My wife and I used to be cool. Like other twenty-something couples in the Baltimore arts community, our partnership paid little mind to conventional notions of gender. She was by far the primary breadwinner. I cooked all our dinners. We shared all other homemaking responsibilities evenly. I was proud of our enlightened attitude that allowed us to work out an idiosyncratic domestic partnership with seemingly no regard for traditional gender roles. No one would dare say we weren’t a liberated, modern couple.
That began to change when my wife became pregnant. We were careful to limit her exposure to germs and toxins, so taking out the garbage became solely my domain. It was a portentous change, but I didn’t realize it at the time. I didn’t have the foresight then to see that soon virtually all of our superficial feminist merit-badges would be sacrificed on the altar of parenthood.
Our son is fed breastmilk exclusively. We prefer not to use bottles. We’d rather not leave the baby with a sitter. And from these few seemingly innocent parenting preferences sprang a “Leave It to Beaver” style family arrangement: Mom stays at home with the child and keeps the house in order; Dad supports the family financially and is occasionally guilted into washing a few dishes. Okay, so it’s not quite that simple. But my wife does cook dinner more often she used to, and just last week she baked chocolate chip cookies. Bittersweet, as with every delicious bite came the thought that somehow we were setting the movement back 50 years.
Maybe there are other ways we could set up the family unit, but with no family in town to help out our options are limited. And though we’re in our late twenties, we’re the first of our Baltimore friends to procreate, so we have to learn as we go.
What remains to be seen is what becomes of our arrangement when the kiddo moves on to solid foods. Will we continue in our grandparents’ family roles, or will we revert to our hip, genderblind selves?
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