Thursday, July 21, 2005

You Can Call Me Al

On Monday we had a meeting with the electrician about his billing, which we thought was a little high. I have never met this man before, so I introduced myself when it became apparent that Partner was not going to do it. After all, if I am cutting this man checks, it seems like we should know each other. He said to me, "OH, are you the secretary?" Um. No. Partner then jumped it when she saw my reaction. "Oh," she said, "Katie is doing the books now."

"So you're the bookkeeper. " I made a face. He promptly added, "Or something like that." I let it go. I am actually buying into the company so I am actually a part owner, but whatever. I didn't say that. I can let that go; so, yes, you can call me the bookkeeper.

In fact, many times a day or week, I feel like I am called or named to be something I am really not. I don't argue with these definitions from outside because frankly, for the most part I don't mind them. Sometimes these representations of me are not far the from the truth, so if they skim my actual real picture of who I think I am, I guess that's good enough. Most of the time.

But about a month ago I snapped at a very good friend when she called me a "surrogate." Now go look up surrogate in the dictionary. Or look for the synonyms of such a word. Let's take the dictionary to start with. It says "To put in the place of another, especially as a successor; replace." Number one: I am not replacing or successing my partner. I suppose in some ways I am being put in her place, since we did think she was going to be the first birth mother. And I would hazard by carrying her eggs, I am surrogate in that sense. So, technically I am the gestational surrogate. Insurance forms might even decide this is who I am. But look at the thesaurus-- when you look up surrogate it says things like alternate, make-shift, pinch hitter, temporary, servant, proxy, stopgap...

I am not planning on being any of those things. Just to clarify: I am planning on being a mother. One of two, but that's it. A fully-fledged parent. Why is that I feel being labeled a surrogate is to be less-than something else. Because when you think about it, a woman who volunteers to be a surrogate is really giving this incredible gift, a totally generous beautiful thing. So why chaff against this term? And then if you go back and look at that list again, perhaps a parent is all those things at different times in a child's life. So what's the problem?

Both of us have expressed anxiety about people who will want to cut out one of us as the mother. Sometimes this might come from strangers, occasionally it might be friends, or sometimes it might be from family members. This anxiousness-- I wonder if it's indicative of gay and lesbian families in particular. Do fathers in hetero families ever worry about being construed of a "less than" parent? When I was a young kid, my mother worked to support us while my dad was in school. She still talks about the judgment she got from the stay-at-home moms and how she thinks they construed of her as being a less-than mom. (She wasn't!) She hated this at the time, and although she's never said she was anxious about feeling like a less-than parent, I can't help but think she must have been. Anger and fear: aren't they inextricably linked? I think that my hesitance, and well let's face it, anger, about the term surrogate is based in this fear of the "less-than" definition.

I'm the mother, damnit, and that's what I insist on being defined as. I'm not letting this definition skirt the outsides of reality.

Actually, I'm nothing right now other than a (birth-control) pill-popping lesbian who is hoping to be a mother.

Damn it.


Blogger ~cj~ said...

I can really sense the utter frustration you have here. When you asked "Do fathers in hetero relationships worry about being construed as the less-than parent- YES! My husband Erick talks about that all the time, especially when people remark about "how much" he does with Thea. Most of them are shocked at the great involvement that he takes in the raising of our kids.

I think a lot of people get caught up in "titles". Each of us wear many different hats - work hats, home hats, social hats, family hats... the list is unending. However, our hats so rarely define who we really are. If you ever saw the movie "Clerks" there is a great diagloge between Randall and Dante regarding title and behavior. Randall says "Title does not dictate behavior." He further explains that if it did then he'd be a beter clerk and not rent video's from the other video store.

I am a step-mom to a 14 year old who has a mother who hasn't stepped up to her responsibilities to her daughter.... at all. My "title" has been a source of a lot of debate, anger, and unnecessary guff. A long time ago I assured Nina that it didn't matter to me what she referred to me as, suggesting that perhaps 'Dragon Lady' be used becuase it had a nice ring to it. Regardless of what she calls me, I am what I am.... I am the one who takes her to the doctor when she is sick, I make her lunches, I do her laundry, I'm the one she told when she got her period, and I'm the one who's here and who show's up for the job every day. No matter what title anyone gives me this is me. Call me Step-Mom, call me Cj, Call me Dragon Lady its all the same.

:) Your not "less-than" anything - you are "WHOLE" of who you are. Don't let "titles" get in the way of anything... Your well on your way to being a mom... such a lucky baby to have a mom that cares so much.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Soul Searching said...

I second CJ's comments on titles. People are naturally programmed to tuck everyone away nicely in their boxes. I also think that some people just don't get their comments/descriptions/boxes are created out of lack of understanding. The best part of this is that when you become a mother you will have the ability to help them understand...without even trying. They (and by 'they' i'm really just referring to anyone) will just see the love radiate from the two of you and your child, and it will all just make sense.

Glad you posted again...FINALLY!! :)

7:30 PM  
Blogger LilySea said...

It's actually remarkably cool that both you and your partner will be in one sense or another, biological mothers. Most lesbians who get pregnant don't get to have it that way. It seems like people ought to "get it" better because of that, but you know people...

Does your partner ever get the same kind of crap from people assuming because she won't be pregnant, she's the "less-than" mom? Cole gets the less-than assumption because of gender--she's the butch, so people put her in the dad box.

Like I said: people!

1:45 AM  

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