Can I Really Call Myself A Housewife Anymore?

Sometime in 2016, I wrote a piece about identifying as a queer housewife. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, not by a long shot, but it was something I was feeling really intensely at the time and really wanted to talk about. The extremely simplified version is that I had, as a younger person, really wanted to stay home and raise babies and keep my house. When I grew up and became a feminist and realized I was a flaming queer… this didn’t seem like it was going to happen, so I set the dream aside. But having a baby FORCED me to stay home (in the same way it forces many parents, including many new moms and other birthing parents who aren’t ready, back into the workforce). And while I was forced to stay home, I fell in love with it, and came to identify with that word, housewife.

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The whole thing ended up sparking a bit of a debate about terms. Many people told me they preferred homemaker to housewife, as it was gender neutral and less derogatory. But the term “homemaker” has been tied up in a very particular brand of conservative Christianity, and benevolent sexism, for decades now. And besides, I wanted to be a housewife specifically because it was gendered work I was doing. Are there men who cook and clean and budget and organize? Absolutely. But my own housewifery made me feel connected to generations of women who cared for their families and homes. I couldn’t divorce it from that, and I found that I didn’t want to.

Anyways, I got paid for that article about being a housewife. I think I made seventy-five bucks.

***

This spring, my spouse and I made a rather huge change. Specifically, she cut her working hours, from four days a week to three days a week. This way, I could also work three days a week, and we would split childcare duties equally. With our toddler weaned, this seemed like the perfect setup for our little family. Now no one would be carrying the brunt of the kid-wrangling, we would both work, and both do childcare, and have one day off a week in common. In many ways, it was a dream come true for me.

I started freelance writing at the end of 2015 and very beginning of 2016, and I started really small. I was just bringing in enough money to take the edge off, the edge of living in poverty. I was really proud of my contribution, even though I try very hard not to assign value to myself based on money earned. For so long, I hadn’t been able to financially contribute to my family, and I had watched (and felt) us struggle to try to survive on one income.

Since then it has been a (more or less) uphill climb. But there is never enough time. I work nights. I get behind on projects. I get behind on the blog. And my work time always gets eaten away at, slowly but surely. My spouse and I may work the same number of hours… but one of us works outside the home (her) while the other works inside the home (me). When doctor’s appointments have to happen, it’s easier for EVERYONE to schedule them for my work days. And then I take part of the day off and scramble and it sucks. Often I work nights. Often I work too many nights in a row (because I don’t know when to give myself a break) and make myself sick. Often freelance payments come late which makes it feel like I’m working this hard for nothing.

The switch from two work days a week to three work days a week alleviated some of the pressure on me, but not all of it. And it also added more. The income I make long ago ceased being “extra” money. I am now responsible for a rather large chunk of our monthly budget. If I don’t work, we can’t pay our bills and buy our food, period.

And the switch also meant something else… it was the end of the housewife dream.

A lot of times, I am too tired to make dinner, so my spouse does it. The livingroom which I used to lovingly pick up on the daily… well there are dust on top of the toys left on the floor now. The exciting DIY projects are all left for… another day, someday, maybe one day. All of this is in the service of my career.

I’m not complaining exactly, but it’s like I accidentally morphed from a housewife into a career woman.

And here’s the thing. I’m not even sure how I feel about that. I love my job. I love the work I’m doing. I’m writing some really interesting and exciting things that I never would have dreamed of a few years ago. It’s just that some days, I would rather be making my own granola bars and tending my little garden, you know?

***

Not having the identity of housewife makes me feel a little bit like I’m floating. I no longer know what my roll is, I’m no longer entirely sure I fit my roll. The reality is, of course, that I desperately want to do both. I want to do more things than there can ever be time for. I want to make pie crust and write interesting and well researched pieces, and do creative projects with my toddler, and organize the pantry, and work on my novel. But I also want to be kind to myself and read books and watch Doctor Who. There isn’t enough time, and I’m getting frustrated, and I’m burning out. And I’m not the only one. Women (and other people, but largely women) are so often tasked with doing the impossible in not enough time, we are so often racing the clock, we are so often torn in a thousand directions and unable to feel anything but guilt.

I don’t have an answer.

But I do have an idea.

Stay tuned.

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Tiny Giant Happy Things, May Day

Yesterday was May Day, and it rained. May Day, as both the pagan holiday (also known as Beltaine) celebrating fertility and spring and International Workers’ Day, is pretty big deal around these parts. As a queer anarcho-socialist pagan household (to put the most accurate labels on us as possible) we cannot escape the weight or the joy of the first day of May. May Day is the height of spring, literally the very center of the season, and it throbs with potential and hope. And it is also filled with history, hung in the solemnness of those who died to make the world just a little bit safer and kinder and fairer.

Lots of years we have participated in an annual May Day bike ride in our city. Many of those years it was my first bike ride of the season, because I’m not a very dedicated cyclist and almost never ride in the winter. I remember the familiar burn in my legs, their confusion at being asked to do something they had almost forgotten about. One year a girl who had apparently just moved to our city found our gaggle of weirdos riding and just tagged along. She said “I was just singing old union songs to myself and thought I wouldn’t have anyone to celebrate with.”

The year the spouse and I fell in love, we battered and fried dandelion blossoms. Then we walked around our old neighborhood delivering them to friends and neighbors.

Oh, and I usually shave my head.

I rarely write about May Day, it’s such a busy, high energy, time of the year. I feel like I don’t have time to catch my breath and reflect. I feel like my head is spinning and then the holiday has passed and its not really relevent anymore. But today is only the second day of May, and my baby is outside playing with his Ma, and all the dishes from last night’s massive May Day meal are still in the sink. Today I can spare a moment to think about the wheel of the year and the march of time and the slow slow crawl of progress. Because if ever there was a day to challenge the nuclear family, the absurdity of the idea that we could live separate lives cut off from one and other in our separate and private homes, the stupidity of the notion that we could own our children, that day is May Day.

This May Day, like all May Days, I had more things I wanted to do than actually happened. We chose to stay on our block, which felt right, it felt like celebrating with our own community. These are the people we share with, the people who watch each other’s kids in a pinch, who will loan each other a cup of flour or help plant a garden or help you bring in a heavy box because you were stupid enough to think you could buy that ikea bookshelf and move it all by yourself (ahem). These are the people I am fighting isolation with right now.

So we made magic wands for the kids, and some neighbors had a May Pole in their yard, and we somehow managed to pull off a big dinner that included both fried dandelions and violet lemonade. I shaved off most of my hair. I baked a cake my favorite way, which is without a recipe or a measuring cup. Oh, and I built a bookshelf, because I just couldn’t stand hating my living room anymore. And all of our books were in piles on the floor since I impulsively decided to take the old (hated) bookshelf out to the back yard for a garden bed last week. The rain let up for enough of the day, and in the evening there was a small neighborhood bonfire.

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In three weeks the baby turns two years old.

So today I am sitting in a bright room, with the sunlight pushing through the clouds, thinking about the spring and the coming summer and the fallen heroes. There is a lot of hope in May Day, even the tragic kind of hope is still hope. Our clover seeds came in the mail, and the garden looks happy from all the rain, and I feel (for once) like maybe I’m doing my best and it’s good enough.

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Yo, Some Queers Live Here

I’m a pagan and a buddhist, a person who’s struggled to figure out exactly how she feels spiritually and religiously over the years, and also a person who’s taken the time to really explore and learn about other faiths. Today is one of those days between Ostara and May Day that feels like it’s going backwards, even though you know it isn’t. It snowed last night, and this morning while none of that snow had stuck to the ground, it was still a little cold to take the toddler out to play (at least for wusses like me). So we played indoors, listening to music, coloring, dancing, putting everything away in the play kitchen just to get it all out again.

Also, last night the United States bombed Syria. The force of war and violence feels overwhelming. I saw the news about the air strike right after meditating for the first time in months, my eyes opened, fresh and clean, and then this is the stark and ugly reality of the world we live in.

I mention all of that to give you context me. This morning my wifespouse went off to what we knew would be a busy and overwhelming day at work, and I stayed home with our toddler. This morning I tried to smile and play through my worry for the world. I tried to cherish my time with my child — even the parts that weren’t especially fun — with the knowledge of other parents who have lost children. This morning here I was, a gay pagan buddhist driving toy trucks around the house with my 22 month old, trying not to cry.

And that’s when they came.

Many months ago, I wrote about proselytizers. After moving to this house and this neighborhood, one day two polite and friendly Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door. I wrote about my conflicted feelings about them. Today, they came back. Or rather, not them, but other proselytizers, representing the same faith, came through the neighborhood. I saw them on the sidewalk, and I took a deep breath, ready to be polite and friendly and conflicted when they knocked on the door.

Only, they didn’t knock.

My wifespouse and I are queer people. Ours is a queer family. We are proud of that. We do not have a rainbow flag, but we do have an adorable wooden sign, made years and years ago by a former housemate of mine. It reads:

“Yo, some queers live here.”

Last time proselytizers came to our home, I honestly don’t think they noticed it. Today they did. I know they did because they stopped just below it. For a moment, I thought they wouldn’t come up the steps at all. For a moment, I hoped they wouldn’t. But they did.

My child climbed into the window seat to watch them approach. He was holding a small wooden car in his hand and pointing. I took a very deep breath, preparing myself emotionally for the knock on the door, for answering it, for smiling. The moment stretched out and grew longer and longer, I was waiting for something to happen, only nothing was happening.

But something was happening, actually. They didn’t knock, but I could hear them muttering to each other under their breaths, just on the other side of the door from me. I could hear them cooing at my child through the window. I could hear them doing everything a person might do except knocking on the damn door they were standing right in front of.

Finally, after an agonizingly long wait, I just opened the door.

They weren’t smiling. The two women looked shocked and alarmed. One held back. The other had a small tract in her hand. She gave me an incredibly dirty look. I said “good morning.”

And then there was a tense exchange of pleasantries.

“We just want to… invite you and your… family, to our celebration of Jesus’ death…” she holds up the tract, but doesn’t reach towards me, she isn’t trying to hand it to me.

I hold out my hand and say “thank you” and with trepidation, like she’s avoiding something dirty, she places it in my hand.

“Oh!” says the proselytizer, “well… thank you for taking it.”

We wish each other a nice day, and they get off my porch in hurry, and I close the door in a hurry. My kid smiles at me, and he doesn’t know what is wrong, and I don’t know if I did the right thing by being polite and taking the tract or not.

***

So this is a message to any Christians reading this, especially to my Christian friends and family who might be reading this (I know that some of you do).

Be nice. Just be nice. It’s not that freaking hard to be nice to people who are different than you. And if you are going to go out into the world, you really should be expecting to run into people who are very different than you! Spoiler: we all have to deal with that. You are not special in that way, every single faith on the planet is composed primarily of people who will, at many points in their lives, have to interact with people with vastly different beliefs than their own. Sometimes you will meet people who do things that you personally would not do because your religious convictions lead you to believe that those things are wrong. It might make you uncomfortable! You still have to be nice.

And if you happen to believe that people who don’t follow your (very specific) moral code are going to hell, you should still be nice to those hell-bound people! And if you also happen to believe that it is your duty as a believer to share your belief with others, so that they may also be saved, then you should be especially nice.

If you come to a gay person’s home, with an offering of a tract about Jesus, you had better not shrink away from that gay person’s hand. If you have the audacity to go door to door, from stranger’s home to stranger’s home, to share your beautiful faith with the world, guess what? You are going to run into people that you think are sinners! And it is your job to not be an asshole when that happens. You had better hand your literature into the hands of devil worshippers joyfully and with a friendly smile. Because if your goal is really to save these people, if your goal is really to save me, then you are a disgrace to everything you believe when you let your prejudices get in your way.

If I can be nice, you can do it too. If you can’t? Get the fuck off my porch.

Did You Buy A House? Wherein I Actually Kind Of Talk About Detroit

I just moved (again) and I’ve been thinking a lot about place.

I don’t write about where I live, generally speaking. This is not an accident. It isn’t because it slipped my mind or because the place I live doesn’t interest me. It’s a very conscious decision, and it’s one I keep making again and again. A few months back, I was soliciting blog topics from friends and readers, and one of the questions that kept coming up was “why do you live in Detroit?” I politely (I hope it was polite) declined to answer.

“I don’t write about Detroit.” I said. And it’s the truth. I mostly don’t write about Detroit. I don’t write about Detroit, frankly, because I’m a young-ish white person. And there are scores of young-ish white people writing about Detroit, about why they live here, what they love about the city, how they want to help the city, so much so that they are monopolizing the conversation. In a city that is majority black, where residents (particularly black residents, long term residents, and low income residents, and those who fall in all three categories) face some pretty serious hardships, the conversation has been monopolized by young-ish white folk who mostly want to talk about how rosy it is.

White privilege exists.

I don’t want to be a part of that. I don’t think my perspective on Detroit is particularly interesting, particularly unique, or particularly worthy of being heard. I moved to this city eight years ago (to get away from an abusive ex) and I stayed (because I liked it here and I made friends) and that puts me in the category of scores and scores of first wave gentrifiers who’s opinions on what the city is or should be are not particularly relevant. Being a white, relatively recent, transplant to the city, does not give me a particularly important or interesting perspective on what’s going on here. You want to read about Detroit? Seek out the voices of people who have been here for awhile, not people like me.

But today, I am slightly breaking (or maybe just bending) my rule about writing about Detroit, to talk about a classist and racist assumption that I have recently been noticing and trying to wrap my head around.

***

I grew up in a working class family, and when I was little, we moved around quite a bit. When I was in the fourth grade, my parents were finally able to achieve their dream of home ownership, and they haven’t moved since then. About a week before my eighteenth birthday, I moved out of my parents home, and since then, I haven’t really stopped moving. Since that first move, I have moved twelve times in my adult life, and the longest I’ve stayed in once residence was just over two years. The reasons for the moves have been varied — the collective is splitting up, I’m moving in with my partner, I can’t afford the rent anymore, I hate living with roommates, I hate my racist landlord, this apartment is too small for my cats, I need to get away from my abuser — and to my mind I’ve rarely moved just for the sake of moving, but there’s no denying I’ve been transient. This last move is my third since the birth of my child, and my wife and I are so sick of moving around that we’ve affectionately joked “this is the rental we’re going to die in, they’ll have to bury us in the backyard.”

All of this moving around feels pretty reminiscent, to be honest, of the moving around I did with my family as a child. Again, lots of different reasons — the owners were only renting this house until they could sell it, my dad’s job was transferred, we need to be closer to family, this house was never big enough for a family of four, we hate this house so much we’ve all been calling it “the ucky house” all four months we’ve lived here — and the transience was created, to some degree, by being renters.

But back to the present! This most recent move, we were actually excited about. We like the house and neighborhood we are living in, and we want to be here. It feels like a good fit for us, as opposed to just a “well, we’ve gotta live somewhere” situation. And as we’ve talked to people, informing them of our change in residence, there has been one response we’ve gotten over and over again. So much so, that it has started to wear on me.

“Oh cool! Did you guys buy a house over there?”

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***

I’m not qualified to give you a real lesson on Detroit real estate, I haven’t been here long enough and I haven’t studied in thoroughly enough. But I can tell you that in Detroit, a lot of families have lost their homes due to foreclosure in recent memory. Detroit is a big spread out kind of city, and there are empty homes here. As newcomers, especially white middle class people, have come to the city, they have often seen it as a place where home ownership was more readily accessible to them. I have known young professionals who’ve bought huge mansions in Detroit and fixed them up, because in the suburbs they’d only be able to afford a fairly modest home, and working folks who bought houses on the cheap at auction (from the city) that probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve that American Dream of home ownership without that opportunity.

Again, I don’t know enough about all of this to give you a good run down on all the ins and outs here. Detroit is, like all places, a complicated place. What I do know, though, is that one of those realities (newcomers, who are mostly white, being able to buy homes for relatively cheap) is directly related to and often dependent on the other reality (long time residents, who are mostly black, losing their homes due to foreclosure). And the new residents who are cashing in on this are often very resistant to acknowledging any connection.

***

My wife and I are white, and we live in a predominantly black city. As such, we carry a lot of white privilege. Sometimes we fight against it, but other times (like when you know you’re being more seriously considered for a job because of your race, but like, if you don’t get the job you’re going to end up homeless) we can’t really afford to. Though we have lived near or below the poverty line for years now, we are often assumed to be middle class because of our race. It is assumed that we both have college degrees (we do not) or are currently in school (we are not). If people are aware of our financial situation, it is assumed to be temporary.

In essence, white privilege gives us the benefit of the doubt. In a culture where the poor are vilified, being assumed to have more than you do is a kind of power. People who come from upper middle class backgrounds, people who are afraid to take the bus in Detroit because of poor black people, people who assume that homelessness is the result of laziness, those people often treat us as their peers. Their actions and words seem to say, “oh, but you’re not like those poor people.”

And as we move through the city, a white couple with our white son, we benefit immensely in ways that our neighbors of color do not. Yes, sure, we definitely face homophobia from time to time, but our whiteness acts as an incredible shield to many of the harsher realities of life in the city. It is not fair, and it is not ok.

That is how people can look at us, people can know that we were, only six months ago, technically homeless and crashing with friends, and assume that we’re now home owners. It feels like a weird moment of cognitive dissonance, it feels like the odd place where race and class intersect, and along with the politics of place, this is what we get. “Did you guys buy a house?”

***

I was briefly chatting with a friend about the very concept of long term renting. To a lot of people, in a lot of communities, it’s normal, but to others it is a foreign concept. Long term renting is, in essence, contrary to the American Dream. The American Dream says that we can own the land, with a deed from the government in our hand that says so, and that ownership will give us the control and stability that we crave. We might not have much, but with home ownership, we can all be some kind of upwardly mobile. There’s some truth to it. I knew a family that, a few years back, suffered major financial hardship. But their house was already paid off, and because of that they were able to weather a storm that would have destroyed them otherwise.

But aside from the practical, it’s about the ideological. America is built, largely, on the backs of white homesteaders who stole native lands. Private ownership is one of the cornerstones of American culture. It’s how we manage to pretend we are self sufficient. It’s one of the reasons capitalism, and my own personal boogeyman the nuclear family, took hold so completely here. To many, the idea of paying a fee to live in a building that someone else owns is insulting.

***

But I cannot, at least in the foreseeable future, buy a home. I don’t have the credit required for a mortgage. I don’t have the cash to buy a home outright or frankly, even for a downpayment. And I don’t have the skills, time, or energy, to fix up a fixer-upper. My family hovers around the poverty line, my wife has serious back issues that prevent her from doing a lot of manual labor, we both work, and we have a one year old. For us, the dream is just a decent place to live, that we can afford, where we can feel good about raising our child. Our last rental was not that, our new one is. We’re extremely happy with that, which is not something that I think a lot of middle class people can wrap their heads around.

When we were discussing renting this house with the wonderful people who own it, we mentioned being sick of moving around. We mentioned wanting to live in a neighborhood we could maybe put down roots in. We mentioned wanting some stability for our kid. One of the questions they asked us, kind of in response to that, was whether or not we would be happy in a rental, or would be looking to buy as soon as possible, as part of that “putting down roots” idea. It was difficult not to laugh.

***

“Did you guys buy a house over there?” acquaintances ask me excitedly when I tell them which neighborhood we’ve moved to. When I say no, we’re renting, I catch a brief moment of confusion cross their faces. Their excitement evaporates, and instead of congratulating us on this next chapter of our lives, they say “Oh… ok.”

Temporarily Going Dark

Hello, beautiful and wonderful readers! I hope the day finds you well. I’m here to give you some news about life in my tiny corner of the world.

Namely, we’re moving again.

Which, I probably don’t have to tell you (especially those of you who are parents) is an utterly overwhelming proposition. The new space is lovely and I think will be a wonderful home for us, possibly better than we’ve had in a very long time, but that doesn’t make this easy. We have less than a month to pack up our entire little lives again for the third time since W was born, and the wifespouse and I are both working a ton and W is an active and healthy eleven month old child AKA HE IS INTO EVERYTHING. To make matters more complicated, we’ve basically been forced to break our lease at our current place (something I never ever thought I would do because I’m a “if you say you’re going to do something, do it, kind of girl) so things are super weird and overwhelming. At the same time as all of that, W is turning one, which is exciting and amazing and incredible and I have somehow decided to throw him a birthday party even though I have no time at all. And even though I’m thrilled to watch my baby grow, it turns out that the anniversary of his birth is also the anniversary of that time I was in labor for a week and it’s really aggravating my PTSD making even baseline functioning harder.

Which is a problem, because as noted above, I need to do much more than baseline function right now.

What I’m telling you, with all of those messy personal details, is that I won’t be blogging for the next month unless I have something terribly urgent to share. I hate it, I have a backlog of ideas for this space, but it has to happen. I’ve done the math, and the math says that something has to come off my weekly to-do list. It can’t be work (capitalism will not allow for it) and it can’t be changing diapers, so it’s gotta be this.

I’m giving everyone a heads up so that you know what to expect, and so that you don’t think that I’ve abandoned ship or moved to greener pastures (or whatever other metaphor makes more sense, I’m tired). This is a short and necessary hiatus. Think of it like a maternity leave!

I’ll see you all on June 1oth. And I’ll miss you.

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Just The Three Of Us; Post Nuclear In The Single Family Home

Hello, I am an idealist. I love dreaming of what a better world might be. I love pushing myself and my loved ones to get closer to attaining it. The thing about being an idealist though, is that it is literally impossible to live up to one’s own ideals all the time. There is failure. There is the unexpected. There is reassessment.

Like ideally, the baby would wear cloth diapers 90% of the time. In the real world though? My wife and I are notorious for getting behind on laundry, and the kid really actually prefers disposables. A little part of me dies when I think of the tiny consumerist I’m raising, and even more so when I take the bus to the big box store to buy the cheap diapers that won’t give him a rash. But I do it. He’s wearing cloth diapers today, and I could lie to you, I could say it’s because my idealism has won out and I want to be a Better Person.

But no bullshit? It’s because we just payed rent and we’re out of money.

***

Back in September, the housing collective we were a part of broke up.

It’s a complicated story that isn’t all mine to tell, but suffice to say, it wasn’t really working for anyone anymore, not the way it should have. There were more reasons to go than to stay, and so we did the math, and we went.

We went, with the intention of finding an inexpensive rental, but we kept getting turned down.

So we ended up stay at another, older, more established, housing collective for a month or so. Some things about that experience were amazing and life affirming. Some things about it reminded me of why chosen family is so important to me and why I love community and what I want my kid to grow up around. And some things about it were hard as hell.

And now, today, we are on our own. Me, my wife, our child, and our cats, we have a tiny apartment that I am falling in love with. It’s just the three of us (or just the six of us, really) and we are settling into our new place and putting things just how we like them. It’s predictable. It’s comfortable. I’m an idealist. I believe in collectivism. But if I’m going to be really really brutally honest with you, (yes I am,) my family probably won’t live collectively again for a very long time, if ever. And I’m mostly happy and relieved about that fact.

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***

The nuclear family was invented with the rise of wage labor and capitalism as we know it today. The modern nuclear family (sometimes called “the traditional family” in politics, mostly by people who think it’s the bestest) follows a very specific format and is a means to a specific ends. It is monogamous. Two parents who are legally married to one and other and coparent their biological offspring. It is romantic. Two parents who are supposed to be in love, and stay in love. It is heterosexual and cisnormative. One masculine, male bodied parent, and one feminine, female bodied parent. It is patriarchal. The husband and father is the head of the household, and the wife and children must ultimately defer to him. It is capitalistic. The husband and father works for wages outside of the home to provide a livelihood for the family, he derives his self-worth from this work, and ultimately his status over his wife is reinforced by his ability to bring in an income to be exchanged for goods and services.

Basically, it’s the 1950s.

These days, I see a lot of people tweaking this recipe for familial bliss just a tiny bit, while never criticizing it’s core. Ok, so maybe sometimes the wife works outside of the home a little, but for less money than her husband! Ok, maybe one parent has children from a previous marriage, but we’ll blend it as well as we can (a la Brady Bunch) to make it look normal!

And, ok, maybe every once in awhile the two parents are actually of the same gender. But we’re just like you we swear it! All we want is the single family home, the white picket fence, the dog, the 2.5 kids. Never mind the fact we’re both wearing dresses. We’re exactly like you!

***

So as you may have gathered, the name for this blog came from my reaction to, and rejection of, those ridiculous standards. If you are in a heterosexual married couple raising children with a patriarchal power structure, I may like you a great deal, but with respect, I’m actually nothing like you. I hate being lumped in with that stuff, and I strive, daily, to question those norms within myself, and to make my rejection of them apparent on the outside.

And when I started this blog, part of that, part of trying to live my ideals, was choosing to live collectively with chosen family. And now, at least for the time being, that part of my life is over.

***

So how do you live and demonstrate the post nuclear lifestyle while living in a single family home with your partner and child? No seriously, I’m asking you. I have some ideas. I’m working on it. But I don’t have all the answers. I still feel confused about it, and I’m nervous about writing about an issue I still have mixed feelings about, but I’m doing it anyways because I think it’s important. Here are some of the ways I think my family is doing a good job of resisting the pull towards nuclear normalcy:

  1. Despite the fact that our family only contains two people capable of speech and taking an active role in decision making, we are making our decisions by consensus. We have Family Meetings, where we bring up family needs, assign responsibilities, and what have you. This is important because it stops us from defaulting to one person making all the decisions, and it keeps us checking in about our roles and how comfortable we are with them, rather than assuming. When our child is older, he will be able to take part in some of our decision making (as is age appropriate) rather than being treated like a piece of property with no agency.
  2. We are not actually monogamous y’all, and we never have been.
  3. We live in capitalism because we have to, but we work our asses off not to bring it into our relationship. That means that my wife is not a more valuable member of our family because she works outside of the home more than I do and brings in more income. Our finances are communal, they are not controlled by the person who exchanged labor for them.
  4. We’re not an independent unit, and we don’t seek to be. This is something I used to really struggle with, I had inherited this pride in independence, and that made it really hard (nearly impossible) to ask for help when I needed it. Even a year ago, I would have preferred to take care of all problems within the family unit and not involve “outsiders.” But that’s stupid. These days I am not afraid lean on my friends, family, chosen family, and community, and I hope they can feel the same way about me. When we need help we speak up. We live interdependently with the people we love.

But it’s still a struggle, and there are just as many ways that I feel like we’re failing. We don’t see our chosen family nearly enough now that we live on our own, and our child views adults other than his two parents as suspiciously “other.” It’s hard. We were raised in nuclear style families, our extended families are constellations of nuclear families, and it is so easy to fall into those familiar patterns. It’s easy to skip meetings. It’s easy to talk about “my money” and “her money.” It’s easy to imagine that either of us is an authority figure.

***

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The only answer I have today, is to live as deep as I can within that struggle. I try to think about the ideals I seek to emulate, and the ideals I reject, and to mix that with my day to day life and physical needs. I stop myself from saying “well it’s my money, I earned it!” I remind myself why meetings are important. I call up a friend. I put my kid in cloth diapers, some days.

And that’s all I can manage right now.

It’s not anti nuclear, after all. It’s post nuclear.

The Middle Class and The Broken System

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t been blogging here as frequently again lately. It’s a goal of mine to make my posts more regular, but our family has been going through some huge changes lately and my time and attention has been needed for the home front. Actually that is a very apt way to put it, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Way back in the beautiful days of September, a facebook friend posted this calculator from the PEW Research Center. This is all about one of American politicians’ favorite topics, the middle class.

On a global scale, just 13% of the world’s population could be considered middle income in 2011, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data. Most people in the world were either low income (56%) or poor (15%), while only 9% lived at an upper-middle-income standard and 7% were high income.

See where you fit.

You can try the calculator for yourself.

I tried it, and the result came back that my family is indeed part of the small global middle class. It surprised me since in American terms we definitely are not considered middle class, but then I thought about the difference between the global economy and the American economy and it made enough sense. America is an incredibly wealthy country, after all.

Then, two days later, we got turned down for an apartment.

We needed to move, our lease was up, our collective was parting ways. We had been looking for some time, but all of our other leads had dried up. We were running out of time. This place was not our first choice, it wasn’t even our second choice. This was a one bedroom apartment in Detroit, not in one of the newly developing neighborhoods. It was a nice long (and unreliable) but ride from our places of employment. And they turned us down.

They turned us down for lack of income.

So we hastily made plans to stay with friends. We dealt with it. We kept looking. It’s been a month and a half, and we move into our new apartment on Sunday.

But what I want to focus on is that we gave them the exact same numbers I put in the calculator above. So the same income that makes a family of three middle class, globally speaking, makes that same family unable to qualify for many one bedroom apartments in Detroit, a city that I keep hearing New Yorkers are moving to because it is cheap.

If that’s not a failure of capitalism, I don’t know what is.