Monday, February 20, 2012

Equality... or not

I live in a country where gender equality is a big topic. All other "big" facts of life (criminal levels, employment, road safety, etc.) work, so people can focus on "other" issues.
Now don't get me wrong here, I am NOT trying to trivialize this issue, or anything like it. I see it analogous to arts. When societies could feed, protect and increase themselves, and there was still surplus, could people dedicate its time to "non-immediately-urgent" matters, like arts, culture and leisure, which I believe is one of the most (if not the most) significant aspects of human society. So I believe that if my society is not in the middle of a war, or with huge and widespread social struggles, then people can focus on IMPORTANT things, even if they are not life threatening. And I do believe equality is important.

And now to (my) personal aspect of it.

  1. I am a man.
  2. I have a daughter, she's 2 months old. A baby.
  3. Both her mother, P, and I have decided that we support breast feeding and want that for our daughter.
  4. I cannot produce milk, see point 1.
So, it turns out that I cannot feed my daughter all by myself. I hear everyone screaming now "Haven't you heard of milk pumps?!" (Angry voices in my head). Well, yes, I have. We both have. But it just doesn't work as advertised. Pump and pump and pump... and getting maybe 20 drops. Now we KNOW it's not a matter of supply, our baby is (fortunately enough) developing quite well, thank you very much. And then some. So it's not a matter of supply. Apparently not all breast/women take well on pumps. Things at home get stressful when we pumped. So we dropped it. I can understand that P does not want to invest 3 hours of her day in some attempt to pump a ridiculously small amount of milk ... when she could be SLEEPING during that time!!

So, no pumping for now. Which means that I cannot feed my daughter. Unless we try formula. Which we don't want. So P stays at home with our daughter, since getting food into her is a high priority for us (who knew...). We just can't both stay home. We actually do need our salaries to pay for rent. And food. And clothes. You get the picture. So I go to work. Sometimes. I stay at home at least one day out of the five working ones, to be able to see my daughter before she's put to sleep (at 19:00, about one hour after I come from work!).

Fortunately it works economically, but back to the equality issue. I cannot provide the same value per stay-at-home-day for our daughter as her mom can. I cannot feed her, remember? As a family, our composite yield (time, money, joy, smiles, etc), from both P and me, is more valuable if only one of us stays home while the other one works and gets money (and some joy). This has nothing to do with our values, our political agendas, our relative salaries nor anything like it. It has to do with those 4 facts in the beginning and that we live in a world where, besides the fact that we do need enjoy our work, we also need our income.

I hear a lot of people quoting statistics about this, but I do NOT think that I should be included in a statistic that tries to point out "unfairness" towards women staying at home UNLESS they also point out that there are some physical differences which mold our actions. I would like to be with my daughter and watch her gurgle, bathe her, and generally taking care of her (all other house chores we used to share, now being slightly different because of P's chronic sleep deficit).

Scenario 1 - In a magic world, I would be able to feed my daughter. I could produce milk out of thin air.
Scenario 2 - In an ideal ideal world, I would be able to feed my daughter. P would pump tons of milk in less than two minutes.
Scenario 3 - In an ideal world, I would be able to feed my daughter. P could pump milk during work hours (special time for that).

In any of those scenarios, if the amount of days spent with my daughter were not the same as her mothers, then maybe we could dig into other issues (my salary against hers, social perception of male/female roles, me being an abusive jerk and not allowing her to stick her head out our place, whatever).

I do not feel as a victim, in much the same way that I do not feel myself a slave to oxygen, just because I depend on it to survive. It is part of the nature of me being alive. I like it. I do not feel bad about my actions being conditioned by that fact (No, I cannot dive unaided into the see as I would into a forest, for instance). My biology molds part of my daily actions. No biggie. In that same sense I do not suffer the fact that I cannot produce milk to feed my daughter. Same thing. I do not like when people claims that biology driven roles are essentially bad (yes I am a land rover, and not an air roamer), or using my reality as a platform for their agenda. Me being at work and P at home has to do with our mutual agreement that we do not have to fight biology every step, every day. She actually can feed our daughter.

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