Strong woman, soft mother

My wife is a do-er. She’s handy with tools, she can carry heavy things, and she always gets asked to help when there’s a building project or when someone’s moving. I used to be that person, too. When my wife and I moved in together we enlisted no help – together, we moved in every piece of furniture, every appliance, every box, by ourselves. We also fixed up our home together. I did as much sanding and painting as she did.

But when we became parents, I ended up taking on (or being given) the role of default parent. I love the role because it means that I’ve been the first person Avery asks for and comes to, but the problem with that role is that it supercedes the roles of helper-outer, heavy-lifter, project-maker, etc. I no longer get asked to help with things because it’s assumed that I’m busy with Avery. Or it’s assumed that I’m too “soft” because I’m a mom (which is the most ass backwards logic ever).

Is this just happening to me, or do other primary caregivers experience this shift in how people see them as well?

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Am I going to be assaulted?

I’ve never been raped. In my years as a hetero- and then bisexual identifying person (in my teens and early 20s), I was sexually harassed and sexually coerced by men numerous times, and long before I knew what consent was I definitely had sex without really wanting to, for various psychological reasons. But I have never experienced the horror of having a man enter my space and force himself on me explicitly against my will.

And yet, the fear of having this happen is at the forefront of my thoughts when I interact alone with any man I do not know intimately well.

Someone I used to volunteer with – a white man in his 50’s – came to my house the other day just to catch up. He requested a get-together at my house so he could see my chickens. He’s a nice person and I was happy to catch up and show him our set-up. But we were going to be meeting at my house on a day when I was going to be alone. My wife and daughter were out of town. On the days leading up to our get-together, a dark thought started running through my mind:

What if he plans to assault me?

I had horrible images in my head. As the hours to our visit ticked closer, I became scared. But I also felt ridiculous for being scared. I’d worked on odd projects and had board meetings with this person for a year prior. We weren’t close, but he was really nice and easy to get along with. While I KNEW he wasn’t actually a threat, I also KNEW the statistics around sexual assault occurring mostly in the victim’s home, by people the victim knows.

Our visit came and went, and I was unharmed. He was a perfectly pleasant human who legitimately wanted to catch up and learn about my chickens. And I felt horrible for fearing the worst of him.

But that’s what it’s like to be a woman.

Sexy nursing bras – are they mutually exclusive concepts? 

When I was pregnant, I bought two nursing bras. One grey bravado with moderate support that unclips, and one la leche league sports bra style that was recommended as a nighttime nursing bra (also in drab grey). I loved both of these bras. They functioned perfectly for what they were – a garment to hold in my boobs for easy release when needed to feed a baby. 

I wore these two bras for 10 months straight. My wife (ever patient and polite about it) made a comment one day about how I needed some new bras – something not so drab, to spoil myself a little. So I bought myself a bright blue bravado unclipping style. It’s the same style as my previous bra. Nice and high, wide straps, supportive as hell… But just as the other two, so not sexy. My wife tried to be supportive, but the fact is, she was saddened by how I’d let my sexy side go completely. We’ve had some long, deep conversations about this. 

Here’s my deepest and innermost confession about my breasts after becoming a mom. When I had the baby, I lost my sex drive. I didn’t have a huge one before the baby, but as a new mom, it was totally and utterly gone. Even as my body recovered (which took about 6 months) and I started to feel like myself again, I remained first and foremost a nursing mom. My baby is and always has been a big nurser. I nurse in front of family (my poor dad and father in law don’t quite know where to look), at restaurants while I’m eating my dinner, in the car on the side of the road, in the park on the grass… I need to be able to whip ’em out for a famished baby at a moment’s notice, so it’s really hard to see my breasts as something sexual. When I need to breastfeed in front of family, the last thing I want is to feel like I’m revealing sexualized breasts to everyone.  But after a while… after a year in the same drab nursing bras with cotton pads stuffed in there to absorb milky leaks, sometimes partners will start to mourn the loss of sexualized breasts. I think this is totally fair. So is not wanting your breasts to be sexual things while breastfeeding your offspring. It’s a tough subject. 

But, as it has been almost a year, I’m slowly (painfully slowly) starting to put some effort into my appearance again. I’m starting to remember that I enjoyed looking stylish, and wearing things that made me feel sexy. So after a particularly emotional conversation with my wife, I bought two new bras from motherhood maternity as a surprise for my wife. One is a simple black bra that unclips, but it has thin straps, an underwire, and it’s low enough to not be seen under a low cut shirt. The other is a black lace bralette style. It just pulls down when I need to feed the baby, so there is really nothing “breastfeeder” about it. 

I was very hesitant about buying something like this because I was afraid of feeling yucky nursing my baby in them. I was afraid that thoughts of “these breasts are sexual things” would creep into my head while my baby was nursing. So far that hasn’t been an issue. The only challenge that remains in perfectly compartmentalizing the functional from the sexual breast is that I still leak… I need be to completely emptied and then remove the nursing pads before I can turn on the sexual switch. 

But all in all, the new bras are working their magic.