Monday, 17 March 2014

Home Ed As Womb Envy

In the past I've spent quite some time contemplating the oddity of the discrepancy between our own life as home edders and those of other families we know.  Whereas Liz and I tended to divide the time and activities equally between us in terms of direct interaction with the children, most other families who were around at the time seemed not to.  They were usually either single parents with interaction chiefly between the mother and children or more vaguely "nuclear" families where the mother interacted more often than the father.  I'm not judging here, just saying it was different and I know it's a generalisation.

It's very easy to use hindsight to mess with the reality of one's memories and thereby redefine one's identity, so I'm cautious in doing what I'm about to do, but I now think there may be an explanation for the discrepancy connected to gender presentation.

Thanks to Janice Raymond, I have children.  Her book convinced me to keep my gonads where they were rather than copy the Wasp Factory's plot in that respect (IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS, and yes I know but that'd be a spoiler).  Consequently, that combined with my GID-based feeling of certainty that I was sterile resulted in the wonderful blessings that are my daughter and son, the most fantastic, marvellous people that have ever happened to me.  In no way do I ever want to detract from how precious and awesome they are, and how grateful I am to God/the Universe/random chance and of course the woman who had herself cut open TWICE so they could be brought into the world without killing her and them, for me .  I cannot emphasise that strongly enough.

However...

These children emerged from someone else's body, having grown inside her for nine months.  I contributed almost nothing to the physical process of bringing them into existence.  After their birth, she nursed them and although I tried to breastfeed one of them I didn't get beyond colostrum and regretfully decided that since the other body was biologically set up to do that, it was safer to hand that over rather than end up with a baby on formula.  I don't judge anyone else's decisions in that respect - that's where we were at the time.

I'm not going to describe everything I did to try to make up for that gnawing hole inside me which is the absence of a womb, and I know the presence or absence of such an organ isn't what determines one's gender.  Of course.  Nor am I going to be all self-centred and focus on some fantasy ideal pregnancy and breastfeeding scenario as opposed to the wonderful fact that these unique and priceless human beings now exist in the world.  All of those things are  a given.  They were given birth to - it's a gift, not a self-indulgent life experience like climbing Everest or walking to the South Pole.  Therefore maybe it should always be impossible for someone born with a male body to bear children - how are you going to get from that to a healthy, happy child being brought into the world without a degree of heartbreak, miscarriage and stillbirth which doesn't bear contemplating?

Nonetheless, my selfishness that made me cry "why did someone else bear my children" did end up being discussed at great length in counselling sessions in the 1990s which meant of course that their mother was taking care of them rather than me at the time, self-indulgent parasitic git that I was.  Enough of this self-flagellation.

Anyway, although of course I didn't carry the children inside me when they were of negative age unless you count my contribution to their nuclear DNA, and although I didn't breastfeed them much and when I did it all went pear-shaped, I couldn't get the child to latch on and so forth - complete pig's ear I made of that - I did accomplish the much less arduous task of wearing them, kiss-feeding them, using my finger as a dummy and various other things.  This is where the question of our unusual turn-taking arises with respect to the parenting, extended into home education, as it's often known.  I think I felt the need on some level to make up for not having done any of the things I thought I should've done by parenting them as thoroughly as possible later on.  I of course stand by my conviction that home ed is the right choice for the majority of families, by which I mean the option often described as such rather than my usual "everyone home educates" position, but I also think that in my case one of the motivations for doing it was the endlessly unsatisfiable yearning to have been pregnant with my own children, and that was a major factor in my decision to offer them the alternatives of going to school or not and to change that at any time, and in my relief that they never chose the first option.  That, I think, is the main reason why we divided tasks in the way we did and it's probably also a major reason why we're now still so poor.

So, the reason I as a father home edded my kids is womb envy, basically, but it was still the right decision for their sake.