the present co-parent, and that did make many things easier. Back then, I had a choice. If I wanted our child to be parented in a gentle, feminist-friendly, biologically appropriate way, I had to do everything myself, because he wasn’t on board with the majority of that way of parenting. But if I wanted to share parenting with him more equally, I had to let him have his way on some things I felt were not in our child’s best interests.
I chose the former.
Our child learned in those two years (and especially his first nine months when I was on maternity leave) that his needs would be met wherever possible. That he would have access to human milk on cue including during the night; that he would never be shouted at; that he would never be forced to sleep through the night before he was ready; that he would be worn most of the time until he was able to crawl. He’d never be given a time-out or told “no” just because “it’s good for him to hear it sometimes”. He’d have his own “no” taken seriously. [Eventually, my ex-husband did at least come round to the idea of relatively gentle discipline; certainly no smacking or angry shouting, at any rate, which has put my mind at rest a lot.]
These were good lessons for him to learn.
He also learned that a woman does everything. That a woman changes the nappies. That a woman gets up with him in the middle of the night and tends to his crying, that a woman carries him everywhere; that a woman does all the housework; he learned after the first nine months that even when both parents are away from the house during the day (and it was still a woman who looked after him then; his grandmother) it is still a woman who does everything in the evenings. He also saw his father use words to make his mother cry and sob.
These were not such good lessons for him to learn.
And then me and my husband split.
And gradually, once the dust had settled, my child learned more things. He learned that mothers live small rented houses in poor areas, but fathers live in their own, larger houses in nicer areas. He learned that mothers have tiny televisions and fathers have huge widescreen High Definition affairs with surround sound and cinemascope. He learned that going to the supermarket with his mother takes forever by foot and involves heavy bags being lugged back home, but that doing it with his father is a quick two minute job in the car.
This is not a good lesson for him to learn.
But, he also learns that his father changes nappies now. That his mother does DIY. That fathers can and in often do see their children even when they’ve split from the mother. That mothers don’t always put barriers to access even if the paths of men they don’t like and have reason not to like. That his father also cooks and cleans. That his mother also sometimes sits down and rests in front of the television with a beer.
These are good lessons for him to learn.
At his father’s house, however, he takes in media that reinforces gender stereotypes. He regularly hears language – usually “jokes” – from his father and his friends – that come from a place of unchecked privilege. He is told he is “good” when he behaves in what his father considers appropriate ways for a boy and, although in more subtle ways, the opposite too (feminine = not “good”).
These are not good lessons for him to learn.
And that’s even before you get to the lessons he learns from outside the family unit. The messages from school, from society, the messages that all parents who are feminists are fighting against in their children. Before I can even get to that, I have to fight it in my child’s immediate family situation.
So you’d think that my house would be completely television free, and my child would spend his time playing with dolls, dressed in pink, learning to cook and clean and be kind to our pets, right?
But no. I try. I really do. But I fall short. Because I’m exhausted. Because sometimes, I need to shower and wash and I have to put on the television and frankly I don’t care if Lazy Town is promoting an unhealthy obsession with weight loss and exercise and fat shaming because fuck it, I need to get ready for work and there’s no one to keep an eye on him. Because sometimes, it’s easier to watch endless diggers and dump trucks and lots and lots of fire engines on youtube than to expend mental energy I sometimes just do not have in reading a queer-affirming story book to him. Because sometimes it’s cheaper (or rather, free) to get hand-me-downs of blue blue little boy blue clothes for him than to spend money I don’t have on organic, fairly traded cotton gender-neutral clothes, or even dyes to colour the free blue ones. Because sometimes it’s just easier to wait until he’s gone to bed than insist on us tidying together.
And so on.
I don’t want advice, because I know what I should do; I even know how to do it. And I do do it, sometimes, and I do try to do it more often than not. And I also know this won’t be forever; that one day, Anna will come over here permanently, and Jake will live in a household, at least part time, where he has two happy co-parents who love him and share chores equally (though all the other influences will still exist).
But I just wanted to let you know that sometimes, the kyriarchy isn’t just in pre-school or on the television. Sometimes kyriarchy sleeps in the room next to your child.