Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Man, One Woman

When I started this blog I wanted a quirky title, something cryptic, contradictory and comprehensive. I do believe I’ve found it. But I keep butting up against the connotations that come along with the title. It just dawned on me that a ‘feminist’ might actually mean that you don’t like men, you figure they stifle women or don’t do their share.

I’m going to tell you something about my guy.

He’s a hard worker. I could say workaholic but that’s a label and I think we agreed that labels are dumb. He works steadily, unlike I who works in fits and spurts. And for a long time without complaining (I like to express my feelings more than he does). He helps me out a great deal with my ventures. We are without a doubt equal partners when it comes to the kids – each of us taking on roles that suit us best. He manages to get by on 5 hours of sleep. He doesn’t seem to let stressful situations get to him. He is hopeful. And incredibly patient. All of these ways compliment me greatly.

When I left my job in the city, I tried not to focus on what I was leaving behind. It helped to look at what we are doing. What we are moving towards. What we are building together. What we make time for, prioritize, find important. To want to write about how my husband was somehow falling short in his role as a father, husband, housekeeper, worker seems preposterous to me. He steps up every time.

But did I? Here is what I wanted to explore in every detail, from every angle. What does a day look like when you remove as big a stick from the pile as a 40-hour a week job? What holds the pile up? The reason why being a ‘feminist’ fit so well for me is that it ignites the fire of possibilities now. It tells me I can do anything I want. That I have options. That I am capable. That I have the respect of my man and get to focus on life at home.

The only question I had left to answer was whether I could be a full partner on the farm while still tending house and children.

The answer is a resounding ‘yes’!

But the major trick was to remember two simple facts. I could not be all things at the same time. I am still only one woman. And I could not be more than one place at one time. One woman. Many things. Do what I can. Do what one person can do. And don’t beat myself up if the balance falters sometimes.

But we are not just one person. We are one man, and one woman. And together we dance and swing between the tasks at hand, ebbing and flowing, pushing and pulling, and helping each other in ways that make it easier on the other. You tell me what that would have to do with the shortcomings of my fella’? It doesn’t even have a whole lot to do with my own strengths and abilities. It is about the chance we give each other to grow into things, to fall away where needed, to go places we otherwise wouldn’t.

I watched my brother unload a huge recycled barn beam from his trailer tonight with his partner on the other end. She sat on the end of the beam acting as a cantilever while my brother lifted a weight far greater than he could have alone. Then he held down his end for her while she swung hers around.

A cantilever is a beam with support on only one end (that would hold a balcony for example, allowing the weight to reach out far from the building it is attached to without breaking). I love the analogy. Partners can be each others cantilevers.

Today my hubby and I managed to fill some cement tubes for a foundation, till and make raised beds in a two acre field for transplanting tomorrow, drop off and pick up the kids, fetch ice cream cones from the store, drop off a car needing new brakes, drop off plants to a neighbour, drive a new tractor back from town, do a load of laundry, have a spaghetti dinner as a family (and a warm breakfast too actually), do the dishes, tidy the house (only a little), feed the pigs, collect the eggs, fill the water troughs, fix a tractor that wouldn’t start, not fix a truck that wouldn’t start, write this blog post, send some work related emails, water the greenhouse, put away the winter clothes, tidy the kids and take some pictures of them as the sun went down, fill in a hole at the back of the house…and shower at some point in the day.

It’s a long and boring list I know. But all you need to know is that not one of these things happened without the other making it possible. Some we did together. Some alone (I insisted on tilling up the beds as I had a new CD I wanted to listen to).

I suspect there is a lot of trust in being one another’s cantilever. If you’re going to extend far beyond yourself, it’s a real good thing if you believe the thing you’re swinging from is solid. I would break without my husband’s support. There is not a whole lot that I do right now that doesn’t depend on him.

How’s that for a feminist? I did mighty fine before I had this relationship. Now I can do things greater than I ever thought possible.


  1. I'm guilty of avoiding the term feminist for all that the word has come to represent in today's world. But your new and fresh definition brings a fuller, more feminine, more honorable meaning, and makes me less fearful of the word. I love it! And your tribute to your man is so right on. I'm gonna share these wonderful thoughts with my own cantilever ASAP!

  2. It is still a struggle for me at times to acknowledge that I am stronger as an interdependant person than as an independant one!
    I truly could not cope emotionally without my husbands " counter-balance".It's such a gift in life to truly know someone has your back.Wonderful post.
    ( and sounded like a mighty productive day with two little ones!)

  3. That cantilever comparison reminds me of this beautiful John Donne poem:

    "If they be two, they are two so As stiff twin compasses are two ;
    Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
    To move, but doth, if th' other do.

    And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet, when the other far doth roam,
    It leans, and hearkens after it,
    And grows erect, as that comes home.

    Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
    Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
    Thy firmness makes my circle just, And makes me end where I begun."


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