Otherness

Other (adj)
a. Being the remaining one of two or more
b. Different from that or those implied or specified
c. Of a different character or quality
d. Of a different time or era either future or past
e. Additional; extra
f. Opposite or contrary; reverse

During a discussion about the mounting pile of clothes, blankets, and toys on our hope chest, my husband Mark dropped the ‘H’ word – housewife. He wasn’t degrading me, but rather wondering, seemingly innocently, why I couldn’t pick up more during the day, since I was a housewife, after all.

There’s something about that word that makes me think of June Cleaver and elaborate pot roast dinners. And lack of education or opportunity. And sparkling kitchen floors.

My floors are covered in roasted turnips and cat food that Buddy flings around when he eats, so happy he is that I’ve remembered to feed him. I’m educated, and I feel as though I have a bright, limitless future ahead of me. So really, the only thing that screams housewife is my mean pot roast dinner.

But still, I was indignant. The power of language – especially a term laden with cultural baggage and social misunderstanding – can hardly be underestimated. I didn’t want to be considered “just a housewife.” I know Mark meant no harm. Plus, he was right. I do have plenty of time to strap Anabella in the Ergo for a few minutes and do a power clean.

It was the label that I didn’t like. I didn’t want to be boxed into a role. It occurred to me that parenting is much the same way. You got an epidural? Forget being consider “natural.” You wore your baby in a carrier til they were two? You’re squelching their independence. Let your baby cry-it-out? Cruel, mean-hearted. You must not love your baby.

Instead of encouraging each other and trying our best to listen and empathize and avoid quick judgment, the American default has generally been to label, and throw the baby out with the bathwater. Admittedly, we do have preferences, which we believe are backed by both science and experience, here at The Other Baby Book. But we want our book and our Facebook community to be welcoming, gentle, and respectful of individual freedom of choice.

The “Other” part of our book is just that – other options for birth than you may be familiar with, other ways to respond to your baby’s cries, and other ways to care for your baby’s needs than what your traditional parenting magazine may provide. We believe that education is empowering. We want you to know the “other” side, before you make decisions. Take what you like – though we hope it will be everything! – and don’t worry about the rest. We won’t label you.

Another way to say it is what I hope we will convey in our book: be gentle. Most parenting books talk about being gentle with your new babies. Green parenting books discuss being gentle on the earth. I encourage you to also be gentle with yourself.

Even if you are a housewife.


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One thought on “Otherness”

  1. If someone called me a housewife, gentle is not the word I’d use to describe my reaction. Yes, house. Yes, wife. But not sedentary. 60 hours? Ha! You work around the clock, physical, exhausting, emotional work. Work at home doesn’t even begin to describe it. You are superwoman, and don’t forget it.

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