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Nov 3 2011

Don’t Call Him Mr. Mom

By at 10:39 am

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time with my boyfriend and his 3-year-old daughter, Ronia. We flew together to Minnesota, spent Sukkot with his parents, and then returned to New York City, where we took Ronia to my shul, to several playgrounds, and to a time-honored New York tradition—Sunday morning brunch in a bar.

On planes, trains, and automobiles Ronia is mistaken for my child. People gave up their seats on the subway, so she could sit next to “her mama” and said things like “Aw, she loves her mommy” when I carried her after a particularly exhausting day. And of course, Ronia does love her mommy—I’m just not that person. I’ve learned not to jump in with a correction in these situations. Our story is personal and complicated, and the history of our new family need not be explicated to everyone who feels the need to comment on my interactions with Ronia.

But it has been weird to me how often people address their comments to me, rather than to Jesse, the one of us who is actually a parent. Sometimes he responds to comments that have been posed to me, or I deflect the question to him, or we just decide to just play along and answer together. But it’s clear that as the woman, I’m assumed to be the parental authority, and Jesse is just Mr. Mom.

And we do hear people using the term Mr. Mom as if it’s a novel and cute way of describing fatherhood. (It was even in a New York Times headline recently.) But Mr. Mom was the name of a bad movie in the eighties. Even the humor of it is hopelessly outdated. It’s supposed to be funny because “Mr.” implies a man, and Moms are WOMEN. Get it? Not exactly a knee-slapper.

Jesse isn’t playing at being a mom when he parents Ronia. He’s being himself—a dad. A dad who stayed home with his daughter when she was a baby (he wasn’t pretending to be a mom then, either), and who now makes pancakes for breakfast and macaroni and cheese for dinner, who does load after load of laundry (Ronia’s princess dresses, and my jeans and cardigans), reads stories, sings lullabies, cuddles, and watches, rapt, when Ronia swings happily on the playground.

In this 21st century world, where we all know tons of non-conventional families, it seems everyone still wants to cast me as the mom, and Jesse as the Mr. Mom. I’m thinking about investing in t-shirts. His can say, “I’m not Mr. Mom. I’m Dad.” And mine can say, “Ladyfriend.” And then when people ask, I can just refer them to my chest. Wait, that might not actually be the best plan…

Jun 23 2011

From the Dad: Ronia Finally Comes to NYC

By at 9:02 am

We published a post yesterday by Tamar Fox about test driving parenthood by spending the weekend with her boyfriend’s 3-year-old daughter. Here’s the boyfriend’s take on the same experience.

I travel to New York every week for love. Basically, I come back to Philadelphia to parent Ronia in the city where her school is located and where her mother lives. My life is geographically determined, I am basically a different person in New York than I am in Philly though my two lives aren’t really that different. They are defined by relationships with powerful ladies who are younger than me.

Still, until now, they have not come together very often. My lady doesn’t get to Philly all that often, and Ronia has only made it to NYC once, when my parents took us both up.

But I have one sister living there and she’s been agitating for some auntie time. The pitch was that Ronia could stay with her, and we would not have to put Ronia on the Lady’s couch and draft her housemates into being involuntary aunties, when the real one was quite voluntary.

I try to be as hands off as possible in pushing Tamar to take on Ronia responsibilities. I feel like choosing to date someone who has a child is very different from choosing to have one yourself. Also, Tamar’s friends are weirdly pressuring in this regard, with several of them asking her if she’s spent time with Ronia.

So it was with some trepidation that I suggested the weekend, but Tamar, bless her child-loving heart, agreed. And though I am usually hesitant to set the agenda, Tamar and Auntie were both amenable.

Because my bus was horrendously late, I dropped Ronia somewhat abruptly with her aunt and posse of ladies, all ready to fuss over the niece, and headed uptown. Though I pride myself on my Shabbat co-hosting, I arrived at that magic moment when everything is done. A very grownup Shabbat dinner followed, while Ronia partied downtown.

In the morning, I headed to shul. I had asked Maya to bring Ronia to synagogue, which is big because Maya does not usually attend. To her credit, she agreed. I watched the door anxiously, sneaking off to the bathroom to field texts of their progress. The progress was minimal, Ronia had reverted to her rockstar ways, sleeping past 11 am. I asked Maya to bring her anyway. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 24 2011

My Very Own Ladette

By at 9:55 am

I was on with Ronia for New Year’s Eve, which fell on Shabbat this year. We had a lovely dinner with friends and Ronia’s mother, but after Ronia was in bed I felt my loneliness of separation in a way I usually don’t. I decided to call people (I use the phone for friends and family on Shabbat) who I haven’t spoken to in a while.

The only person I could get a hold of  was an old housemate of mine on West Coast time, who had not yet gone out. The big news: She is getting married! And planning to have kids! She thanked me for not laughing.

I didn’t laugh, but I did get wistful. This is my friend I affectionately call “the Ladette,” who did quite a bit of dating in her time. One of her first acts of casting off her adolescent shyness was to give me her number when we met on a bus. About to leave on a trip for Israel, I never called her, and forgot all about it when we became housemates.

We later became great platonic friends, scandalizing the Thai restaurants of Seattle with our loud gossip. My own gossip was mostly theoretical at that point, as I was engaged, but I enjoyed her more eventful life.

And then I got married, and moved out of the house. She started dating the guy who took my room, causing some scandal. They lasted (though never got married themselves or planned to have children) until this year, when my marriage ended, so did their relationship. My friend stunned, her partner, so mild-mannered, was in love with someone else.

Read the rest of this entry →

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