All aboard!


Lil’ monkey’s first Steam Train ride. Can you tell?

Our Baba’s day this year was nothing if not a sign of parental arrival. Half of the events of the day were exactly the stuff of my dreams, pre-parenthood: kids bringing me a breakfast tray in bed; my making pancakes for ’em; us going for a hike and a picnic in my favorite local park; kids thrilled beyond comprehension at their first Steam Train ride, etc..

The other half of the day’s events were the stuff of my pre-parental nightmares: kids mauling said breakfast tray, essentially making peaceful eating impossible; yet another Sunday New York Times barely peeked at*, due to sheer impossibility of that much uninterrupted time; hike and picnic in favorite local park cut short by chill winds and slipping and falling and tired kids; littler kid turning pale, then green, on the winding car ride back from the hike; big kid pelting littler kid in the back seat, perhaps for no better reason than she was tired and hungry — remember picnic lunch cut short? — and he was strapped in and feeble from carsickness; littler kid hurling on Mama just as she removes him from the vehicle.

All of the above, dream and nightmare, definitive of the joys and strains of it all. And I wouldn’t exchange any of it for the world.

*Not like I didn’t notice in the Times this week, (a) a much-passed around article on how gay relationships have something to teach straight ones, in the realm of shared domestic labor and the high degree of relationship gratification that flows from that, and then (b) a fascinating NYT Magazine cover story (for those of us who read it as anthropology, about a familiar but distant culture) about how some (straight) couples manage to actually share parental labor! The “duh” factor on both of these was extremely high, equalled only by my amazement that the shared parenting piece didn’t seem to have benefitted from the radical propositions put forth in the “gay people share labor and it makes ’em happy in their relationships!” piece. The two of them deserve a good look, side-by-side.

[Later note: “…didn’t seem to have benefitted enough,” perhaps I should say; I wrote too hastily and gave the impression that no attention at all was paid to lesbian parents’ shared labor: Nanette Gartrell and her longitudinal study of lesbian families is cited, as are two Actual Lesbians, including my former editor. Still, more parsing is due, if/when time permits. Meanwhile innercitygarden’s comment here is well worth a read.]

9 thoughts on “All aboard!”

  1. I’m glad you had a good Baba Day, shame about the hurling.

    I’ve been thinking about that NYT article too, and I wasn’t really impressed with the conclusion. Lesbian parents share stuff because “women are good at sharing” and “they’re the same gender so they have the same expectations on standards” type arguments are annoying. I’m inclined to think it’s more that, having come out, having formed a relationship and made the not inconsiderable descision to have children in difficult circumstances, lesbian and gay parents have been forced to a) challenge traditional gender roles and expectations and b) actually talk about the sort of roles and lifestyle they want before kids actually turn up.

    Most hetero couples in my experience manage to drift from one life stage to the next doing what they assume is the right thing to do, muddling along doing what their parents did, assuming that their partner shares all the same goals. When hetero-lead families don’t work along 1950s type lines, it tends to be because the woman has engaged with feminism and taught her partner/pushed the discussion along within their relationship (so she has yet another ‘job’, but it’s worth it). Very very few straight men have sat down and thought seriously about gender roles and housework and childcare and the related industrial relations issues. They’ve never had to think about gender and social expectations. As a queer woman and a feminist I’ve spent lots of time thinking about gender and applying that analysis to my life, as a straight man my partner really hasn’t. He sees inequality, he understands that he is equally responsible, (hell his Mum even made him iron his own shirts!) but rejecting a lifetime of social conditioning (and finding new role models when you figure out that you can’t be the same sort of father your father was) takes a long time to incorporate into your everyday routine.

    Maybe a better conclusion to that article would be “because GLBTIQ parents have dealt with a lifetime of discrimination growing up and when forming relationships, and are less likely to relate to traditional gender roles for either sex, they have a head start on rejecting a family model that doesn’t work for most hetero families either.”

  2. Here here, sister, is all I can say. Attempting to add to this would be like leaning across the velvet ropes at the museum and daubing a bit more paint on [name your favorite painter’s work].

  3. As you know, I support equal marriage rights absolutely. But a study in Denmark has shown that gay male relationships are significantly more violent than straight ones. Why – I don’t know. All I’m saying is this: you shouldn’t get into a pissing contest of this kind – trying to use the quality of gay relationships as an argument that there should be equal rights for everybody. You need no other argument than that, and its a strong one.

  4. Eh? Pissing contest?

    [later note, after waking up; above one made on the fly right before going to sleep]

    The aspect of the NY Times articles under consideration here is: shared domestic labor and its impact on reported relationship satisfaction. Both articles cite studies. The fact that my partner leaves the cupboards open in the kitchen, and I never recycle the New Yorkers, is not in dispute. Neither is the fact that queer relationships succeed or fail for comparable reasons (at comparable rates?) as hetero ones. With the notable exceptions that, just as racism is corrosive to the lives of people of color in white supremacist cultures, and therefore must be factored into the strains on peoples’ lives including their relationships, so too homophobia/heterosexism has a corrosive effect on the lives of LGBT people, and therefore must be factored into the stresses on our lives and relationships.

    Ulla, please read both articles and then re-think your remarks.

    I consider innercitygarden’s note that queer people “have a head start on rejecting a family model” to be fairly modest words, by the way, neither pissy nor pissing contest-y. I also think it’s accurate, insofar as one is exposed to SOME potential for insight from any outsider position. It’s every outsider’s opportunity to glean that insight, and use it towards making their world, and the world around them, more filled with love and justice. The fact that many gay people have done that (and some have not), is the point here. I find reference to this as a “pissing contest” both demeaning and reductive.

  5. another young steam train fan over here. Routine stop every time we cross the channel. Of course, the fact that her moms get their faces blown off by the wind and the fact that you could basically die from the soot, doesn’t matter: her smile and her giggles more than make up for our suffering!

    If you ever make it to the UK, then do visit the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway.

  6. I must have expressed myself very poorly somehow, and I’m sorry for that. I was trying to say: a finding that gay relationships are better in some ways is a dangerous argument for marriage equality. If you use that instead of or in addition to the real, obvious reason – that equality for all is right and just – you will set yourself up for a public opinion/political roller coaster whenever someone is able to find any negative research about gay relationships.

  7. Gotcha. Maybe the confusion here is that there were no connections made between quality of relationship and marriage rights, either in the articles, or in the comments about them. (Now I’m going to have to go back and re-read.)

    The jist I got, particularly from the first piece, a shorter one, was: Hey. Since everyone’s all thinking about gay relationships right now, hmm! Wonder if there’s anything about them that might be interesting to straight folks? Other than the fact that they may have fewer arguments about toilet seats being left up/down.

    Lord knows there’s enough homophobic pseudoscience out there, waiting to be cited by the willing believers, “proving” that partner’s and my relationship is waaaaaaay, waaaaaaaaay worse than the ones we’d have if only we hooked up with those guys way back in seventh grade that had crushes on us. And so on. I haven’t yet seen an argument intimating that the quality of our relationships should have anything to do with access we ought to have to state protections. Most one liners on that topic are: “They want the right to complain about the laundry, etc. etc., ’til death do they part? Welcome to it!”

  8. I’m glad we got that cleared up. It was probably the context here, not in the articles themselves, that made me mix up the two subjects. I’m sure, for what it’s worth, that gay relationships are more equal and free from unspoken expectations, and thus have great potential for fulfillment for both.
    Bad relationships are bad relationships, af if I had to guess at the reason for that unhappy Danish finding, I would say that a bad relationship that didn’t happen to have a woman in it might turn ugly faster, but of course I don’t know.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.