All at Once

all at oncevintagemusemodernviews

It seems as if life finds it interesting to string you along without any change, excitement, or alteration month after month, and then enjoys pouring out its bucket of love or turmoil to see how you handle the windfall, adjust to the magnificent or magnanimous changes, or squirm and squeal with the overwhelming-ness of all of it, all at once. February was that kind of month. It all come pouring down, all of it wonderful, wonderful things, but all of it dished out in one big lump and the process of combing through it, making sense of it, and making a plan for it is entirely and utterly overwhelming:

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On the second weekend of February, what I believed to be a random day trip to the sea turned into an engagement to the most wonderful man I have ever met and someone who has been my best friend since we met a little over four years ago. I can’t really express how excited I am to be with him and how surprised I am everyday that I can be loved by another human being who is not obligated by family ties to love me as much as he does. It was not nearly as glamorous as those things always are in your head. I brought my camera on the trip, thinking I was going to capture a few pictures of our day and never imagining what that trip would entail. Unfortunately, I didn’t happen to remember to put my memory card in. In the end though, I’m rather glad for that ironic slip of the memory because seconds after he asked, I sobbed, and the ring got slipped onto my finger, the strangest most annoying mist-rain got both of us drenched and completely un-fit for any capture of a lasting image. My hair turned into rivulets that quickly washed away whatever make-up remained from my proposal tears, and so the only thing to mark the moment is a really horrible phone-camera image and the memory in my head which still makes me laugh just thinking about it. None of that really matters though because to me marriage is the most incredible thing. The fact that two completely different people from two entirely separate lives and families could meet and discover that they love each other, and that that love is actually returned by the other person blows my mind. I am ready for it…I think…but at the same time as more and more people hear about the engagement and we discuss it, it feels entirely too grown up. If only the rest of life could pause while I wrap my head around this one I think I would be ok but that’s not how all at once works. No, no. All. At. Once. All of it. Everything happening RIGHT NOW.

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In the midst of all of this, I am also finishing up the second quarter of my post-grad program. Whew. If going back to school was rough, it’s even more rough now. Typing papers and lesson-plans soon turn into fingers creeping up to my bookmarked “wedding” folder and greedily perusing my favorite wedding blogs (here and here). Next week is finals week though, and the promise of a spring break week after that with evenings free to plan and ponder is about the most wonderful thing I can think of at this moment.

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Nothing could really top that second weekend of February, but discovering my featured article in Apronology on the shelves at Barnes and Noble was none the less quite a wonderful additional February blessing. It was a triumphant discovery and I’m still so proud and thankful for it. If you still haven’t checked it out, go to Barnes and Noble!

Are you beginning to understand all at once? I’m seriously worried about March and every other month of 2014 because when February pulls out all of its tricks, my goodness…Despite how overwhelming it is though, how some days I do squeal and squirm and would rather curl up deeper into my bed and have someone else call me when everything is planned out and I can emerge safely, I am so excited for every magnificent and magnanimous thing that is being revealed and the abundance of blessings this year has begun with.

-<3 A. 

2014 “Unword” of the Year

unword of the year

I can’t believe it’s already coming to the end of January. There’s Valentines reminders in every store already, have you noticed? gah. In the twenty-one days this year has been alive, it’s not quite been what I expected. School has piled on way, WAY more work than I anticipated, and my ambition to get it all done has been much, MUCH lower than I hoped. So, needless to say, I’ve been absent from my VMMV baby far more frequently than I imagined. sighhhhhhhhh. 

I know I already did my “word of the year,” but some lovely ladies on some equally as lovely blogs came up with the idea of doing an “unword.” That is, a word you want to “undo” out of your vocabulary (and your life) this year. For some reason, getting rid of something is way easier than resolving to gain something, so the unword wagon is something I jumped on pretty fast. My word? “Unconfidence.” It’s slightly deceiving because I am very confident, it is more confidence and surety in decisions though that I’m going to stop being unconfident about and start being…well, confident about. Unapologetic I suppose—there’s one “un-word” that shouldn’t be gotten rid of and that’s what I’ll be doing in 2014:

  1. Confident that the days I work, and work, and…work, won’t last forever.
  2. Confident that the things I am working for will actually, eventually happen.
  3. Confident that I can only do so much and then letting the rest go
  4. Confident that when I don’t have time to blog, I simply don’t have time and readers may come and readers may go and that’s just how it’s going to be
  5. Confident that the things I have to let slip aren’t going away, just being set aside for a little while
  6. Confident that what I am doing is plenty
  7. Confident about the time I set aside to spend with the people I love is time well spent
  8. Confident about not being the best all the time is still absolutely wonderful
  9. Confident that my time-frame isn’t everyone else’s, and their’s isn’t mine and that’s ok
  10. And, of course, confident that this year will have some wonderful days and some horrible ones and somewhere in the middle there will be created a very special new year.

What’s your unword for this year? What do you want to stop doing? What have you resolved against? Check out all the other unwords here for a few ideas if you’re stuck!

– <3 A. 

Reel Women: If a Man Answers: re-new your relationship

if a man answers

giambattista tweed dress | coral necklace | obi wrap belt | coral pump

There’s lots of new year resolutions to meet someone new, start dating, finally ask that person out, perhaps break up with this person and “find yourself.” But, there are hardly any resolutions to make a current relationship better. “If a Man Answers” is a one of Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin’s more obscure duos, but it honestly has the best plotline for a new year and a resolution to make a special someone even more special.

After a swift relationship, Sandra Dee’s character (Chantal) falls in love with and marries Bobby Darin’s character (Eugene), a photographer. Soon after the honeymoon wears off though, Darin’s character quickly moves his attention off his wife and onto his next beautiful photography model. When Chantal goes to her mother with her husband problems, her mum gives her a dog training book, telling her to use the tips in the book about training a dog on her husband. Though Chantal is slightly horrified, when she comes home to Eugene falling all over himself over a roomful of photography models, she begins to use the “tricks” in an attempt to transform him. After a few weeks, Eugene is a completely changed man: he’s attentive, willingly goes with her shopping, is romantic, and suddenly back to his old, devoted self.

Chantal quickly realizes however that her mother gave her the book not to train Eugene like a dog, but to train Chantal to treat him as well as she would a pet and transform her view of her marriage. Chantal began to intentionally seek out what Eugene’s needs were, she paid attention to his desires, went out of her way to make him comfortable, asked first where he wanted to go before dragging him to every errand on her list. Made his favorite dinner, greeted him with a smile, and welcomed every conversation they had together. Of course it’s not a Darin/Dee movie unless there is some mix-up to the plot–you’ll have to actually watch it to figure that one out–but even in the 1960’s they hit something right on the head: often we treat our pets better than we do our significant others and then we wonder why they aren’t drooling over our every word, longing to spend every moment with us, and jumping for joy when we walk through the door. Perhaps if we started treating them like our most beloved pup they may just figure out how much we really love them…try it, and see if this year your right now relationship doesn’t need to be switched out, re-newed, or rejected, perhaps it just needs both of you thinking less of yourself and more of the other person as the best dog you ever had.

– <3 A. 

Word of the Year: Forgiveness

word of the yearA lot of blogs are plotting out a “word of the year” for this brand-spanking new 2014 as a sort of banner-word to capture the vision and feel for what they want this new year to be, what they want their fresh blogs to exude, and their personal lives to showcase. Last year, my word of the year was patience and I have to say I don’t think I did very well at following my own advice, but that’s what a new year is all about I suppose, resolving to try again despite every former failing. This year, I don’t have a very popular word, but I think it fits very well into what my life is going to be like in 2014, so I’m going to give it another go: it’s forgiveness.

 I’ve been spending some of my Christmas vacation reading my favorite blogs and they all seem to be on the verge of launching big new projects, fresh ideas, and plans they’ve been idling for months. Seems logical for a new year: new plans, new goals, new ideas. But me? I’ve got nothin’ honestly. And that is why this year is going to be about forgiveness. Forgiveness I hope from all of my readers for when I vanish without an excuse and return without an apology, but most importantly forgiveness from myself to…myself. This year is going to be incredibly busy. Lots of big things are in the wings that last year I had to be patient about beginning but this year I actually have to accomplish and while it’s exciting, it’s also terrifying, exhausting, and creativity-numbing.

When I get on this space, I want to give you things from my heart so I’m making a new year resolution not to torture ideas out of myself, but to share things I find that I love along this new journey, to post projects I get a fancy for to distract me from real-life, and to share when I want to share instead of feeling obligated. It’s going to be tough. I really love this and still as a wee-baby blogger, everyone says to have frequency in your online presence, for a sporadic posting schedule won’t really gain a windfall of readers and may bore the ones you have, so deciding to sort of be a blog-slacker is scary. That’s why I need to forgive myself. This year I’m not going to be able to make everything work. Every part of my life will NOT be beautiful, in fact, I anticipate at least 3 out of the 5 major things in my life to be completely hideous for the larger part of this year. If it turns out better than expected, than jolly holly I’ll be happy, but I’m already forgiving myself for when it doesn’t. Last year I had quite the luxury of getting this blog off the ground, even if it only went up a few inches, but this year I have to put a few of my personal ambitions aside to complete real-life obligations that aren’t nearly so fun but completely necessary to you know—live. So, forgive me please that I can’t always put VMMV on top of my stack. I’m going to try and forgive myself as well and try to really believe that there is a season for everything and when some seasons go, it doesn’t mean they won’t come back, just that you have to soldier through summer to get back to cozy fall, and when winter grows bleak, spring is always around the corner.

– <3 A. 

 

For the New Year

vintage muse modern viewshappy new yearhappy new yearhappy new yearhappy new yearhappy new yearhappy new yearhappy new yearIn Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Jo and Meg are invited to a New Year’s Eve party and with “the united exertions of the entire [March] family,” the girls finally look elegant enough to go “even though Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable.” But of course, both girls are quick to remember that despite the tight shoes and the poky pins, they would “be elegant or die” before going to the party looking plain.

I took an unexpected hiatus this week from VMMV. I’ve been meaning to post these pictures since Monday, but a double butter-cream batch and three parties in just as many days means I haven’t had even a moment to get them up. My favorite little women had our annual Christmas party and it was, as usual, the most special of nights. Somehow we all grew up and got far, far too busy but right before a new year begins we all manage to get back together, dress up, and make another New Year’s resolution to be the most elegant little women we can be. It’s a resolution just vague enough to avoid certain failure and noble enough to be worthy of a fresh start. It’s a resolution for poise under any circumstance, for being simple yet graceful, and, according to Webster, being “pleasingly ingenious on any occasion.” So, in 2014, “let us be elegant or die!” The March sisters strived to be and that’s good enough a model for me.

– <3 A. 

Insidious Adjectives: How the Gender Debate is Twisting Powerful Parts of Speech

gender debateThere’s a new insidiousness to the gender debate, and it’s all about adjectives: It’s gradual, it’s oh so very subtle, but it’s also incredibly harmful. In essence, the debate about gender roles has been minimized to just a few, “petty” parts of speech…harmless, until you read past the diction and really start thinking about what these parts of speech really mean to the future of male vs. female.

In any well-thought out argument, the main thing you focus on (if you wan’t to convince anyone of anything) is facts. Appeals to logic and reason with a little stab at emotion fill most of your argument. Fill up your persuasive argument assignment in first-year undergrad speech class with emotional appeals and there will be big fat red comments scrawling across every margin of your hard copy: “Cut the flowery language, the emotional appeals, the adjectives.” I know because I was an English major, I fought with my professors over my love for adjectives and every time I lost. I loved those little guys, they were so…so…well, descriptive. There was always just one more I could throw in, one more that I thought captured precisely what I wanted to say…it was perfect, it was…too much. The issue with adjectives, by their own definition of their function, is that they’re modifiers, they’re add-ons that carry with them subjective value judgments–not any real, concrete information like nouns and verbs. A movie isn’t a bad or boring movie until you throw an adjective in front of it. A person is really just a person until you describe them with adjectives: beautiful, smart, dull, annoying, fun…Ask Voltaire or Twain about those modifiers and you’ll find they agree with me. Voltaire said adjectives are the “enemy” of the noun, and Twain? He wasn’t so subtle of course: “If you catch an adjective, kill it.”gender debate

What’s the big deal? Adjectives are important, but they’re also dangerous because they aren’t facts or actions that are unchanging or unchangeable. They are descriptions that fluctuate and rely upon the person who is using them to garner their value. I may describe The Notebook as a stupid film because that’s my personal judgment value of it, but I know most of the female gender would vehemently disagree with me, and they can because adjectives are just descriptions–not truths. So, how does all of this grammar nit-picking relate to the gender debate? You may not have noticed it because that’s the whole point of an insidious attack, but the gender debaters have taken a step back from their bleeding heart podiums and resorted to just whispering subtleties into the audience’s ears. What are they whispering? They’re whispering that certain descriptive, modifying words to describe men are greater than adjectives describing many women and unless women show a marked interest and achievement in justifying that these adjectives also describe themselves—well, then they are failing as a modern woman. They’re attributing negative value judgments on typically female adjectives, while making male adjectives a thing of value, presenting their adjective-packed argument as poignant proof women need to start not only “leaning in,” but by gosh, throwing a punch and climbing on top as well. Just listen:

Leslie Bennetts is a writer who has spent much of her working life interviewing famous women. She is also a wife and working mum, writing for Vanity Fair, Elle, The New York Times, as well as publishing her own book, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? (which, you can purchase new and used for $1.99 btw on Amazon–I didn’t know you could buy a book for two dollars but apparently Bennetts made it happen!) If you can’t tell from her book title, she isn’t much of a supporter of the “you can’t have it all so choose a path” stance for women juggling modern, manic life. Her article “The Scarlet A: Why Women Don’t Say They’re Ambitious” is all about the phenomenon she began to notice throughout her career interviewing wildly successful women: That is, that ladies don’t really like describing themselves as “ambitious.”

She cites many examples: Condoleeza Rice refusing to admit she was smart in an interview with Oprah, Oprah herself underscoring her ranking as one of the richest women in America with her comment “I don’t think of myself a businesswoman,” and even Hilary Clinton’s self-professed, shock and disbelief when she heard she was to be appointed to secretary of state under Obama’s administration. You could see their subtlety about describing their own success as humble, you could describe it positively as hard-working, industrious, even admirable, or modest, but Bennetts chooses to describe them as passive, reactive, and overly self-effacing–negative adjectives = negative behavior = negative personality types. She says women have been trained to believe that power, ambition, and a take-charge attitude desexualizes them. But have we ever stopped to think why ambitious, powerful, and zealous are adjectives greater than humility, selflessness, and hardworking? Because, after all, all of those words are just adjectives. They’re all value judgments with no real truth behind them beside the value the speaker/writer gives them. Perhaps the issue is not that women aren’t stepping up, it’s that the way culture is describing where women are now has merely created the appearance that women have anywhere to step up from. I didn’t think Condoleeza Rice, Oprah, or Hilary Clinton’s positions could exactly be called “underdogs.” That is, I didn’t think so until Bennetts began to describe them as such.

gender debate

Gloria Feldt, former president of Planned Parenthood seemed rather horrified at why women are “failing” at pronouncing their pride, shouting their success, acknowledging their ambition, and taking over: Quoted in Bennetts article, Feldt says there is really “no law or formal barrier…keeping us [women] from achieving equality and justice except our own unwillingness to ‘just take them.'” Unable to believe that women don’t want these “powerful” adjectives to describe themselves, Feldt can hardly contain her disgust: “Millions of dollars are being spent to help recruit, train, and support women to get elected, and yet they’ve [women] scarcely moved the dial at all…the problem [is] not that the doors [are] not open. The problem [is] that women [are] not walking through those doors and that just blew me away” Feldt said. I still don’t see a problem though, maybe the majority of women have figured out the real truth, that adjectives like ambitious, and powerful  aren’t really any greater than the adjectives they currently embody (like humble, selfless, modest) and they’re actually perfectly okay with it.

Because many women believe power, or the admittance of having power desexualizes them, Bennetts says that many of those women choose to gain their power sort of second-hand–through a marriage. She warns that such an abdication of personal power can only end in being let down, for, Bennetts highlights, when we rely on other people (specifically spouses or children) to give us power, we risk everything on someone we cannot control. Her case in point? Grace Kelly. Bennetts interviewed Kelly twenty years after her marriage to The Prince of Monaco. Thinking she was going to interview a real-life fairy-tale story, Bennetts was shocked to discover Grace Kelly was instead a woman wrought with “sadness and regret.” Kelly regretted the loss of her acting career, the loss of “command[ing] respect for her own work, earn[ing] her own keep, and [being] acclaimed for her own efforts.” Bennetts highlights Kelly because her life is something of a posterchild for the argument women should chase those “better,” usually ‘male” adjectives. Male adjectives give you autonomy, power, a sense of self, pride, direction, while female adjectives, Bennetts says, make you passive, reactive, self-effacing, powerless. A pretty good argument for self-empowerment, yes? Yet, Bennetts missed that Grace Kelly, in all her regret for giving up her career to “rely on someone else,” was still relying on something outside of herself for her sense of power and happiness. No, it wasn’t a someone (i.e. her husband, children) it was a something: her acting career– and the loss of which concluded in the same result of regret and sadness.gender debate

So, what’s the answer? If male and female adjectives both get you nowhere, what do you do? You don’t listen to this insidious new attack, because “adjectives are frail; don’t ask them to do more work than they should.” How you describe yourself with whatever adjectives you choose still misses a very important part of speech, that is the noun: you. Who you are is what really matters. Being powerful and ambitious isn’t greater than any other way you could describe yourself–those adjectives are just modifiers to whatever you really are. If you’re modest, humble, selfless, and happy about it, that’s far, far more powerful than the most ambitious person in the world who is content at nothing, proclaims his/her own glory at every turn, and in the end will lose him/herself when the next ambitious self comes along to trump their grandeur. Relying on ambition and power is just as dangerous as relying on a person. Don’t believe the lie that any one adjective is better, pay more attention to the nouns that embody the adjectives. And, if you need something to glean your power from, I would much rather rely on someone I love and who will love me back than something that merely describes me.

– <3 A. 

In the Woods

vmmv in the woodscampyosemite campcamp yosemitecampcampI was going to title this post just “camp” but that would have been a little bit of an exaggeration mostly because nothing about my trip landed in that category. I did sleep in a sleeping bag, but I still had a lovely bed underneath me, a cabin, and actual meals that somehow taste way better when you’re surrounded in trees. Every moment of the trip was pretty fantastic. I tried to narrow down my pictures but I’ve got so many to share you probably will be seeing more of it so sorry if you aren’t a huge nature fan! I threw in some chipmunks and things though so something just has to hit your fancy.

This trip was a long time coming, my family hadn’t been to our fave spot in way, wayyy too long and to get everyone able to go the same week was something of a miracle. The four days were the perfect combination of hikes and fires, games and family dinners, cinnamon roll mornings and chance sightings of bobcats, chipmunks, coyotes, oh, and tight-rope-men: See that  picture of the crazy tight-rope-man? I’ve got about twenty pictures of him. We came across him at the top of Yosemite Valley, walking barefoot across a tiny rope strung between two rock overhangs with nothing but thousands and thousands of feet of empty air below him and one little strap hooked onto the tight-rope in case of a spill–which happened, actually, right in front of us. Apparently to the tight-ropers it was a fun adrenaline rush, to me just watching it was terror-inducing. The most adrenaline-rushing thing we did was trying to see how far the person pressing the delayed-camera-timer could run to join the group for a family photo before the shutter went off–across a bike trail and about 40 or so yards into a meadow I think was the final count before we risked getting a picture of someone’s fleeing back and everyone else’s posed faces.

Like I said earlier this week, unplugging for the weekend was so wonderful for my brain I think I’m going to try and repeat it once a month. I think it actually helps you notice smaller things like moss and caterpillar leaf-tracks, and appreciate bigger things like cliffs and meadows. When you’re just tunneling through life, you don’t notice those things and feeling frazzled and trying to charge through 100%, all the time, isn’t nearly as good I don’t think as scheduling “off” days/hours/moments and giving that time just as much importance. I’m very guilty of faking an “unplugging” externally, but keeping my brain going on what I have to do, probably should be doing, and could have done which ends up making me just as useless as if I had just kept working. My new goal? Letting my brain go be “in the woods” and being completely ok with it.

 – <3 A. 

Excuse Me While I Roost

halloweenhalloween

I can’t wait to share some scenes from my long weekend but I hope you’ll excuse me as I roost for one more day! I couldn’t get 395 pictures focused into my favorite few to share so I’m taking another day to get organized and get used to being back in a “normal” schedule. Wow it’s hard.

I failed on my promise to keep in the loop with a little Instagramming but by some glorious accident I was in a no-service, no wi-fi, no absolutely-anything-zone for the entire trip and I didn’t look at my phone a single time. I couldn’t check my email, update anything, text, tweet, post, or filter and it was so, so, so perfect. So perfect in fact I’ve begun to toy with the idea of repeating such a weekend once a month…at least the going off the grid part: purposely signing off and spending that time exploring, reading, writing, or just being with a few people who deserve 100% attention instead of a scattered collection of moments in-between Google searches, social media updates, picture edits, texts, and frantic planner-checks to ensure the current week, and the next week, and the next week…are mapped out with dates, deadlines and every hour used to full efficiency. I think escape weekends are going to be my new monthly vacation and I can’t wait for my next one. Now if I could just find a free weekend to schedule another roost…

– <3 A. 

If Only: I was a Marc Jacobs Model

if onlyif only: I was a marc jacobs model

1. | 2. | 3. 

If only I were a Marc Jacobs model and I could get his Fall 2013 collection for less than my post-grad tuition costs, I’d choose these three. I’m not exactly sure what he was going for with the I-dropped-my-hair-dryer-in-the-bathtub hair-fro / a-la-Edward Scissorhands perhaps? But beside that, these three silhouettes are adorable. If you look at the complete collection here, the men’s hair is far far worse than what the fem-models had to walk with…like, it’s reallyyyy bad…but some of his silhouettes are perfectly updated vintage. I’m not a fan of his oversized coats, but the patterns, skirts, bags (want, want, want) and easy one-piece dresses are gorgeous. His collections looks very academic which is perhaps why I like it so much…perhaps directing a 4th grade classroom in Marc Jacobs might be a little inappropriate but it seems like you’d feel oh-so in control and on top of things even if after 3 bells, 7 subjects, and 29 ten-year-olds, you won’t be. Looks count for something though…right?

vintage patterns via

– <3 A. 

Men vs. Women: Why Who Leads Matters

why who leads mattersIf there was ever a stereotype more negative, more degrading, and raised more eyebrows, it’s probably the one surrounding men bearing the title of “stay-at-home-dad.” In the eighties, “Mr. Moms” were made rather famous by Michael Keaton’s portrayal of just that. His character highlighted all the reasons men usually don’t want to be a Mr. Mom: The whole reason Keaton becomes one is because he loses his job at a car manufacturing company and is beat out by his wife who lands a job in an advertising company quicker then he can find another position. He fights to gain respect from her new jerk-face boss who picks her up for a business trip in a suit and a limo while Keaton struggles to control the vacuum, the plumber, the baby, the laundry…and his temper. The new roles he and his wife play are clearly unnatural and they start to bicker, resent, and envy one another.

Of course we’ve come a long way from the Mr. Mom of the eighties. Now many men are choosing to stay at home not because they “failed” and lost their jobs, but simply because the woman is earning more and when a couple makes the decision that they would like one parent home full-time with their children, the natural choice for who is going to kick the 8 to 5 is obviously the one earning less. Yet, there’s still something a little strange about it: call it lingering prejudice, ok, or call it entrenched, disgusting stereotypes–but whatever you want to call it, the uncomfortable aura the title “stay-at-home-dad” conjures up has to be acknowledged and investigated.

In a recent episode of HGTV’s hit show Love it or List it, where a real estate agent tries to get the featured family to move and “list it,” while a designer tries to re-do their current home and make them stay and “love it,” the couple featured was a working mum and a stay at home dad who ran a daycare business out of the home. Just watching them interact was a bit off-putting. The mum was cold and very business-like calculating. She openly admitted she needed space away from her husband and all of the kid’s toy paraphernalia he had for his business, and quickly became irritated by his needs. At the same time, her husband was really rather whiny, yet quickly caved to her demands and was anything but masculine. Now of course they had issues that all can’t be blamed or perhaps none can be blamed on their obvious role reversals. If the roles had been reversed (the dad the cold, distant parent, working away from home, the mom the stay-at-home whiny pushover), I still would have been uncomfortable, labeled him a jerk and her probably a sad, trampled woman. Yet, is it strange of me to wonder if his whiny, seeming personal insecurities did not in some deep, perhaps subconscious way, stem from his position in their family as, well, the stay-at-home dad? And was her cold, distant air simply part of her (unfortunate) personality? Or, did it spawn from her disrespect for a husband who wasn’t exactly exemplifying very many, um, masculine attributes?

Clay Parker, a stay-at-home dad, recently wrote an article for “Lean In” –the site I mentioned last month in It’s Just Natural— defending his role as something contrary to all the negative stereotypes. In the article, he tackles many of the battles stay-at-home-dads have to face (a list much longer than their female counterparts). He makes some good points in his piece: The way he writes about being an involved father figure makes it a role of strength (as it should be) instead of weakness, and further, he highlights that the role of a stay at home parent (male or female) is an enormous contribution to the family unit and shouldn’t be a position ever to feel degraded about. Good points, yes? The title of his article “Stay-at-Home-Dads: We are Leading Men,” followed by the tagline, “forget the rubbish that men should always be ‘heads of household,'” however, begins a juxtaposition of ideas that never quite work themselves out in his piece: He is in essence saying that the idea men should be leaders, heads of households, primary bread-winners etc. is an outdated, inconsequential notion: “rubbish.” Yet, his primary argument in support of his role is convincing himself–and other Mr. Moms–that they are still “leading men.” I’m already confused. He says that he has “come to view [his] role as a ‘stay-at-home-dad” as a kind of ‘Best Supporting Actor’ role, absolutely essential to our story.” He then whips out his number one piece of evidence (from Wikipedia might I add) to help him come to terms with his role, saying that he doesn’t mind being a supporting actor because on Wikipedia it says “that there is sometimes controversy over whether a particular performance should be nominated in the Best Actor/Actresses or Best Supporting Actor/Actress category.” Ah ha! I smell jealousy of that #1 spot. His masculinity is showing! Stop that! Though he seems to want to be okay with being the one stepping down from the leader of his household, he attempts to twist every shred of evidence he can to make himself feel as if he still is…I wonder if it’s because it’s just…more…natural?

It’s quickly obvious that he knows his role is rather unnatural and the nontraditional reversal of roles is less than ideal. In fact, interestingly enough, he lumps his unusual household makeup with his “daughter’s neighborhood friends” who has “two moms.” He says that those moms “love and nurture [their son] as fiercely as any other set of parents.” Yet, he knows there is something unnatural, something less than ideal about his own situation as well as the boy with the two moms because, he follows his defense of non-traditionalism by saying that he has “no doubt that children lacking either a ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ presence in their home find-and are found by-such role models in either a broader family context or the world at large.” In essence, in the middle of his defense of gender role reversal and nontraditional, same-sex parents, he is admitting that the ideal family is one in which children grow up with strong masculine and feminine role models. And, for those who don’t have them (when dads are at home, mums are away, or two moms/dads are in charge) they must look outside the home to meet this essential need.

So what? So what if the home is less than ideal and children must seek these “ideal” role models outside of the home? Clay Parker says the process of how one gets to the end goal of parenthood (“to raise happy, healthy children who will someday move in the world autonomously and with confidence”) doesn’t really matter…it’s the end result. But, processes do matter. In fact, most end results are a direct reflection of the process it took to get there. Processes are so important in fact, many can be patented. And if companies protect their processes so carefully in order to make the perfect end result every time, I’m not really sure why we are trying to change the way we’re raising children and gambling with the results of an altered process. Ideals aren’t always attainable, but it really does matter who’s in the lead of a family. Simply hoping the little ones will happen across them elsewhere is a process I wouldn’t like to toy with.

– <3 A.