the flu & feminist parenting

i got the custom insert for my sewing cabinet last week. it’s maybe 1/16″ off of being a perfect fit, but i think it’s good enough. i was looking forward to taking some time this weekend to build a platform for my sewing machine & get the new sewing area set up. jared even moved out the jogging stroller & swept the no man’s land that laid beneath. but i started getting a scratchy throat on friday during ramona’s nap. i hoped i was just a bit dehydrated, but i woke up on saturday fully sick. & within a few hours, it became clear that i actually had the flu & not just a bad cold.

so, i was sick in bed all weekend & most of yesterday too. if i didn’t have a toddler, i’d probably still be in bed. i’m operating at maybe 55% today. but toddlers roll around on the floor screaming for oranges no matter how shitty you feel, & jared has deadlines this week, so i told him to go to school & i’d just do my best with ramona.

we didn’t get to work on the sewing area at all. jared wrangled ramona all weekend, while also keeping me stocked up on tylenol & chicken broth. so we still have a cutting table taking up valuable real estate in the kitchen.

such a bummer, because it was well over 60 degrees all weekend. i’d been thinking that we could build the machine platform & maybe i’d even have time to paint the new furniture during ramona’s naps or something, since it was warm enough to do so outside & let everything dry in the sun. the cutting table is plain, unfinished wood, so it would be easy to paint, but the sewing cabinet is varnished or something. i could strip it, but i’ve never done that before & it seems like a pain in the ass. i read up a bit on chalk paint or plaster paint. do any of you know anything about this stuff? supposedly you can paint it over any surface, without having to do any sanding or stripping or priming or anything. the problem is that nearly every example i have seen online of the finished product is made to look “distressed”–ie, the paint is rubbed off on places, like you just got the furniture out of an old barn or something. to be honest, i do not care for that look. i like saturated colors & full color coverage. is it possible to get an effect like that with chalk paint over a varnished surface?

this is probably a project best left until spring when it’s consistently warm & i can work outside anyway.

i’ve kind of been putting off jumping into any new sewing projects because i keep thinking my new sewing area is going to be ready to roll soon, but it’s taking longer than i anticipated. jared said we can probably find an evening this week to get the supplies we need to build the platform, so maybe it’ll be done this weekend? but i’m still sick, & jared has a bad cough, & ramona has the worst diaper rash of her life. not sure what’s going on there. this may be TMI, but i’m kind of proud of myself, so i will share: i’m treating her with breast milk because i still produce it even though i weaned her eleven months ago. i mean, it’s pretty weird. am i just going to lactate for the rest of my life? but it’s also kind of like a cool superpower. (okay, that was totally TMI. i’m not thinking clearly because i’m still feverish.)

while i was sick in bed, i read a few books, including this book called redefining girly, about trying to raise a daughter without allowing the patriarchy to stifle her spirit (or something). the author talked a lot about how when she would point out the gender discrepancies in baby clothes & stuff (like pink bibs that say “born to $hop”), her friends would scoff & call her a “feminazi”. um…really? you need new friends, lady. when i shared this with jared, he said, “if your friends are calling you any kind of nazi… [*serious dad look*] they’re not your friends.”

she also wrote about putting together her daughter’s nursery (which, ugh) & how she had it all finished just how she wanted except for a cute light switch cover (double ugh). so she & her husband went shopping for one, but all the “girl” designs were princesses & pink, & all the “boy” designs were animals & spaceships & stuff. she was all outraged & her husband was like, “so what? just pick one you like, regardless of if it’s ‘for’ a boy or a girl. or get a plain one & decorate it yourself if you don’t see any you like.” two perfectly reasonable suggestions, but she was like, “there should be more choice!” which, okay, fair enough. so her solution was to go home & start a business that sells gender-neutral baby stuff. i mean, mostly just t-shirts. with “empowering” slogans on them.

i don’t know. it was just kind of disappointing. like she’s thinking, “how can i make a buck off this problem?” i don’t at all disagree that the gendering of small children has gotten completely out of hand. but this also isn’t something i just noticed once i had a kid, & it’s not something i have found all that difficult to handle thus far in my parenting life. keeping all licensed characters & brands out of the house helps immensely. we still don’t expose ramona to any TV or mainstream media, so she doesn’t beg for any of that stuff or recognize it when she sees it. (there’s a mickey mouse doll at the library & she is convinced that it’s a panda bear.) we dress her pretty much exclusively in hand-me-downs & stuff from the thrift store. she wears some girly stuff, like pink pants with bows on the ankles, pink sweaters, dresses with flowers on them. & she wears boyish stuff, like button-down oxfords & argyle sweater vests. *shrug* she likes baby dolls & fire trucks. i don’t know. maybe all of this will get harder as she gets older. maybe it would be harder if we had another kid in the mix. maybe i’m just not finding it as challenging because i am bringing twenty years of prior militant feminism to my parenting. none of this crap is new or surprising to me, none of it is stuff i hadn’t already thought about long before i had a kid.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

4 thoughts on “the flu & feminist parenting

  1. I hope you’re feeling better! Parenting when sick is so freaking tough.

    I feel like I have to be extra vigilant about gender norms, because we’re just bombarded with this shit constantly. Maybe Lawrence is more enlightened than Malden? Lilian wasn’t even *talking* yet and the nurse’s aide at our doctors office asked her if she liked princesses, and would she like a princess sticker? I said “she likes dinosaurs too!” and she gave me a look like “ok, you’re one of those moms.” Damn straight, I’m one of those moms. The world just shoves princesses at us all the time. You have to be that mom or it’s just going to be 24/7 princesses. I threw out the copy of the Princess and the Pea that a neighbor gave us, because I don’t want her thinking that being high-maintenance is some sort of desirable quality.

    We do watch My Little Pony and Frozen, but I’m ok with the level of princesses in our lives right now.

    1. lawrence is pretty crunchy, but there’s plenty of weird gender stuff here. plenty of little girls running around in tiaras & tutus, & little boys in t-shirts with footballs on them. every halloween, half the little girls dress up like princesses, & the other half are KU cheerleaders. i think you have to be vigilant about this stuff (if you care about it) no matter where you live. she’s been given the occasional princess sticker at the doctor’s office. i have just conveniently “forgotten” it while she was busy being mesmerized by the tongue depresser.

      i’m still sick, & now ramona is sick too. she has a bad cough, so i gave her a spoonful of honey to soothe her throat (which did help her cough a lot, to be fair) & it turned her into a crazed honey monster.

      i’m just glad the nap is on the horizon, jared will be home within an hour after she gets up, & then he can wrangle her while i rest. although he also seemed to be getting sick at the beginning of the week, he has miraculously healed, which he displayed by jumping into the air & clicking his heels together before he left for school.

  2. I totally agree on the licensed character thing. What do you do about gifts? Donate them? I have a Disney princess nightgown from Xmas just sitting there. My husband thinks that at 2, she doesn’t notice or care.

    1. thus far we haven’t really gotten much that is against our sensibilities. we’ve made our views clear to the people most likely to give us gifts, & since none of it is really surprising to people who knows us, they’ve all pretty much been on board. the few minor exceptions have been things like toys from the doctor–little things from people who don’t know us. i just smile politely & spirit it out of ramona’s life ASAP. throw it out, donate it, whatever. it’s true that maybe they don’t really notice or care about the branded characters they’re being exposed to so young…but then again, ramona has favorite book characters, & she recognizes them when she sees them in other books (like the pigeon, by mo willems, or maisy the weird giant rat who keeps a cat as a pet for some reason). so who’s to say she wouldn’t develop a similar relationship with cinderella or dora the explorer or a my little pony if given the chance? & there will come a time when she definitely notices or cares. i don’t want to start the battle then. better to lay a foundation in advance, i think.

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