Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

I had a lovely time last evening roaming around the mommy blog world while JG watched the Quebec election results. The only downer was to read about other people experiencing spring as I live through the frozen mud and slush that is an integral part of Eastern Ontario's March. Although spring has been arriving earlier the last few years, I assume because of global warming. When I first lived here, in the Sixties, the snow melted in April but now it is happening in March, two years out of three. Anyway, we have a week of good 'sugaring' weather forecast -- the sap runs best if there is a variation of +5 to -5 Celsius degrees, with sun, and Environment Canada says that is what we are going to get.

One of the things that impresses me most is how well people do dialogue as they record what their little ones are doing and saying. Another is how wide the range of interests and abilities is, especially among the mothers of children with challenges whom you would think would have less time and energy even than the rest of us to record their lives. I work with the mother of a boy with Down's Syndrome (Is Trisomy 21 now preferred? She uses DS when she talks about him) whose days are precision scheduled, structured around where he is and what he needs next. I remember well how hectic my life was when I went back to work full time, and my girls were pretty self sufficient by then.

"If you can fill the unrelenting minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run,' said Kipling. It's that 'unrelenting minute' that is so apt. Whether you are a working-outside-the-home mother or not, life is a mass of detail, scheduling and endless tasks of the sort that have to be done again and again. Plus, it is my observation that a lot of fathers -- a lot of men -- opt out of the detail even if they are really useful otherwise. The Elder Daughter's man does his share of the housework and child care, for example, but if he can't find something he needs he expects the ED to know.

When I first started back to work full time JG offered to do the grocery shopping to help out. I was touched and delighted -- and really taken aback when, on the first occasion of his doing it, he strolled into the kitchen and said, 'I'm ready to go. Where's the list?' I had assumed that making the list was part of the task. Silly me. In my observation men do what they choose to do and women both do the remainder and keep track of the whole thing. Daddy will drive the kids to their music lessons, but mommy knows when the lessons are, that kind of division of labour. I would be glad to know this is not so but I swear I have never met a man who was a household gatekeeper.

Sometimes I dream of a world where everyone's schedule and tasks are flexible. Where it would be assumed that paid employment for everyone was arranged so that the work of the home did not have to be done in snatched minutes of multi-tasking mayhem. Where the childcare and minutiae of daily life have importance! ('Do you work?' 'No, I'm a stay-at-home mom.') Where I wouldn't have to worry that my driven and madly multi-tasking daughter is going to crash and burn.

And Quebec is going to have a minority government. Fascinating.

The Latin title, very roughly rendered, means 'who will look after the guardians (gatekeepers)'? Would you believe I studied Latin language and literature for four interminable years of University?


  1. I don't think my husband (who is a SAHD) is the gatekeeper, but I make a deliberate choice not to be the keeper of the schedule, the grocery list, etc.

    We have a family calendar, and things get written down on it. And most of the time T checks it. And when he doesn't, and forgets to take the boys to gymnastics (or whatever), he knows that he's screwed up. And I try not to freak out and decide that I have to remind him of everything as a consequence.

    He does almost all of the grocery shopping. And if there's something specific I want him to get, I need to put it on a list. If I don't, we don't starve, but he doesn't get exactly what I would have bought. But he's not a mindreader.

  2. Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog! I feel very honored to see my blog listed under people you learn from. I anticipate that I will be learning a lot from YOU!

    Your post today got me thinking about a book review I read quite some time ago. I don't remember the author or the title of the book, but it was about women of my generation (generation X) and how we feel about our lives. If I am remembering correctly, the book was written in response to a number of interviews and some strong themes that emerged.

    I got the distinct impression that there are a lot of Gen X women out there that feel like they are on the verge of crashing and burning (I can relate to that at times). Another theme that emmerged was the feeling that our husbands are absolutely useless. (For the record, I don't agree with that, but I can relate to the feelings and frustrations that might lead to that conclusion).

    Anyway, I never did check out the book, although I definitely think it would be a good read. I will try to do some digging and see if I can find it. You might be interested in reading it too!

    I wonder if our husbands don't take on as much as we would like them to because we don't really LET them. Or if we do, we are too critical on HOW they do it. Elizabeth eluded to this in her comment. Personally, this is something that I am working on. I'm no good to anyone if I let myself crash and burn!

  3. Yes, I am fascinated to watch the state of Quebec politics over the next little while.

    I would say my relationship with Joe is about as 50/50 as you could possibly get, but we have taken on tasks that are specific to our strenghts (and, well, our weaknesses). Joe's tolerance for dirt is WAY lower than mine, so he does most of the cleaning, whereas I am a very organized person, so I am responsible for knowing when bills are due, appointments are booked and birthdays are. People joke about the gender dynamic in our relationship, but I think we're both just finding our way in the world.

    I love the thought of the unrelenting minute. To this day, it amazes me that if you have to sit still for 60 seconds, it feels like such a long time, but then hours fly by without me taking much notice.