Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 73: False Balance

Lark (The Dreamer): Hey Mom?

Mom (Me): Yes Lark?

Lark (shaken): I… Uh…

Mom (worried): Lark, are you alright? You look really defeated. I don’t think I’ve seen you like this before.

Lark: I mean… I snapped at you without even thinking! I don’t want to be that person…

Mom: Lark, don’t beat yourself up about it. It… It happens sometimes.

Lark: What happens, I just lose control? I thought that stopped when we transitioned!

Mom: It happens a lot less! I haven’t been enraged to the point of fuming and lashing out at others since transition… Well, mostly. Sometimes I still lash out at others without meaning to when I feel panicked, and sometimes I take a sharper tone that I’m intending to… But things are nothing like they were before transition. My anger is nowhere near as intense and the looming sense that I could do something unspeakable if I lost focus — it isn’t there anymore.

Lark (reassured): That’s encouraging. But I still snapped at you.

Mom: Then you probably felt panicked.

Lark: I… I definitely felt trapped in our last conversation with Ivy.

Mom: Can we talk about that a bit? Neither of us was keeping you there against your will.

Lark: I know, but I felt like I couldn’t just leave — like leaving would just make matters worse. You’d just see me as the tantrum girl or something, so I had to stick it out and power through.

Mom (tired): Yeah… That feels very familiar. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to learn this, but you almost never have to stick it out and power through. Especially with family, it’s nearly always better to take a break and let yourself calm down first. Once you’re calm you can engage with your stressors again — because they can’t catch you off guard a second time, you’ll generally get a better result.

Lark: You mean with your family out there, right?

Mom: I mean my family in here too. I’m trying to learn to be more patient with myself… A big part of that is taking the space that I need in order to feel things through and process them.

Lark: Hm… I’ll try, okay Mom?

Mom: I’m glad you’re willing to give it a shot. I’m curious though; what stressed you out so much to begin with?

Lark: Your relationship with your partner — it feels unfair. You work and bring home most of the money in the family, but once you get home it feels like you’re being asked to take on more than your share of the housework.

Mom (suspicious): What do you mean by “more than my share”?

Lark: Well… There has to be some balance that feels equitable right? You contribute more to the household than she does income-wise, so she should contribute more than you do as far as domestic chores and running the household goes, shouldn’t she?

Mom (sighing): I remember when I used to feel some notion of that… Needing to find a balance, I mean. I wanted to be a fair partner; one who didn’t take advantage of male privilege. How very foolish I seem in retrospect.

Lark (defensive): Hey, it seemed sensible at the time.

Mom: Does it seem sensible to you now?

Lark: I mean… I understand now that you never quite got to “equitable,” even when you thought you were doing a decent job.

Mom (cold): I wasn’t even remotely close. Keeping the household running for a family is a job unto itself. The longer we were together the more our partner took on, especially after our child was born and she became the primary parent. She basically had two full-time jobs at that point — parenting and housekeeping — and neither paid anything at all.

Lark: That… That’s a lot.

Mom: It is. And before transition, even though I wanted to be in an equitable marriage, I still felt a certain resistance to making things more equitable — to changing myself so things *could* be more equitable. There were a lot of ways in which that manifested… Part of me felt that bringing income into the household gave me a sort of authority over how that money should be spent, even though I didn’t consciously realize that at the time. Part of me felt like my partner and I could talk things through if things between us didn’t feel equitable, but I had so much trouble engaging with those conversations and got angry at her so readily  that it became triggering for our partner to approach that topic at all.

Lark (shocked): I… I’m sorry, Mom. I had no idea.

Mom: It’s okay… I don’t think you’d recognize it unless you know what to look for, or you’ve lived it — which you technically haven’t yet.

Lark: No, I haven’t — this was all after my time. I’m kind of surprised though; I’d expect you to be having this conversation with Ivy.

Mom: I might have some version of this conversation with Ivy later, but you seem to be the one having more trouble adjusting to all this.

Lark (uneasy): I guess that’s true… You mentioned male privilege earlier in the conversation. Does that mean this dynamic changed after you hatched?

Mom: Something I haven’t talked to you girls about very much is just how much of our personality was performing gender. There were a *lot* of traits wrapped up in how we performed masculinity that just melted away after we transitioned. I still want to be in an equitable relationship, but trying to find a precise balance between my partner’s labor and my own just doesn’t matter anymore. There are tasks that need doing and one or the other of us is going to have to do them, and I find it a lot easier to just do what needs doing when I’m not keeping a mental tally in my head for “equity” reasons.

Lark: But if you’re not keeping track, then how do you know when it’s equitable?

Mom: It’s equitable when it feels equitable. My partner is always willing to talk if she thinks I’ll be receptive and I’ve been *much* more receptive since transition, so I can rely on that. Besides, things still aren’t equitable — old behaviors take time to change, and I have a ways to go before things start to feel even between us. But I find it easier to pitch in than I used to, and doing labor around the house means caring for my partner, which also makes it easier to do.

Lark (wistful): Caring for someone else…

Mom: Exactly. Care is one of our love languages, Lark. I think you already understand that on some level.

Lark: I guess I do. My whole body tingles just at the idea of being cared for…

Mom: …And caring for someone else is *so* satisfying.

(Lark is silent for a few moments as my words hang in the air.)

Lark: You’ve given me a lot to think about… I suppose I should take some time to process it all.

Mom (concerned): That is what we do here. Are you sure you’re going to be okay?

Lark: I’ll try my hardest.

Mom: I suppose that’s all I can ask of you. I love you, Lark.

Lark: I love you too Mom.

(Lark and I embrace, taking a few moments to enjoy each other’s company before I go on my way.)