Othermother, by @Finn_Mackay

Cross-posted from: Finn Mackay
Originally published: 21.11.17

I am what is called an “other mother”, a same-sex parent to my son who I did not carry. I make up for this by now carrying him everywhere, to the point I have contracted a mysterious ailment known colloquially as ‘mother’s thumb’, or more formally De Quervain’s Tendonitis. After a search online an archived article from The Daily Hateinformed me that this condition is now rife because mothers aren’t as strong as they used to be back in the good old days when we had outdoor toilets and had to wash our family’s clothes in a communal scullery. Sedentary roles behind computers now make us unequipped for the physicality of child rearing, lifting and carrying. I started to notice all the mothers at groups wearing little wrist and thumb splints, pressure wraps and bandages. In the end I got one for myself; I’m wearing it now. …

I realised early on in this parenting journey that my suspicions and concerns about myself and my capabilities were well-founded. Indeed, as I had feared, I am much more of a cat person than a baby person. I just do not have the patience and passion required. I did not lack self-esteem or a sense of life’s purpose before-baby, and I do not find either of those enriched or awakened post-baby. Perhaps they have even declined, as the academic and political activities that used to fill my spare time have had to fall by the wayside in favour of sleeping and doing the laundry. I cannot get excited about latchkey boards and I spend too much time wondering why Pando in Bing appears to have no parents and no trousers. Walking into draughty halls full of waddling toddlers makes me want to poke my own eyes out with a plastic safety spoon, and this overwhelming feeling is not dissipated by the promise of a cup of a tea and a bourbon at half time.

To add to my woes, as an Othermother at these groups, fellow parents are often unsure as to who or what I am. It probably doesn’t help that I look much younger than I actually am and don’t fit gendered codes about what a woman should look like, never having identified or presented as feminine. Unlike some lesbian parents, I’ve never had to have those awkward conversations about bleeding nipples or night feeds and pretend I know what women are talking about as they assume biological motherhood onto everyone within sniffing distance of a nappy. Usually I end up on the margins of these groups, and I don’t think this is due to homophobia as such, at least not with any intent or consciousness. I think it is a widespread and common response to gender difference. That response is to freeze, and in that frozen stasis is how we remain as we stiffly navigate what are really quite intimate moments, sitting in circles, sharing a mat or beanbag for various baby activities, singing together. This means that I am not questioned about our son in the same way that Rosie is. …

 

First published at We are Family Magazine and the full text is available here. 

Finn Mackay: My area of research is contemporary British feminism and feminist activism. I am particularly interested in changes in this social movement from the Second Wave of the 1970s and 1980s to the present day. I have been involved in feminist activism for twenty years, founding the London Feminist Network and revived London Reclaim the Night in 2004. Prior to returning to academia, my professional background was in education and youth work, where I worked on domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying. I am still proudly involved with the women’s sector, conducting work and research for organisations such as Women’s Aid. I am passionate about all social justice issues and equalities. Other research interests include gender studies, animal rights, lesbian and gay studies and particularly gender identity, definitions, expressions and borders within the LGBT community.  @Finn_Mackay

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