#WomensLives Working Mom =/= Part-Time Mom

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I work 7 days a week.

I begin with this because it is important that people understand the scope of my work, its importance, and why I am so committed to what I do. I help people in various ways, and in doing this work, I believe I’m contributing towards making the world a better place. I work every single day because I need to make use of as many hours of our time as I possibly can to get as much of this work done as possible.

I’m a social worker, an author, an editor, an activist/community organizer, a public speaker, and professional drinker. OK, the last one doesn’t pay me, but where there is a will, there is a way!

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I am a mother 7 days a week.

I have to reiterate this, too, because people often use language, when speaking about co-parents, that suggests we’re only “part-time parents” or we somehow stop being parents when our children are with their other parents. We’ve almost come to expect fathers to be the lesser parent, but we get mad at them when they don’t contribute and we shame mothers who actually work with fathers on sharing parenting responsibilities in more equitable ways. We’re weird, truly, but this off behavior ultimately harms our children more than anything, so we ought to put an end to creating gender-based parenting hierarchies.

Study Break

Working mothers are now the breadwinners in 40% of American households and this isn’t a trend that everyone is comfortable embracing. There is still a struggle to accept women as competitors in the workforce, for high-level positions and comparable wages. Mothers who work hard and make having a career a top priority in their lives are still often viewed as contributing to the destruction of “The Family”*. And when a woman openly discusses how hard she works, how many hours she puts in, how much she travels or how many sleepless nights she has, she can be sure that she’ll often be asked: “Who is taking care of your child(ren)?”

*We still have pretty skewed views of how “Family” is defined and many of the definitions of heterosexist, classist, sexist, and racist*

As a working mother of a young child still in grade school, I’ve been on the receiving end of these types of queries, either presented with genuine curiosity or snarky condemnation, many times over the years. Two years ago, I wrote about my co-parenting arrangement with my ex-husband and how some have said I’m a bad mother because I don’t have my son with me for more more days than he is with his father. Thee days, we split evenly, about 3 1/2 days a week each, despite my workload increasing over the past couple of years, and still… some people think I’m doing something wrong by not relegating his father to a “weekend dad”.

Even the use of “relegating” is important. How do we think of fathers who pick up their children on the weekends? As stated earlier, we almost expect this, don’t we? So with that expectation, do we really vilify dads who see their children 2 days a week, and does only spending 2 days mean they are lesser parents? I argue that we don’t generally hold fathers to the same “time spent” standard as we do mothers, even when mothers work longer hours and/or make more money, so no, it isn’t “relegating” them to anything society doesn’t already expect and accept.

If a mother says she has her children 2 days a week, most people immediately speculate about what could be wrong with her. Does she has a psychiatric disability? Is her health unstable? Is she abusive? Is she negligent? The assumption is often that she is a “bad mother”, but is that assumption made of so-called weekend dads? Hardly.

And when a mother decides to work or pursue her education and trusts her child(ren)’s father to support her goals, she is accused of prioritizing work over motherhood in ways men are NEVER. Texas state senator Wendy Davis was highly scrutinized and condemned when it was revealed that she moved across country, away from her family, to obtain a law degree from Harvard when her daughters were younger. Her daughters spoke out about how proud they are of her decision and how her hard work inspires them, yet Davis was accused of abandoning her children even though 1) they were with their father and 2) she traveled back and forth to spend time with them.

We don’t talk about men this way and we don’t hold them to the same standards as fathers. This is horribly sexist and sends the wrong message to our children. If we’re trying to change the landscape by eliminating wage gaps, protecting reproductive choice, and increasing women’s representation in government and business, we have to begin at home.

We have to first accept that family is what we make it and no one has the right to define family based on sexist, racist, classist, or heteronormative terms. Being a married couple does not mean you and your partner will be better parents. Owning a home doesn’t mean your children’s lives are more secure. Being a same-sex/ same-gender/ non-binary couple doesn’t mean your children are any less loved and provided for. Being poor doesn’t mean your children automatically go “without”.

We also have to accept that when it comes to parenting, no one parent is better than the other based on arbitrary constructions of gender, race, and class. A daughter doesn’t need her mother any more than she needs her father simply because her mother is a “woman”. A son doesn’t need his father any more than he needs his mother simply because his father is a “man”.

Mothers should not be granted full or primary custody simply because they are mothers, nor should they be given extra points because they are moms; these decisions should be made based on the best interest of the child(ren) and who is able to provide for their needs. Every effort should be made to ensure that children have even access to their parents and that their care is provided equitably. If a mother makes more money than a father, for example, and it is because she works longer hours, is it so wrong that the father picks up more hours of “time spent” to balance out the child’s “care”?

Some will say that money doesn’t replace time spent and I agree 100%. I also know that the average child costs almost $300K to raise until high school graduation and someone has to foot the bill, right? If it is the mother, so be it. If it is the father, so be it. Better if it is both parents, but if it is the mother and not the father, we have to allow the mother the same freedoms men are given to make relevant career choices and prioritize her times and efforts according to what best suits all of their needs.

As long as we don’t condemn fathers for working 16 hours a day and traveling for weeks on end to attend conferences…

As long as we don’t bat our eyes or put men on guilt trips when men make important decisions to forward their careers that take them away from their families…

As long as we pay men more…

As long as we don’t expect men to work 8-10 hours, pick up the kids from school, come home to cook, clean, and do homework with their children…

As long as we don’t ever talk about “work-life balance” as it relates to men’s lives…

As long as we don’t write articles and books wondering whether or not men can “have it all”…

Let’s just say that we’ve not made as many gains as we think we have and we still have a LOT of work to do to fully embrace the idea that working mothers are not evil destroyers of families around the world.

I love my son. I love my work. I love my co-parenting choice. And I’m not evil.

If you enjoyed this post, check our more stories about #WomensLives and learn more about why telling our stories is important.

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Submissions for @Netroots_Nation #NN15 are Open!

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Each year, Netroots Nation puts out a public call for people to submit session ideas. Nearly all of the content at NN comes from these submissions! It’s through this process that NN can create an inclusive agenda while also helping shape the national dialog for progressives. Netroots Nation 2015 takes place July 16-19 in Phoenix, Arizona.
The goal is to highlight the great working going on around the country, from national campaigns to issue organizing in your home state, as well as to shine a light on things happening in our host state of Arizona. Netroots Nation accepts submissions for panels, trainings, film screening series, and the This Week in Blackness Media Stage.
The deadline to submit is February 18, 2015

Gentlemen’s Corner: Being Polyamorous Transformed Me

Image: Robert Ashworth via Flickr

Love is real.

At a minimum it is something that people readily agree exists. I find love to be something that is transformative like the states of matter. I am polyamorous; meaning I have more than one intimate or romantic partner, and that is as transformative as it gets. The word polyamory means “many loves” and is defined as the practice, desire, and/or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive (with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships). There is shared knowledge and consent given by everyone involved. I realize that the concept is pretty farfetched to some, but I will sum up my personal experience by comparing it to the various states of matter to make it a bit more digestible.

A few years back, I was like water vapor and so was my relationship with love. My emotions and thoughts were like particles that did not have a defined shape or volume. I struggled with mishandling relationships and partners. I learned about polyamory and thought it might be something that would fit me, my sexual and emotional appetites, and my desire to be truly attracted and connected to more than one person. I found myself nestled like a cloud in a forest, dense with thoughts and desires. I decided I was going to be poly and that is when I transformed.

I became liquid, like water. I had a definite volume composed of honest and open inclusivity relating to the status of my multiple relationships, but I had no defined shape. My relationships could be whatever I needed them to be in any configuration I chose. My partners knew I had additional partners and were aware of my desire to express my needs in many ways.

Image: Robert Ashworth via Flickr

Image: Robert Ashworth via Flickr

As I expressed this style of loving and engaging romantically, I was met with both warmth and coldness. It was the coldness that struck me.  I remember going on several dates with a woman whose mahogany skin made me want to kiss her until I had no lips. She told me that I made her warm in ways she hadn’t felt in years. When we discussed what our relationship would look like, I explained to her that I was polyamorous. I watched the wintry tears well up in her eyes as she began to explain that if that was truly who I was, then it had no place with her and so we parted ways.

Her belief that the only love that was valuable was the love between only two people drove us apart. She insisted that love was only love when it was not shared. The solid ice state of singular possession was crippling; it was something I used to, and in moments still do, experience. That frozen existence keeps people trapped in relationships, unmoving in loves that lost their warmth long ago, or in some cases in relationships where the warmth has been placed elsewhere.

Hearts and minds are often encased by the cryogenic state of jealousy that does not allow them to see past their need to be satisfied by a particular partner. In some cases, men and women are met with the cold rigidity of monogamy when exclaiming to their partner that an individual that they have cheated with “means nothing”. In some instances that is true, but in most cases, people engage in infidelity to seek outside happiness. They would rather do that than change the way they engage fidelity which could, quite possibly, mean they find all of the things that make them truly happy.

I have grown since that encounter and have found deep and lasting love. For me, polyamory has allowed my love to flourish like plasma with unbound positively charged particles of existence. By not being centered on thoughts of traditional love or value systems, I am able to sustain my happiness and allow myself to experience life in a way that provides me and my partners ultimate joy.

I am not at all saying polyamory will work for everyone. I just don’t think people’s minds should be entirely closed off to it. Ultimately, whether it is monogamy or polyamory that makes your heart to beat with great exuberance, just have Love.

Love matters.

Desmond JaMaal is an activist, artist, and scientist hailing from south Florida. Desmond is a true believer in his namesakes famous words “I am because we are.” Follow him on Twitter at @OleNerdyBastard. You can also hear him on Negros With a Podcast.

FJ on #TheRemix w/ @DrJamesPeterson

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Feminista Jones and professor Brittney Cooper join “The Remix” for a smart, lively and insightful discussion on racism, sexism and why there are often different levels of outrage around violence against black women and black men.

Listen here.

FJ on @Good_and_Terrible Podcast #GoodAndTerrible (#PTBBook)

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I had the wonderful honor of sitting in as a guest on a super dope podcast with two incredibly funny women-of-a-certain-age. Sometimes, you just need to be in the company of your kinfolks to let loose.

I talk about Push The Button, ignorance in social media, and reveal something about me MOST people don’t know.

Check out Good and Terrible for more great shows from this dynamic duo.

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