He walked past the kitchen, past her. Sat down, heavy, on a sofa. I’ve done my fair share he said. Crossed arms. Feet up on the coffee table.
The tidal wave of rage and hurt almost knocked her to the kitchen floor, first stealing her breath then, gushing back, punching her stomach as wordless thoughts sucked and hissed around her, within her.
She stared, as if from under water, at the sink. The remains of dinner, the day’s dishes, the bottles yet to be washed and sterilised… Saw, beyond his crossed, closed shape on the sofa, the clothes airers overfull with bibs and grow-suits and socks and soft little things – yet to be taken down, folded down, put away;
Unbidden, the list of yet-to-do grew inside her: the water yet to be boiled, the formula yet to be measured, the washing yet to be hung out, the dirty clothes and bibs yet to be soaked, the nappy bag yet to be repacked... An hour of ‘just five minutes’ between her and the short sweet slab of sleep before the next feed. She pictured the night ahead, the day beyond the long night ahead, if these things were not done. It was impossible.
She heard the TV go on; the hum of the baby monitor; his soundless accusations.
Amidst this overwhelming new love and joy and beauty there is this. Amidst all this self-discovery and wonder and opening up of the heart there is this. Alongside this incredible, longed-for gift – this beginning – there is now this.
After the longest time she gripped the hot water tap. Found the plug. Filled the sink.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem