Last night, Ricky and I started watching a show called “Workin’ Moms.” It’s a delightfully honest sitcom about, you guessed it, mothers who work. It’s a goddamn work of art, actually. I’ve seen only two episodes, and during both of them I have laughed out loud many times and cried at least once per episode. It goes deep in a way that most pieces of film are afraid to. Deep in a way that, apparently, only women will understand.
One of the mothers in the show is struggling to produce enough milk via breastfeeding. At the end of an episode, after a long, difficult day of “having it all” (read: working in an office full of men and getting mocked and dismissed for being a MOTHER), her baby fights feeding, but does eventually give in and latches. Her entire body relaxes as she lets out whimpering versions of “thank god.”
The credits rolled, along with the tears down my face. I looked over at my progressive, amazing, understanding husband and said, “do you see? Do you see how much more we have to deal with? Do you see how much harder women have to work just to live a life?” And I was met with a blank stare. Nothing. No words. No emotion. He just stared at me.
To his credit, we were watching a sitcom on Netflix when his wife turned around with a face full of tears, asking him to explain himself and the patriarchy. Maybe he was just stunned. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t even all that surprised. Women have been alone in this fight forever.
I guess deep down, I’ve known that he doesn’t get it, or I wouldn’t have asked those hypothetical questions of him. We are approaching the years in which we’ll grow our family, and it brings a lot of questions to the surface. Problems that are easy to delay solving now, but won’t be for much longer.
These questions are easy to ignore because my husband IS one of the good ones. He does basically all of our dishes. He does laundry, including my Thinx. He takes care of the cats, the bills, yard, the cars. He understands what emotional labor is, and often verbally acknowledges how much of it he sees me doing. He doesn’t talk over me. He doesn’t talk down to me. As men go, he’s pretty great.
So I forget sometimes, that although he IS incredible, he’s still not a woman.
He still doesn’t understand why I prefer to take the elevator in a parking garage.
He doesn’t know that in the winter, I ran home from my job that was 30 yards away, door to door, in the evenings.
He doesn’t understand how terrifying it is to have an irregular period as a 32 year old woman who wants children.
He doesn’t understand why I’m in such a damn hurry to buy a house.
He doesn’t see other men not making eye contact with me in a group conversation.
He doesn’t know why I hate it when he says he hasn’t noticed the several pounds I’ve put on.
He doesn’t understand why it’s such a goddamn relief that I’ve decided not to breastfeed.
He doesn’t mind, but doesn’t know the power I’ve found in keeping my last name for now.
He doesn’t feel the weight of the government using women’s bodies as pawns in a power game.
He doesn’t, and won’t truly understand any of this. Because he can’t. We can have all of the conversations in the world. He can see me screaming, crying, heartbroken, livid, but he’ll never really know any of it.
I can tell him and teach him how to support women, but the fact is, this will always be a space between my husband and me. This will be something we never have in common.
Understanding life as a woman.