No Ma’am Edition

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S1: Just to give you a heads up, one of us is bound to say something not suitable for little ears. It is, after all, the one hour a day I spend away from my children.

S2: Welcome to Mom and dad are fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Thursday, January 14th, that no ma’am addition. I’m Elizabeth New. Can’t I write the Holmesville and Family Blog Dutch excuse. And I’m the mom to three little Henry who’s eight, Oliver who’s six, and Teddy who’s four.

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S3: We live in Navarre, Florida, and Jamilah Lemieux, a writer contributor to Slate’s Care and Feeding Parenting column. And Mom tonight, Emma, who is seven. We live in Los Angeles, California.

S4: I’m Dan Coates. I’m a writer at Slate and the author of the book How to Be a Family. I’m the dad of Laura, who’s 15, and Harper, 13. And we live in Arlington, Virginia.

S2: This week. We have a question about whether anyone still uses titles of respect like sir and ma’am. Then we have a question from a mom whose husband wants to be a stay at home dad. She’s worried this move will change their family dynamic and she won’t be as valuable anymore.

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S1: On our Slate Plus Bonus segment, we often talk about raising rebellious kids. But what if your kids love rules and you’re the rebel? As always, we have triumphs and failures and recommendations. Djamila, do you have a triumph or fail for us today?

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S3: This is probably like the seventh or eighth time that I’ve used my child as a tryout. So it’s an evergreen one that my kid is awesome and I’m taking a little bit of credit for that name. It used so much to suggest that, like one day when she gets, you know, as she grows up, she’s going to, like, marry a man. She gets very offended by that. And it’s not so much that she is like, hey, I’m clear that that’s not what I want to do. It’s how on earth could we know my orientation when I’m only seven years old? Like, that’s name is that she’s just like overgrow. We don’t know. And like, the door is very open to her. We’ve made it incredibly clear to her, like, if you do know you are more than welcome to share. This is not the way in which, you know, we’re not invested in what the what the answer is, just supporting you through it. Right. Like if you like this headmen, you’re going to need a lot of support and a lot. But we’re not casting votes here. And so I don’t think it’s that it’s just she just is like this is the same kid who really guided me for gendering, the Easter Bunny. Right. Because like Santa Claus, we know his gender because we’ve been told is that we’ve never been told who the Easter Bunny is. But how dare you ask? And it’s just I don’t know, there’s something and how open I think that she seems to be to the world that really dazzles me. But also, I know that this is Nyima demonstrating her commitment to her politics like I know her, you know what I mean? Like I speak her language. Like I get that this is on some level, it is a bit performative, you know, but not in a bad way. It’s just like I want you to really know that I am very serious about the fact that all things here are equal, that everyone deserves to be who they are. And I want to be a part of that. I want to make sure, my friends, that I’m a part of that. And I just think she’s really awesome for it. So perhaps this is naives, triumph, and my triumph is sharing space with her and getting to hear her say these things in real time.

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S4: If we can’t take credit for how awesome our kids are, what the fuck can we take credit for?

S1: But are we doing good triumphs? I think that’s great. Thank you. Dan, how about you try no fail.

S4: I also have a triumph, though it will require some back story. Twenty five years ago, our friend Claire told us a story from her teen years and she was at a some kind of family event and they were celebrating the birthday of like some five year old cousin at this family event. And everyone was dressed up fancy. Maybe it was like, you know, a Christmas party or something because everyone was so fancy. The little girl was doing this like funny hoity toity accent where she’d be like, oh, don’t you just love my dress? Anyway, so they served this birthday cake and the kid just started talking about how happy she was about her birthday cock. Oh, I can’t wait to blow out the candles on the car. She kept saying and everyone else of the party was basically having a hernia, trying to keep a straight face. And the kid’s mom would be like, oh yes, honey, it’s a wonderful cake. And the kid would be like, moist, delicious cock. So anyway, for twenty five years now, whenever there is cake being served, Holly and I will look at each other and very, very quietly say moist, delicious cock. And then we all laugh. But of course we’ve not told this story to our children because that would be inappropriate. Anyway, on my birthday, Harper and Alice made a cake. It truly was delicious. OK, so we figure they’re fifteen and thirteen. It’s time to tell them the story. So we told them the story. They loved it. They could not stop laughing. Perhaps it was inappropriate. But let me remind listeners that all questions of appropriateness in this home have been thrown out the window. Because we don’t watch Crazy Ex-girlfriend, a show where they sing about period sex nearly every episode anyway, the reason I feel this is a triumph is because exactly one week later, it was one of the last days of winter break and Harper was so bored that she was flipping through old photo albums and just laughing at her clothes. But she came upon this photo of our friend Claire on her twenty third birthday, posing with the cake that Holly had baked her that day, which she had decorated with the words moist, delicious. So it was a really good thing we’d already told her that story.

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S3: That is so funny, because when you said, of course, we haven’t shared this with the girls because that would be inappropriate. I’m like, this has to be the time. This is the perfect time in their lives.

S4: But then there really fun. Like, I hadn’t thought about this at all, but it really is fun to start revealing to them these weird stories that help remind them that once we were young and fun instead of just being old and boring.

S3: Very true. Yeah, that’s very true. Bringing them into the loop of inappropriate humor.

S4: I mean, they don’t truly believe it, but it’s nice. Elizabeth, what about you to try and prevail?

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S1: No, I have like an epic fail. You know, I live in a house with four boys and three of them. They’re all potty trained now, but three of them are terrible. Good job. Good job. We are, as he was the holdout. I mean, these guys were like in the house all the time.

S5: Somebody is paying all of us all over everywhere. And I’m pretty sure that it’s Henry. And one of the things with his pandas, which is the auto immune encephalitis, the swelling of the brain, that he has to go the bathroom all the time. Well, I have, like, lost my mind about this at first. I relegated everyone else basically, but me and I guess stuff sometimes to the other bathroom, not the one attached to the front of the house. They have to go back and use the one by the little boy’s bedroom. Then I that still did not change things. Like every time I go in there, it’s not even just like it’s in the seat. It’s like they are peeing everywhere. I have made them clean it up. I’ve done everything. So then I made the completely terrible and irrational decision to just tell them, fine, if you can’t pee in the toilet, pee outside. That is clearly what they’ve wanted the entire time. They have now set up like a place in the front of the house isn’t beat me in the back of the house and they are just going out the back door to go to the bathroom. So I’ve solved my own problem. We can never visit anyone’s home ever again because while they don’t pee in their pants, they just about everywhere else.

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S4: Now, you don’t think that anyone I’ve visited would kind of appreciate that? Like, I mean, these boys could be messing up my bathroom, but it said there’s pain in my arm. Great job, boys.

S1: You don’t think it’s weird when they’re just like like Henry is like going out the back door?

S4: I mean, obviously, it’s weird. I’m just trying to give you a silver lining here.

S1: I don’t know how to fix the problem because I don’t really want them being back at my house. I don’t know. So now I’m stuck with outdoor piers for camping for the rest of our lives. That’s that’s where this is.

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S4: So in a way, first you potty train them and now you have house trained them like dogs.

S1: Yeah, it’s seems great. Seems great. Well, anyway, now that we’ve solved all the problems, we are on to the business. Sign up for Slate’s parenting newsletter. It’s the best place to be notified about everything Slate publishes about parenting, including mom and dad are fighting. Ask teacher care and feeding and much more. It’s a fun personal email from Dan each week right into your inbox. You can sign up for that at Slate Dotcom Slash Parenting Email. Finally, if you want to talk to other parents, join our parenting group on Facebook. It’s super active. We also moderate it so it doesn’t get too out of control. Search for slight parenting on Facebook. Answer the questions and join us there. All right. Let’s get on to our listener question. It’s being read, as always, by the remarkable Shasha Leonhard.

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S6: Hi. Mom and dad are fighting. I grew up the child of a Southern mom. And as an army brat, I was raised to say, sir and ma’am, to adults out of respect. It was always my plan for my children to do the same. Now I have a two year old son, and as I look to be a parent who teaches inclusively and honors a broader understanding of gender, I’m struggling with what ways to denote the respect one would give to an elder person or adult. But also without assuming or miss gendering, someone has our society evolved beyond communicating respect with titles like Sir or ma’am. As a result of our evolving understanding of gender, I think the answer might be yes, and I’m possibly unreasonably sad about that. Are there terms similar to sir or ma’am that I can teach my son and any future children that will be appropriate for all folks? Or should I just teach him to be respectful without using any terms at all?

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S1: Thank you, Jamila, do you have any thoughts for us?

S3: You know, this is tricky, I will say, as progressive and thoroughly modern as I like to believe myself to be. There are some old school traditions that in certain contexts I enjoy or I find appropriate manners are really a matter. Of assessing if these words are appropriate for the situation, it takes a long time to just develop that instinct to realize like when do I need to use these words because the person I’m speaking to is going to want to be addressed that way. When do I not need to use these words? Because I’m unclear if the person who I’m talking to will take kindly to them.

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S7: If they are addressing an elder and they have been introduced to this person as Mr. So-and-so or Miss or Mrs. So. And so that is a safe time for them to assume that they can refer to them as sir or ma’am. And those are words that in most contexts, if the person you’re speaking to does not want to be addressed, disturbed. And again, this is after being introduced to someone by name, not just simply looking at them. They will tell you that they don’t want to be called sir or ma’am. I’ve had people tell me, don’t call me ma’am, call me by my first name. They’ll make it clear to you how they want to be addressed. You also have to teach your child and you have a two year old. You’re not going to get to all of this super quickly. But as you’re developing their way of communicating with the world around them, you are with people in the world, or rather, I should say, you have to teach them to ask questions of people about how they want to be addressed, how they want to be treated there. There’s not ever going to be a universal standard, right, for how people want to be engaged. Not everyone who identifies as a woman wants to be called. Ma’am, I don’t like being called ma’am at times. And I will admit that that has to do with my fear around aging, which is just a byproduct of our society. But what will matter is that. Can I tell that this person is being polite to me? Yes or no? So I think your focus should be less about titles and more about. Is your child able to politely communicate with people, there are gender neutral titles.

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S8: What are they? I was racking my brain and could not come up with a gender. There’s Memex, which is Emax. Right. And then there was. But that’s not a substitute for sir or ma’am. That’s what they put at the beginning of it.

S3: There’s nothing for certain, ma’am, that I would find that something like if I tell you I miss you, then you can safely assume I. Ma’am, somebody tells you that they’re mixed Lamu. Then you shouldn’t assume that they don’t want to be addressed as their man. That’s the point that I’m trying to make. We don’t have a third option yet that I know of. And I did actually spend a good amount of time trying to do some research on this because I was interested. It seems that we should have one.

S7: And I think that we will evolve past sir and ma’am, sir has often been confirmed to a very limited amount of our officers. Right. And I never knew some people were boy, you know, and had to refer to people younger than them as sir. So there are a lot of people that are not into these words because they have such a complicated history. So I know I’m rambling a little bit, but I think focused more on teaching your child to be kind, open, attentive to what people are trying to tell them about who they are and how they want to be addressed.

S4: One thing you said, Jamila, that struck me was, you know, you don’t like getting married, you know, for reasons having to do with not loving the aging process in some ways. And I think a lot of people share that, like definitely no one wants to be mamta by like the twenty five year old at the grocery store or something. Yes. But I think it reads a lot different coming from a little kid. And you said yourself, you know, unless you’re a child, I don’t want to hear ma’am from you. And my sense is that. It’s very hard for me to imagine someone being more offended by the incorrect term of respect than they are impressed or delighted that a little kid is using it and directing it to them in first reference. And I agree that most people, if they don’t want that term to be used on them, will kindly and cheerfully say, call me Dan or whatever. But I’m inclined to think with a kid, at least in the first couple of years, it does not seem like that big of a deal for me, for the kid to sort of in those situations. When you as you say, when a child is introduced to an older person as mister whomever is whomever to surman them like the risk of damage. Seems very low when it’s coming from a four year old and the ease of correction is very high and as a kind of simple shorthand for a kid, that little to get in mind that in in our family, we treat our elders with a certain kind of respect and politeness. I think Sternman are very useful in that way. And you can help in the guidance. You can help model the kinds of questions you can ask. You’re going to ask new people in their lives. You know, we use honorifics in our family. Do you prefer sir or ma’am or a different honorific?

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S1: So I. One grew up using sir, ma’am, have taught my kids to use them, but I’m struck when I read this question by this idea that if we teach a child, like at a young age to say, sir or ma’am, we are kind of unconsciously asking them to sort everyone into two groups. And so if I’m teaching them at four now, I’m saying all this like I’ve already done this to my children. So help I if I’ve taught them all to sort them into these two groups and then later basically say, like, these groups are not real or this does not reflect like that’s an old reflexion. So I am, as I pondered this, like, well, what am I supposed to do? And what we’ve sort of done is try to teach them to use other honorifics when they’re available. And just to ask, I mean, my gut instinct on all of this stuff is just to always ask, even if that’s embarrassing for me, because I don’t know that it’s better for me just to say, how would you like me to address you or how would you like my children to address you? Right. Dan gave much better language of how you could ask, but I just really worry about, too, like, I still do this because I was trained to do this as a child. So if we say like, well, it’s OK for a little kid to do it, but then eventually we want you to grow out of that. Like, have we set them up to say, like, we’ll sort everyone like this unless there are these others, instead of saying like, well, maybe we shouldn’t be supporting anyone into these categories. And so instead calling someone teacher, whoever, which is a more like in Dutch, that was a more literal translation of how we would address people was just like with our title and their name. I mean, they do have a miss and mister. But you would say, like, you know, Teacher Dan or whatever way could you be like social media influencer.

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S9: Yeah, well, I don’t know.

S8: I don’t know. It’s probably all one word social. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I love this.

S4: I totally see where you’re coming from. And I’m really torn between the sort of like ideal world it seems like we’re heading towards and the realities of the world right now. As it stands, nearly every kid I’ve ever met went through a period in young childhood in which they were just absolutely obsessed with who were boys and who were girls. And that’s very developmentally appropriate and expected.

S10: And we understand that that is the thing that kids do. We did when our kids were that age, we were trying to make clear that those aren’t the only two options and that there are other options. And gradually, as they got older and started to understand those things, they understood that a little better.

S4: But we didn’t like view it as a crisis necessarily, that they had this at for ironclad belief that we would eventually mold into a more sophisticated version of what the actual truth is like. That’s true of all kinds of things. When you’re three or four, those views generally evolve. And we as parents, we help them evolve and the views do no harm. I don’t think when they’re three or four and are developmentally appropriate way for kids to start thinking about these things.

S1: I just feel like you don’t give kids all the fruits and say sauces and apples and oranges. Right? Like you say, there are a variety of fruits and they all have different names. And and we if we need to sort them, we need to sort them into all the categories. I mean, I like I said, I have not done well at this and I feel like I’m struggling and my kids are still young and, you know, and darn your kids have clearly like they’re they’re not running around sorting everyone into boy or girl, regardless of what they ask for. So I think you’re right that there’s not like a crisis, but I just think that sometimes these things we do set the standard and then we have to come in, come back and say like, but that’s not exactly true. Like our understanding is that it’s more of a spectrum. And I know like for us sorting into boys and girls, we’ve always just said, like, well, that’s your genitalia. Like, what you are interested in is like which people have a penis in which people don’t realize which is which is what our kids should be asking people when they meet them in the supermarket. Right. Of course. I mean mine half right.

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S3: That is interesting, though, because I think about like because I mean, I hope that we evolve past it being expected that, you know, that this is naturally what children do when they become aware of their genitals. And and perhaps if we were just fascinated with being penis people versus vagina people versus people who have both are people who have neither, you know, I shouldn’t say versus but like, you know, I mean, like it goes just like that, that if that’s different, those are the different types of genitalia available.

S1: Yeah. And humans.

S3: Yeah. Like important. And perhaps that grouping would make us more empathetic to one another because it would, you know, bring together people from different gender experiences through talking about menstrual cycles or talking about penetrative sex. I don’t know. But it’s I do think that there’s two things at hand here. There’s not wanting to perpetuate this thing that like. Élizabeth, I really appreciate that you say that we have to go back and undo so much of what we teach our kids about gender. Right. And like from the very beginning, we have to work to and I say we, including myself, that we have to work from the point in which we become aware of it, just do less work. That’s going to require us to have to double back, you know, like as much as I kind of roll my eyes and feel frustrated that I have so many friends and so many I shouldn’t say so many friends, a couple of friends and a number of care and feeding letter writers who do become my friends in my head, especially during the pandemic that talk about no pink, no princess stuff. And there is at one level, it’s like this can become misogyny really quickly in the service of gender neutrality. But also, I understand not wanting to enforce that grouping and that way. Right. I think it’s unfortunate that we associate that with girl things as opposed to, you know, things that are coded as boy. Things are very, you know, they will call gender neutral. But the other thing happening here is, I think the formality piece, the frustration being not just that I don’t want to offend, which is incredibly important, but also what is the other option, because people are deserving of these titles. Right. And so I think that that is also something that like when I think about how sir and ma’am are used and I think about like who’s been able to demand that sort of reverence, if you will, or I should say that sort of respect and who has it. I think that those titles are going to be increasingly less important in our society and then we’re going to just get better at having other ways to show people that we respect them.

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S1: I completely agree with you. I struggle, though, with it’s such a easy way to show my kids or just the person like I respect what you’re doing or I respect this thing you’re doing because I find I use it a lot even in just like interaction with. They’re adults, particularly people that are helping me, it is a way for me to address them in a way that says I really respect your job and what you’re doing and that you’re doing this for me very quickly. Right. And to also demonstrate to my kids standing there like this is someone with some authority, meaning possibly because you all are military family.

S3: That is a little bit more just kind of like a natural colloquialism for you. Definitely.

S1: Definitely. Definitely. Like I mean, Jeff calls his superior, sir. Yeah. And people call us certain, ma’am on base. Like, that’s not uncommon, even though, like, you know, we try to be like spouses don’t carry rank, like I’m a nobody. It’s not uncommon for someone who would be younger who like who would be accompanying their spouse. They would also address me as ma’am. And that just happens. Right. And the kids see that. And I think that’s why I struggle with it. I you know, it keeps some sense of respect and being able to do that. And also, I think in the military structure allows them to, like, disagree with someone at the same time as showing that respect, being able to say like, you know. But, sir, like, I still respect where you are, but I have this different opinion. Do women officers get addressed as ma’am? Yes, ma’am. Yes. Yes, ma’am. I’ve never heard that in my life. MAN Yes, ma’am. Yeah. Like, I want to say it. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, the advantage, too, is that you can use the rank like the military could very easily go. They can also address each other by rank. Captain. Yeah, Colonel. And that can stand in. Right. And I do actually. Now that you say that a lot of women use the title like they use, Colonel, but yeah. It would be. Ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Yeah.

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S4: Yeah. Because they don’t want to get manned by a bunch of 20. Right. Right.

S9: Right.

S3: That would be triggering your imagination. 30TH birthday. And it’s like, oh, you’re leaving. Yeah, exactly.

S10: Elizabeth is right, though that it’s an incredibly useful shorthand in social situations to convey instantly. Basically I’m not going to be a dick or I’m trying really hard not to be a dick.

S4: Like when you sir, ma’am. Someone at the grocery store or wherever, it’s it’s just a way of instantly conveying respect that is meant, I think, unconsciously or consciously to color the rest of the interaction between you. Yeah, that’s a very useful shorthand to have. And so it strikes me that maybe the issue here really is that there is just isn’t a non gender specific version and that we need to come up with some that we could all use.

S8: Like I don’t even know. I’ve been brainstorming. OK, you have some I got some options, Maestro. I love it, Your Highness.

S4: I guess there’s all kinds of connotations with that. Yeah. I wonder if there’s one we can pull from the military. Like what if you just called everyone, captain? Yeah. If your kid went around calling everyone captain. Yeah. People think that was fucking adorable.

S3: That would be really he could go viral. Yeah. Like make like a super like a tic tac.

S8: I mean it’s for the kid Your Majesty would also be like Yes Your Majesty. Yes. Or your hair. Finally, finally someone recognizes me.

S9: The teachers like this is the best kind of. All right. One last question.

S3: Did you all have to call your parents, sir? Ma’am, I don’t even remember being taught to use those words at all by anyone. I just picked it up.

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S4: Did you refer to your parents? I said, remember, just other relatives. I think a fair amount.

S3: I think I’m talking to the police honestly. Like, I think I’ve just already thought I mean, not authority, but, like, it just wasn’t used. And I’m sure there was some point where I got, like, yelled at really bad and my dad probably threw in a like I don’t even know. Ah, maybe I thought a yes, sir. Just kind of out it, you know, because of the theater of the encounter, because that’s what most of like me getting yelled at was but. I don’t feel like I had to use those words were northerners, Elizabeth.

S4: You sure did.

S1: I definitely use them for now, whether, you know, I’m going to be hearing from my parents or whether they asked me to do it or not. But I mean, I. I specifically remember having to call other people’s parents or ma’am like that that was expected. And I know that I have done it to my mom because it is still a like when I’m talking to them sometimes, like if they’ve given me a request, I’ll just say, yes, ma’am. Like it. It’s not like that’s just the automatic is a yes, ma’am or yes, sir.

S4: When Leroy was born, we asked Alia’s dad what he wanted his grandfather name to be. We were like, Beamon, what do you want the kids to call you? And he he goes, they can call me sir. So that was his grandfather name. It was just sir, let’s be like, sir, I peed on the floor or whatever. Did it stick? Oh, yeah. That’s what they stole. He has passed away, but that’s what they still call him when they talk about him.

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S1: My mom is a judge and we tried really hard to get the kids to call her the judge instead of like grandpa and the judge. But it never took that. I want to be call the judge, OK? I like it. Well, have we solved the problem maybe?

S9: Absolutely. Have we muddy the waters? Definitely. But thank you for your letter. Hopefully this helps. I guess.

S1: Worst case, you at least know that we’re all here with you wondering what the future holds and what to do next. If you’d like us to ponder your problems, you can email us at mom and dad at Slate dot com. All right. Let’s hear our second listener question once again, being read by the extraordinary Shasha Lanard.

S6: Dear mom and dad, my husband desperately wants to quit his job and stay at home with our three month old and three year old. He hates his industry and feels burned out. Additionally, his company doesn’t seem very concerned about covid and insists that everyone return to the office soon. He’s a super dad and I envy how he can engage with our three year old. I can see why he thinks this decision would be great. We are fortunate that this isn’t as much of a financial decision as we continue to live comfortably on my income alone and save sufficiently for retirement. And my job is pretty secure. My biggest concern is the impact this change will have on our dynamic as parents and that I will be left disappointed, our current parenting dynamic follows fairly normal gender stereotypes. I take on much of the work of the family, all meals, cleaning, baths, shopping, etc. He often gets to be the fun dad and plays while I complete chores. He does the yard work shoveling and cleans the cat box. He says he would take on more household responsibility if he stayed home, and I believe he will try. He also plans family outings and researches things to do when he is alone with the kids. But he hasn’t ever spent an entire day home alone with two kids. Admittedly, I’m worried about losing my sense of value to the family and I’m a little bit of a control freak. What do we need to consider, discuss and come to an agreement on if this is the path that we choose? Thanks for your advice. Afraid of disappointment.

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S10: There’s a fascinating question, and I think there are a lot of different things that we ought to talk about in this. But I want to start on something that this letter writer says right at the end, which is that she is worried about losing her sense of value to the family if she gives up these things that she is doing. And I would like to push back on that a little bit. I’m confused as to why she is worried about her status within the family, because currently her status is that she earns way more money than her husband. But she still has to do like 90 percent of the housework and her status sucks. So why on earth would you not want to just seize this opportunity and try to change the current situation, which I’m sure there are some things about having that status that you enjoy, but also is just an immense pain in the ass. What I really want to know from you, too, is if you believe that she should leap at this opportunity, as I do, how explicit should the conversations and negotiations about what being the stay at home dad means should be like how explicit should those conversations be? I am team extremely explicit, but I’m very curious what you guys think.

S3: Well, I think the fact that she signed it afraid of disappointment makes it pretty clear that these need to be very explicit conversations because she’s basically saying she’s afraid of being disappointed at her husband’s parenting.

S4: Is that and I was I thought I was maybe afraid to be disappointed at losing her self.

S3: Perceived status, I think is probably part of it. Yeah, I think it’s both. I understand. I think it’s really great. I think explicit is the way to go also because she’s very explicit, like she’s admitting, you know, I don’t think a lot of people would feel comfortable admitting that they are insecure about their status in the family under circumstances like this. There’s so many other people would call it, this is literally my dream. This is a working woman dream. Right? If you enjoy your job and you make enough to keep your family, if you want to continue working and you have somebody who takes all of this other labor off of your plate, people literally dream about this. I think that the other concern is how her husband is going to perform in this new role. Right. Because she’s a control freak and he’s never spent a day alone with the kids.

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S4: So this isn’t just you guys here, just like flashing sirens going on?

S9: Yeah, definitely. Like, yes, they are not in a non covid world. We just tell her to go away. Right, right. Like, go, go, go to Sonic. I go to Sonic the whole day for a whole day.

S3: Just drive, just drive. Just drive her day and let your husband be alone with the kids. But you’re going to need to have some very I think there may be I don’t want to say training because it’s inappropriate, but I do think that since you have done the lion’s share of this work, part of the reason those negotiations are going to be so specific and pointed is because he may need some guidance in doing some of this work.

S5: I think she is afraid of being left out that all of a sudden it’s going to become dad and the kids and she is going to be like the person who works and comes home and is not part of any of that. And I think that is not true. Like, you can definitely be gone and be back and be part of the family. But, Dan, to go back to your point about how explicit, I think you need to be very explicit in the conversation, but I also think that you need to be of whatever you have in that initial conversation needs to be available for multiple revisions, because as people set into their roles and things change, like how you can engage and be in the house changes. And I mean, we found that even just with like depending on like what I’m doing, being stay at home and what his work role looks like, like constantly revisiting whose jobs are whose and how do we do this. And everyone always feels like, I think that they’re doing all the things right. That’s like human nature always. And so just being able to say like, OK, well, what? Can I take off your plate, because he does need to do more of the stuff that he’s home, but if those kids are home to like, how much of the time do you want him engaging with the kids? And how much of the time do you expect him to be doing other stuff around the house where the kids are not as engaged? Right. Because that is the balance of being at home is like, yes, your home. But any time you’re doing an additional task, you are not having face time with the kids. So figuring out kind of where that line is as well.

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S10: Yeah, that’s really good advice. And thinking explicitly about not only while I want you know, if you’re going to be home, you need to take on these things that I typically do. But also thinking about that balance between the sort of house work and the parenting work. And often they overlap, but often there’s a clear delineation. You literally can’t do one while you do the other is really valuable.

S4: It’s good that she recognizes that she is a little bit of a control freak, and I think it will be useful for her, especially in the first few months of this new arrangement, to be very carefully monitoring herself for those tendencies. She’s going to have to, for example, adjust our expectations at first for how clean everything is going to be.

S10: Probably not to be too gender essentialist about things, but that is likely the case. But just in general, understanding that he’s very gung ho about it now. But there are likely going to be a lot of times in the coming months where he is worried about doing things wrong and that, in fact, in most cases, for almost every task that he’s going to take on, there’s no actual wrong way to do it. There’s just doing his best to the ability and standard that he can and is up to you, in some cases, letter writer to decide how am I going to respond to the to the times when his standards are different from mine and being open about that and conversation with him and then being careful to notice that in your own responses, I think will be really useful over the first few months.

S5: I think to when you have these conversations, it’s really important that you have them during time that is set aside for these conversations, because I find like if because it is what I do, conversations that involve like those sort of things feel like work reviews. And if it’s not in kind of like a safe space, right. Where we’re like, hey, we’re going to talk about the schedule and how things are working, I can get really defensive about it because I feel like what is being said is like these were your jobs and you didn’t do them, as opposed to it being more of like, hey, this is our house and these things are not working. And let’s talk about why they’re not working. Right. So I would just say, like in your same vein of like, keep kind of keep those things, keep a list if you have to, but set aside time to talk about those things with the understanding of, like the things you delegate to him get to be done his way. They don’t get to be done your way by him. So if the goal is like that, the dishes aren’t sitting out when you come home, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re put in the dishwasher, hand washed or whatever, as long as if the agreed upon thing was that, you know, by the end of the day, there are no dishes in the kitchen. You don’t get to, like, come home at lunch and say, well, the dishes are everywhere. Like, you don’t get to make those decisions. The person doing them and I know, like in the things that I have delegated to Jeff around the house, that’s one of the pitfalls I fall into, is like, well, he’s not doing it my way, so it’s not getting done, but it does get done. Do I really have time to be nit picking about that? But I agree to do that. I think the best thing about this letter is that she knows it’s going to be a problem because of, you know, it’s going to be a problem. You can avoid the pitfalls. I also think like resounding go for it if and I wouldn’t worry about she’s worried about, like, what future might hold all those sort of things. I think if this looks good for this moment in time and what we’re going through and what your family is, do it. And if you need to make a change in the future, you make a change from where you sit. You can’t always think about the long term kind of ramifications, like will it be easy for him to go back to work? What will I like if this seems good now and this is what you want to do, like give it a try. And yes, maybe there are some consequences down the road, but you also have this time and you tried this and you got experiences or it was like the best thing you ever did for your family and for your work.

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S10: Right. And you have the benefit of being one of the rare families that are in a situation financially where you can just try this out. And even if it doesn’t work long term, you’re basically going to be fine. Maybe it’ll be hard for him to find a job if it doesn’t work. But you guys are not going to be starving and you’re going to be contributing to your 401k like you’re going to be all right. And so so, yeah, I’m in total agreement that especially given the circumstances of his job, get him the fuck out of that job. Yeah. Get him home where he is going to be contributing as much or more to the family as he has been. Without the risk of getting covered in the workplace and talk as clearly as you can about these things, but definitely seize the moment, Jarmila, what do you think?

S3: I agree. Do the thing. This is an amazing opportunity. The stuff that dreams are made of be intentional about creating ways for you to still participate in the fun of the family, that you’re not only the person who’s going out the door remotely or otherwise to go to work, coming home, eating your dinner and going to bed that you’re playing, that you’re laughing, that you’re caregiving and enjoy not having to do. Ninety seven percent of the work to keep your family going.

S4: Yeah. Don’t you want to be fun, Mom? You finally get to be fun.

S1: Mom, my mom is the best mom. Well, good luck and please send us an update. We definitely want to know how this works out. If you have a question for us, email us at Mom and dad at Slate Dotcom, or you can post your question to the Slate Parenting Facebook group. All right. Well, on to recommendation’s, Dan, what do you have for us?

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S10: I am going to display my older kid privilege with this recommendation. You guys are going to hate it. So our friend Allison lives in Delaware this past weekend. We we haven’t seen her in a long time. We so we just agreed to meet her sort of halfway between. We’re just going to meet her in Baltimore. She’s going to walk around Fells Point and talk and look at the bay and eat takeout pizza or whatever. And I have to tell you that the exhilarating feeling of freedom that I felt as Holly and I just drove up 95 with no kids in the car and went to a completely new city and saw a friend was totally overwhelming. And so this completely pedestrian outing was like the highlight of my month. So my recommendation, if you can find a way to do it, is go to a different city without your kids and go on a walk with a friend.

S1: Jealous. All right, Tamela, what do you have for us?

S3: So I’m reading a book right now called Pleasure Activism The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrian Marie Brown. And I think that for folks, though, I will say it may be a lot to handle if you are new to reading feminist texts, not because it’s hard to read. It’s not an academic book. Some of the concepts may be a little bit unfamiliar, but for the most part, I think it’s a it could be a really lovely read for someone who I mean, it’s a great read for somebody who’s been with it for a long time. But because there’s so many people that are, I think, experiencing this progressive shifting right now, this progression toward gender equity and gender equality. And so it raises the question, how do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience? So it’s sex is certainly an important theme throughout the book, but it’s about making yourself feel good, making others feel good, bringing good into the world and obtaining a fulfilling life. And it does this by engaging the work of Oggi Lord and Octavia Butler. It is very much a black feminist work of art. It came out in twenty nineteen.

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S11: It’s a fascinating read, it features a lot of voices in the text, it’s not just the author herself, I will say the introduction to this book and how the writer talks about respecting gender pronouns and respecting how people want to be identified and engaged is a master class and perhaps something to check out for our first letter writer today in this moment in which we’re rethinking a lot of things about race and gender and identity. So I strongly recommend it. Pleasure Activism, The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrian Marie Brown. That sounds great.

S5: I’m also recommending a book called Nixon Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Macking. And she’s actually an acquaintance of mine and dance from our time in the Netherlands. And she wrote this book that’s kind of in line with a lot of the other books like the WHO got a book about sort of a concept from a another country and how to embrace it here. But the book is like very charming and talks about all kinds of wonderful things about Dutch life, but specifically some ideas on how you can do this, doing nothing, which in Dutch like literally translates to doing nothing with purpose. And basically they advocate embracing, like sitting and letting your thoughts just kind of wander. And I know for me that was a really challenging thing when it was first introduced to me because I wanted to just, like, pick up my phone or like sit here like force my brain to go somewhere. But just kind of this art of sitting there for not too long. They do warn that you can go down too many roads and the Dutch don’t like that. But just this art of doing nothing. So you can check out Nexen embracing the Dutch art of doing nothing by mocking it’s spelled and I ksee.

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S4: And that’s important if you’re looking for the books. Hard to find.

S3: So real quick, I have a breaking news update. So I texted my mother during the first question, asked, hey, did you teach me to say sir and ma’am? And she said, yes, well.

S4: I said, you’ve lost a little bit of your respect for your elders to me.

S3: And I said to home and she said teachers, elderly and people who deserve respect. So we’re going to have a follow up call on this, because I just don’t remember that happening. And I’m not saying it didn’t. I’m not saying it should have. I just don’t remember.

S12: Well, that’s our show. One final time. If you need advice, email us at mom and dad at Slate dot com or post it to the Slate Parenting Facebook group. Just search for slate parenting. Also, if you haven’t already, please subscribe. It helps us out and make sure that you won’t miss an episode. And while you’re at it, tell your friends about the show. Let’s continue to grow this parenting community. I wrote a poem for the kids. This episode of Mom and Dad takes a few important people to make it right. Rosemary Belson produces the show and all of you listeners help it grow. My co-host, our Dan, our expert Dad Voice and Jamilah Lemieux moms like her are you? I’m Elizabeth. New Camp. These are the credits revamped.

S1: Hello, Slate, plus, listeners, thank you for all of your support, we are able to do this show because of you. OK, we spent a lot of time talking about respect and now we want to talk about what happens when the parent is the rebel and the child is the rule follower. And I know to me, like, you have a little bit of experience with this.

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S3: We’re sorting through it. Right? Like, I think Nyima is still very much at that crossroads where it’s not clear what side that she’s going to fall on. My inclination is that she’s going to be a rebel with the cause, that she’s not going to be reckless with her rebelliousness in ways that certain other people, maybe myself, can be at times. But like, you know, I’ll give an example. So a couple of months ago during the uprisings, we happened upon a store that had been opened by people for open shopping, if you will. And so in this moment, I thought, just take something right, because fuck do I not deserve. And I had AMA with me. So I, of course, was not going to step in. We stepped in for a second before I was like, girl, please get out of here repressively. But there was this moment where I thought how you should get something for capitalism. Right. Like and I got when I got in the car and explained to name a kind of what was going on that and why I didn’t think that she should judge the people who were participating in that. And I’ll say it was a major retailer. It was not some small independent store. These people will be fine, I assure you. You know, so I watched her kind of go through this process of trying to assess, like, how she felt about this. Right. Because her immediate reaction and her typical reaction, any time that I flout a rule. Right. Like not unless it’s a rule that I’ve created or that only applies to our house. Like if I’m you know, if it says don’t go through this door. And I’m like, come on, girl, we’re going through this door. I see the kind of like, whoa, we’re doing something we’re not supposed to do.

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S13: And so she’s trying to decide is the OK to do things that we’re not supposed to do. My mother’s telling me to do something I’m not supposed to do. So that does that automatically make it OK? Or am I the child of a person who consistently does things that are bad? And the show I don’t know how many of you all have watched this show speechless, which I’m obsessed with. And it only had three seasons on ABC. And it stars Minnie Driver as a somewhat insufferable but also very lovable mom to a son who has cerebral palsy. And it really gets into the challenges that a family of a disabled child has to deal with and also the beauty of being this family.

S3: But anyway, one of the children, the middle son, is so by the book, so by the rules that he thought incorrectly that his mother had dings somebodies car in the parking lot and he left a note on this other person’s car. Oh, man. In his mother’s voice, like his mother had written it. Right. And the other woman herself was appalled because she was like, where’s the code? You know, like this is your mom. Like, how could you tell on your mom? But he was so unable to get out of the idea of right and wrong that he had to turn his back on his own mother. And so I’m fearful of that, even though I don’t think mama would be as aggressive as these are her back on me in that way. But I wonder, because I am the natural rebel, I am the the flower child, the rule bender, the one who’s you know, I’m not illington, you know, like I also think that, like, rebel spirits are not inherently bad in the way that they are marketed to us.

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S4: I’m like the Fonz, you know, and you just understand that that’s the appropriate level of rebellion fonds level, response level like.

S3: Well, Tetsuya’s little dark lipstick, whatever the problems, you know, like we’re not hurting people out here, but it is interesting. So I’m curious to know for you all, like in your families, like where did those chips fall? Right. Like if I’m the wild child and of somewhere in the center and our dad, maybe a little bit, I’d say responsible. And I think our stepmother kind of falls. Everybody is more responsible than me, but kind of like somewhere in the middle of he and I. And I was just kind of hovering all around us. Who’s who in your family? Who are the players?

S10: We’re in our family. We are all extremely boring rule followers like every single one of us. Even Lyra talks a good game about anarchy and whatnot, but she does not want to get in trouble and does not like getting in trouble and will not do things that she feels like are against. The rules are bad. So that’s good. And that we all, you know, we all basically have the same level of risk tolerance. I think none of us would narc on the other to a stranger in a parking lot. That’s my hope that our bonds of family loyalty would preclude a crime like that. We’re all very by the book and fairly boring for that reason.

S1: I think we’re all pretty by the book, too, except that I feel like Jeff has an extremely strong sense of injustice. But he finds the way, like Jeff SuperPower’s like finding the way to fix things like his instead of like taking to the streets, Jeff will work up the chain of command to fix an injustice that he has found in the system. And I think we sort of like our ducks in a line behind that. Like, if anything, I’ve learned from our marriage is like, well, this rule doesn’t make any sense, but how can I go about fixing this thing that I that I feel like it’s fundamentally broken? How can I make this better for people, you know, within this system, which hits a lot of roadblocks. But I mean, there are things like that he has been working on for a long time, like making small gains. And that way I do feel like Henry would narc on us a thousand percent like he if there is something that is wrong, he is just like that’s not that’s not what you said.

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S9: That’s like, you know, like the black and white for him. And some of that is the Panthers. But some of that is just him.

S1: The black and white is so there. And I mean, that’s that comes from Jeff. Jeff also like his black and white of right and wrong is is very like this was right. This was wrong. And that’s why he’s willing to just, like, chug along to to make sure that the right thing kind of morally right, I think is where his like rules are as opposed to kind of like these institutional rules.

S10: Do you have an example of a thing where Jeff was just like, this is wrong and our family is not going to go along with it and then just sort of went right up the ladder and fixed it?

S1: Jeff commonly asks for what he calls the good guy discount. Like anywhere that he is, he will say, do you offer the good guy discount? And like ninety percent of the time they say yes and they give it to him. And we have been places where he then turns around and whoever is standing in line says this woman will take the good guy discount, too. So just like the idea that they are not offering that there are these fine think is you right. But that it’s only extended because he asked or because he whatever, he then makes sure that that, you know, and like the pass along, that’s such a small example of something that he does very quickly. But I mean, that is it’s not uncommon for him then to call this person after we are like process that like, OK, now I’m going to stand here because this person gets that do so. And I’m not talking like small mom and pop again, that that’s not the kind of stuff he’s asking for. The good guy discount that.

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S14: I like that Jeff uses his white manpower’s for good. This is him and redistributes them. That is very nice. It reminds me of a guy who told me once back when I used to have a life that involved traveling. I was very, very proud of achieving like gold platinum status, I guess, with the Marriott Ballboy Rewards Program. And I was like maybe at a hotel bar talking to a guy.

S3: And I guess we were talking about that or something. And I mentioned one of the perks. And he was like, oh, well, I don’t have Platinum says they just give me that. Like, every time I go to the hotel, I was like, well, like I said, thousands of dollars to, like, sit in a room and eat like frozen cookies that other people can’t come into. And you’re telling me they just give it to you. So I love that Jeff is like and you can have it, man.

S10: Do you feel like a parent who is who is more rebellious than a kid has some responsibility to teach a kid like the right times and places to push back or fight?

S4: Like does it if you’re a rebellious parent, does it worry you that your kid just like falls in line?

S3: I’m very intentional about and again, it’s like you got make joke about, you know, rebel without a cause. But it’s it’s there typically is cause, you know, some.

S14: Of intention involved, it isn’t just that we don’t do the rule because Prozac is like, does this rule make sense or so, yes, discernment is very important. I’m trying to think of a strong example, but we talk often about like, you know, when it’s OK to be dishonest, for example, you know, I mean, that might not quite fit the discussion here, but that’s something that like, you know, it’s difficult because we tell kids not to lie, but then they catch you in a lie because you told somebody maybe at the car rental place that you didn’t realize that you were a little late or something. I don’t know what I mean. Like an end is the lie that doesn’t harm anyone. That may be to protect you from having to deal with some BS or some some sort of headache. Right. And so it’s like, here’s why I did this or why I told your teacher that you weren’t feeling well when you weren’t because I was trying to protect you. And no, this isn’t something that we typically do. But, you know, in this moment, the goal was your great, you know, the more important thing. And so, yeah, it’s a slippery slope. I recognize that. But I think that they also see you modeling like responsible behavior to that probably helps out a little bit, just like in the stories that you’ve told.

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S1: It’s like she figures out how to embrace, like your spirit, but in a different way. Right. Like she has. She exerts the viewpoint. I mean, even just in your triumph today. Right. Like she’s telling people her viewpoints, but maybe she is more guarded in the delivery. And so I find it interesting that it’s almost like she’s embracing this framework that you’re giving her, which is great, and figuring out how to kind of make that her own in her own comfort zone.

S14: Thank you for saying that. And I think that she is really good that I think that rebellion oftentimes is a reaction to it. Just something that does not work for you. Right. It’s trying to create a world, you know, and at times that can be really self-indulgent and inappropriate. And at times it could simply be this role or this way of doing things does not work for a lot of people. And perhaps we should let it go. There’s a game that she plays on our phone where you make squishes, right? You make pretend like on the phone, pretend squishy things, and then you can play squish them on the phone, which I don’t know how satisfying that is for her to pretend to be playing with a squishy toy. I think that’s the saddest thing ever. I think if there was anything that technology that that needs to replace, it’s fucking squishy toys. So there’s a part of the little game is that you can also make them for my customers. So we like a little fácil pop up and I’ll say, hey, you know, I like can you make me one of these? I’ll be a picture of what they want.

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S3: If they ask her politely, she’ll make them exactly what they want. If she does not like the tone of the question and you get a score, you get lucky and you can’t completely. For somebody who cares a lot about winning, it’s so interesting. She was like, do you see how she asked for that? No, I’m not going to make something completely different. And they’ll give her a bad rating. And she continues and she’s totally Zen with it. So I think for her, the joy is that she’s created a space that works for her. Right. So it’s not about the win for her is going in the game. But I’m also forcing these boundaries. You have to speak to me with respect. So I see the good rebellion in her.

S8: Yeah, she is terrific. Your does an honor. Your Majesty.

S10: This conversation just reminded me of a movie I have not seen since it came out, but which I remember very fondly.

S4: Maybe I’ll watch it and see if it holds up. And it’s from nineteen eighty eight and it’s called Running on Empty. It’s our Christine Lagarde and Judd Hirsch and then River Phoenix was in it. It was the only movie he ever got nominated for an Oscar for. It’s basically a fictionalized version of like the two older actors play a married couple. They’re like 60s radicals who like, you know, in 1968 or something, bombed a napalm factory and someone got killed. And so they’ve been on the run from the FBI ever since. And River Phoenix is their son, who’s a teenager and who’s just trying to live an ordinary teenage life, who starts to sort of learn about why it is that they move every couple of years and why they have certain rules in their family. And it’s an interesting look at like a very straight laced kid and very rebellious parents and the sort of tension between those two life philosophies and the way that his kinds of rebellion are about wanting to be, quote unquote, normal. And I remember him being really good in it. And the movie, like, really hitting me. I mean, I you know, I was fourteen or whatever when I saw it. So maybe it’s not that good, but I might watch it. But like, that was I remember that being an interesting cinematic look at this at a very dramatic version of this question.

S1: All right. Well, if you have a rebel kid or you are the rebel, please let us know on the Slate Facebook group. And that’s it for this week’s Slate plus segment until next time.