It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and it was family day. We were relaxing with aunts, uncles and cousins, not doing much of anything really. Serena Williams was on the television, beating someone I am sure, but I do not really understand the rules of tennis, so I was spending my time reading an article for class.
My partner was lightly napping on my lap and my aunt was rooting away for Serena, when she turned to me and said, “What are you reading?”
“Oh,” I said, rather happy for the distraction, “just an article for class.”
“When are you going to be done your Masters?” she asked, as the tennis match went to a commercial. “I’ll be done really soon,” I said enthusiastically, “I am done this winter actually.”
“That’ll be a relief,” she responded, “I am sure you are ready to be done with all the schooling.” I shook my head and smiled, “Nope, not me Aunty. I will be applying for the doctorate program, once I am done.”
“What?” she said, “Why!? Do you need it for your job? Why more school?” It is a question I have answered again and again, but I understand that not everyone understands the constant need for improvement, “I love school, I answered, “I don’t think I’ll ever really be done.”
“But who will take care of your children?” she asked and then starting to laugh continued, “I hope you won’t be expecting us to do the babysitting for you, while you are off in your job and schooling.”
I grew rigid. My partner’s eyes slowly opened; he knew that I was not going to respond well to this comment.
“That’s extremely sexist,” I said, “why are you not asking him that same question?” I said, figuratively throwing my partner under the bus. The rant had started and I sure as hell was not about to stop until I was done, “I don’t recall ever asking for your assistance for my hypothetical children. If I have them, I can afford childcare.”
I cannot stand it when someone makes a martyr of themselves. Who said anything about inconveniencing her with babysitting duties for my potential future children?
It was also the first time I called someone out for being sexist; I felt like a lioness. I was really proud of myself, for standing up for myself.
“No, no dear, you misunderstood me,” she said. I hate that answer. I did not misunderstand anything; own your shit Aunty, I thought to myself. “What I was saying is that having children takes a lot of work and you may have to put your personal academic goals on hold, in order to do so,” she said and Serena was back on screen.
“Why?” I asked her, this lazy Sunday afternoon was starting to heat up extremely fast, “Why would I have to do that? Put my personal goals on hold? Do you not see your nephew, laying right here? Why are none of these questions directed at him? Why is the responsibility of child-rearing assumed to be my job? I will not be slowing down in any capacity, Ben will be staying home, if we have children, until they start school.”
I dropped the bomb. We had not yet told the family this decision, for the potential future we might have one day.
“Oh…” my Aunt said slowly, “well that is an interesting idea, but I don’t think it will work. Children need their mother at home.” “Why?” I asked her. Ben was now fully awake and upright, “Why does a child need their mother at home and not their father? Doesn’t a child just need a parent at home? Do not dump this guilt-trip on me. I don’t even know if we will have kids, so I don’t really think we need to fret about who is going to take care of them.”
I was dropping bombs all over the place. My Aunt, either calling defeat or not wanting this to escalate any further, left the room, after lightly touching me on the shoulder.
It was Ben’s turn to make me feel bad. “You did not have do that,” he said, “you know that she comes from a different generation and does not understand the way we conduct our lives.” “I’m tired of this shit,” I hissed at him, “I am sick and tired of being treated like a child, even though I am thirty-four years old. I am sick of being told, by you, to be respectful of our elders, even when they say inappropriate things.”
“You know that she was just kidding around,” Ben started slowly. I interjected with force, “I did not find her joke funny B. I am not tolerating this shit, I do not care if this is not the way things are done in your family because I am a part of this family now and everyone can learn that I don’t like jokes, such as that, funny.”
I hate being the bad guy. I hate fighting with my partner. I hate that she made me feel guilty for being a bad parent, when I am not even a parent yet!
I am so sick of the conversation of children and child rearing in general. I am sick and tired of not getting pregnant and fretting that, if or when I do get pregnant, that I will be bad at motherhood. I am tired of being cornered and questioned about my professional future, when no one asks my male partner anything of the sort.
Why are women shamed for being successful? Why are women always expected to make sacrifices for their family? Why do people look at us, in utter shock, when I tell them that Ben will be staying home with the kids and I will be returning to work? I make more money than him, is it not the logical choice?
Maybe I will never become a parent and I will never have to deal with these questions. Maybe I will and will be voted the worst mother in the world. Maybe I will completely change, the way everyone around me tells me I will, and become a Martha Stewart type, who just wants to be a mom, nothing more and nothing less.
I do not know what the future holds, but I am sick of defending myself, for a hypothetical, future failure I may inflict, on my currently imaginary children.