My Work Is Never Done

J here. I’m working through something, so bear with me as I clunkily trudge through it. Where to start? I guess I’ll start with the word “work” which appears in the title. Though I am not working, as in bringing in a paycheck regularly, I feel like I’m working harder than ever in so many other ways, and it’s hard. It. Never. Ends.

I’ve written about some of the work I’m doing to change my habits: quit smoking, eat better, exercise more, etc. All of these are important because I want to be around to watch our child grow up. I don’t want to teach him that it’s okay to smoke. Neither of us want him to struggle with weight issues. We want him to be healthy, and we know that in order to best do that, we need to model healthy behavior. However, healthy behavior is new to us, so it’s a challenge sometimes, but we don’t shrink from challenges; we rise to the occasion, and so a new life is beginning to emerge–one that doesn’t rely on crutches to overcome the hard stuff. Not easy, but doable, and getting easier with practice.

There’s other work too, mundane stuff like extra chores around the house, going to the grocery store, which I generally loathe, attending doctor’s appointments and the like. Again, not back-breaking, but a non-pregnant wife of a mother-to-be has got to do what a non-pregnant-wife of a mother-to-be has to do.

Then there’s some of the really hard work, like sifting through the emotional minefield left to me by my departed alcoholic mother. Yes, that lovely pile of shit that I have waded through my entire life resurfaced almost instantly the moment we found out we were having a baby. She was a sick, abusive, mean woman–a terrible mother. She left me with no positive messages about myself and certainly no model for good mothering. She taught me how to smoke, drink, gamble, and most importantly, how to hide my hurt behind rage. I have been working for years to heal, to relearn what it means to be human and vulnerable and to resist escaping life’s problems with unhealthy activities. I honestly feel like I’ve abandoned much of that, seeing as how it doesn’t really help, but some of it remains, and I fear always will. There are times when I’m nearly paralyzed with sadness about my own childhood, yet I try to use this as motivation to be everything my own mom wasn’t. It’s work, I tell ya, to overcome all of this. There are so many layers to it, and sometimes it comes out of nowhere and knocks me on my ass. I worry that I won’t have it sorted out sufficiently by the time my baby comes, and I get terrified that somehow, unconsciously, I’ll send the wrong messages to my son. But I keep working on it.

Here we are, two months out, and I find I’m not done with my work. I’ve discovered something very unsettling the past few weeks. I have issues with males (as in boys, men, human beings with penises). I don’t “get” them, and too often for my own comfort, I don’t really like being around them. This is a wee bit of a problem considering I’m about to have one, don’t you think? I don’t hate men, but I’ve privately thought on more than one occasion that I could live quite comfortably without them, just in the company of women. Men are loud, often inconsiderate, uncommunicative, and they take up a lot of room with their bodies, their voices, their ideas. Did you ever notice how much space they take up in public places? It’s like there’s this entitlement about how much of the world belongs to them. Try sharing a bench with one sometime. Do they scoot aside and make room? Not in my experience. They talk over women in conversation. I’ve seen this time and again in the classroom where a young woman will patiently wait her turn to make a comment only to be drowned out by some guy who could care less that someone else was speaking. When something is wrong, they don’t tell you about it. They brood. I know what some people will think: not all men! Of course not all men. This is the problem with generalizing about any group of people, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have a point.

There are these teenage boys that hang out down at our pool. They take up the entire pool splashing each other (and anyone around them whether in the pool or not), performing dangerous dives too close to others, they spit loogies on the cement, cuss loudly, and openly admit to pissing in the pool. They are completely oblivious to those around them. I was out there last week trying to read a book, trying to be cool about the fact that they were having fun in their own way, trying not to be offended by the spit and piss, but I couldn’t help it, my first thought was “Oh my God. I’m going to have one of these.” I was stricken by that thought, readers, very shaken up that I not only thought that, but I also thought “I don’t want one of these.” I’m terrible. I know it.

I’ve lived too much of my life cloistered by academia, surrounding myself with educated, refined people, enjoying wine and fine foods and quiet hours reading books. I’ve been overly-selective of the company I keep, and I find that anything, anyone who seems rough or rowdy or crass completely turns me off. What the hell am I going to do? Certainly my boy will cuss and spit and scratch himself and injure insects and any number of things that boys do. It seems I have much work to do. I want this baby so much, and I know baby boys don’t come out of the womb doing these things, that I’ll have time to adjust to his personality. I know, too, that I’ll have some influence over what kind of boy he is, but these thoughts about men, about boys, they plague me lately. I tell myself to stop, that my boy won’t be that way, but what if he is? I’m ashamed of these feelings, and I am working on them. I hope you won’t think ill of me for voicing them here.

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16 Comments

Filed under coping, disgusting things, fear, J

16 responses to “My Work Is Never Done

  1. reproducinggenius

    Sweetheart, I’m so glad you’re being open and honest about this. Believe it or not, you’re more okay with men than you think you are. Consider all of the lovely men we know–the intellectual guys, the sweet guys, the ones who were taught by their parents not to spit and scratch and piss in public. That’s the sort of boy we’ll likely have (at least that’s my fantasy!). There’s nothing wrong with you for having these thoughts–we’re going to be raising someone who is quite different from us. At the same time, he’s going to learn his values, his manners, and so much of how he navigates the world from us (and the civilized people around us). I really think we’re going to be just fine. Of course, only time will tell. 😉

  2. You have honestly voiced so many of the things I feel. When I am really honest with myself, I admit that I want to get pregnant…. with a GIRL! There are men in my life who I love very much but I don’t really connect with them. I have always worried that I would feel that way about having a son…. I think I am trusting that if I get pregnant with a boy, I will fall head over heels in love with him and will no longer see him as some gender archtype but as an actual person. We all tell ourselves things to get through the hard parts, right? Also I know you know this but some boys are just more respectful than the ones you have in unfortunately close proximity. Although every boy I know is fascinated with bodily functions, some would never dream of discussing those things in front of a woman, a stranger or an adult. I think so much comes from how the child is parented… which brings me to my next point.

    You will be fine parenting… I would even bet that you will be quite good at it. How can I make this bet? the program I run works with VERY BAD parents… parents who were not adequately parented themselves, who live in poverty, have little education, have drug problems and are at immenent risk of losing their children. Many of the parents we work with are able to learn to be better parents and actually learn how to meet the needs of their children. The difference between the good parents and the bad? personal insight. Obviously you have a ton of personal insight, high educational level and strivings to be a great mom. I know that you will do whatever it takes to love and parent your son in a way that nurtures him and creates a healthy, happy, respectful young man.

    I know this is really long comment but a short off-handed remark did not honor your thoughts and feelings.

  3. That’s a brave post, J.

    When M and I were expecting Kiddo, we chose to not find out the baby’s gender ahead of time, but here’s the thing… we only wanted a boy, and didn’t prepare ourselves for a girl. Within ten minutes of her birth (it wasn’t instant… sorry to say), we couldn’t imagine raising anyone BUT our small girl. You’ll fall in love with your boy, no doubt about it.

    Since you have time to prepare yourself, I know there are beautiful books out there about raising the sorts of boys and men who can play well with others. You’ll do great. You both will.

  4. Oh, I’ve so been there on the boy thing. It took me a while to come to terms with the idea before he was born, and it even took me a little while to come to terms with it after he was born, but now? It doesn’t matter AT ALL. In fact, and I laugh at this often, considering the clothing choices out there for little girls, I am really, really happy we had a boy. lol. Joking aside, I was having the same feelings as you, and every time I saw a member of the male species doing something bad, I internally freaked out over having a boy. But you have to keep in mind the men that you like having around, because surely you will be raising one like that and not like the other beasts whose parents overlooked their behavior because “boys will be boys.”

    You will come to a point where it just doesn’t matter what genitalia your wee one has, because all it is is plumbing and it doesn’t make them a better or worse person. And don’t feel bad about your freaking out now or later…society has definitely skewed its treatment and thinking about men and it is hard to get past that. But you will. And you’ll look back on this when it doesn’t matter to you anymore and think, what was I so worried about?

  5. K

    Hang in there.. Your honesty about childhood was nice to read. I too struggle and find myself already dreaming of how I will “do it so differently” with my child. As for the boy.. I have the complete opposite fear of pink bows and ribbons.

  6. I had the exact same fear. I can’t really comment on overcoming it because we founf out that we are having a little girl so in the end I didn’t have to deal with it at all but I admire your honesty and strength in dealing with this. I think that all of us with less than perfect childhoods have some skeletons in our closets that show themselves at unfortunate moments and my fear of having a boy was one of them. I hope that everything works out for you and to be honest I have met many boys who were not the stereotypical cavemen that seem to lurch around our planet. And I have met girls who were less than stellar examples of the human race. It’s all in how you raise them.

  7. Your thoughts strike a chord with me too. When we found out McB was a boy, I completely freaked out. The men in my family have been abusive, inconsiderate and just plain horrible. I do not have any good relationships with men and it scared the hell out of me to think that I was going to parent one (especially given my conception of parenting was completely tied up in my experiences with my lovely daughter). It took a lot of exploration and thinking and rationalisation to come to terms with it all. When he was born, I remember trying really hard to not think of him as male, but to try to get to know him as a person. He’s 8 months old now and I’m completely infatuated with him. His maleness no longer seems an issue but I try to remain aware of it at the same time. It doesn’t affect my love for him, but I’m conscious of the need to raise a good man. Because we will. Because we think about this and work on this, our sons will be good men. I have to believe that!

  8. alimis

    Even though I spend all of my day with young boys since 90% of the students I work with are boys, I still get freaked out with the chance of having a boy. I find myself frequently telling V “If we have a boy, I woun’t know what to do with him”. So I totally get where you are coming from. I also think it was a very brave and honest post. Those are the best posts to read because they are real.

    I am not as concerned about the poor social behaviors that you mentioned becuae I believe that I will raise any child to be respectful. Which I must mention that I do not think you should have any worries either-I am confident that your child will not behave as the children you have mentioned).
    -Peony

  9. tbean

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings so honestly. One of the things that is so wonderful about babies is how amazingly non-gendered you are. When I’m around one, I’m not relating to their “boy” or “girl” ness…I’m just soaking in the baby love and kissing their head and making them smile and cradling them. I think the idea of maleness and “boys” has a lot of baggage in our society but when you son is here on the outside, you won’t see boy…you’ll just see your child.

  10. Jodi

    Tbean: I think you’re right. Something about writing this post and saying it out loud helped me moved forward. I’m not nearly as worried about it since I wrote about it. Weird, huh?

    Lots of good replies, which doesn’t surprise me as I’ve always found this community to be thoughtful and compassionate, not to mention non-judgemental.

    As always, thank you.

  11. Hmmm. I have two boys. I love them so much. Did I want a girl? Yes. Since then, I’ve found plenty of reasons to be happy that I don’t have a girl. For example, if a daughter of mine were to ever act stupid on purpose to impress a boy, I would lose my mind.

    I’m sure you will raise a respectful son. But he won’t just be influenced by you. Unless you home school him, he will also have peers, male ones, who influence him. Right now Cakie is very excited about saying poop and butt and some other things we discourage. He wants to buy a green motorcycle with the number 8 on it. He asks me to drive fast like a race car. The other day, to my complete horror, he peed on the sidewalk. He did it because his friend did it. I have high expectations of how we will raise him, but I’m also ready (usually) for the other influences that will shape the man he becomes.

    I guess if we give our sons the core understanding that they are expected to be considerate, everything else should follow. At least, I hope so.

  12. I hope my comment doesn’t make you nervous again. I guess my point is, that you are going to love him to pieces. And when he does do “boy” things that you don’t like, you’ll nip them in the bud. You know I won’t allow for that public peeing thing again. Ugh.

  13. reproducinggenius

    Oh, the public peeing! We recently spoke about what we would do if he took up this little habit, so I’m glad you told your story. I hope that Cakie is able to resist in the future. Honestly, though, when I read this to my wife, she said that this was the very sort of story she needed to here. I think she’s growing more confident that she’ll love our son, even when he does this weird, unexplainable male stuff.

    Great discussion, ladies! I so love it when my wife posts.

  14. Just last week. Sitting outside at a restaurant where a four-year-old was tormenting, relentlessly, a bird.

    From these lips to my wife’s ears:

    “I hope we never have a boy. They torture animals.”

    I’m an ass; you’re not.

  15. Cousin

    As being a women, who is married to a man who was single child that was mostly raised by his lovely, wonderful, loving mother, I have to say that nurture goes a whole hell of a long way when it comes to boys. Nature will throw in her two cents time and time again, but just be patient & the nurture will shine through. You two are going to be amazing mothers who will raise a genuinely well rounded son . . and if he ever needs a hard core sports fix, or a day at the ballgame, just give me a call, I’ll leave the hubby at home & teach him the finer points of cursing and spitting. 🙂

    Also, there are good boys our there, I know two brothers, one 10 year old & the other is 13. They were raised by their father who was not the sweetheart that he is now, but somehow they are the most well behaved, polite boys I have ever met. They walk up to you, shake your hand and introduce themselves. They say yes, please, and thank you and act like true gentlemen. I know that this isn’t anything like your situation, but it’s a good example of how it will be just fine, as long as you raise them with your core beliefs and values. If you raise them right, no matter what, the positive will shine through. Just love them with all your heart & your life and his will be everything that you have ever wanted.

  16. And then the tears…

    You know, I’ve repeatedly said I never wanted a child and I know how much that makes you both cringe (and I can understand more so now than before reading this blog). But secretly, I’ve always wanted a child, I just never wanted to hurt a child the way my parents did me. My father was an abusive alcoholic who took his own life and my mother is a walking DSM.

    I have made the choice to make a different life for myself away from them [family], and it has made me a healthier person. Not to say I don’t have my own struggles and shit I have to deal with (because I most certainly do) but when you make that choice and realize they have set that fear into motion and then choose to not give it power, your strengths are truly played to their greatest advantage.

    I think there are a lot of moms who need to read this post and learn they aren’t so alone in their fears…

    xoxo

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