After attending three new mom groups, only to be banned for eating Cheetos (not organic!) and uttering the occasional swear word, Sadie Walker questions why she is trying so hard to fit in. While sitting in another dingy community center playroom full of squealing babies and new moms enthusiastically discussing homemade organic baby food, Sadie meets John, a handsome, vivacious dad. They quickly form a friendship and Sadie finally finds an adult outlet. John soon becomes a lifeline and she looks to him for advice and support, and confides in him about her strained marriage and career as a copywriter. Sadie begins to have sexual fantasies about John. Those fantasies turn into opportunity when he tells her he’s in an open marriage. As Sadie contemplates how far is too far in regards to her friendship with John, she must also question herself, her marriage, an d her life. Will swinging with John improve that life, or destroy it?
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John returns to the table with his latte and starts to pack up his stuff. I’m less than enthusiastic about heading out into the rain, but I know he has already been at Cleo’s for over an hour, so he probably needs a change of venue. I ask him what the plan for the day is.
“Let’s go to the park. It’s supposed to clear up anytime now.”
The walk and fresh smell of cherry blossoms mixed with the clean scent of rain revive me. I love springtime in Seattle. We put up with a lot of rain and grey days, and then sometime in late March, it’s as if the gods decide to reward us. “Here!” they say. “An orgy of smells and colors all at once. Enjoy!”
Seattle is a horticulturist’s delight, and my neighborhood has a lot of enthusiastic gardeners. Even the tiniest, most run-down 1940s bungalow will often have a few lilacs growing alongside daffodils and tulips or a large rhododendron in full bloom at this time of year. But the smells can only revive me so much, and I can’t stifle a yawn.
“See, you should have accepted the latte,” he says.
“Yeah, I guess I should have. Besides the pukefast last night, I didn’t sleep very well, because I’m worried about work.”
“I thought you quit.”
“I did, and that’s what worries me. What if I can’t find another job? What if no other jobs will let me be part-time either? What if MaryAnn’s clients don’t want me? What if—”
“What if the world blows up tomorrow?” he laughs. “You can’t worry about all that. Have you ever been out of work for long?”
“Then you won’t be now.”
“But the economy has changed. We’re in a recession.”
“Bullshit. There’s still plenty of money and jobs in Seattle. The people you’ll freelance for are still rolling in it. You’ll be fine.” He shakes his head. “I swear, feminism screwed you guys up more than it helped you.”
“What? That’s pretty funny coming from a man who stays home with his kid.”
“Yeah, but I knew that’s what I wanted and didn’t overthink it. Plus, I’m not a woman, so it’s different. My forefathers didn’t have to fight for the right to work, it was expected. So when offered the chance to not to, I’d be an idiot to say no. Which is what you should do—bask in the temporary freedom to stay home with your kid. It doesn’t mean you’re not talented and smart, it just means you want to be with Spencer while he’s a baby.”
“I don’t know. It’s not that simple…”
John cracks up. “Actually, it is. And that’s why feminism has screwed you up. Instead of having no choice in the matter, you have too many choices, so you can’t win. If you work full-time, you feel guilty. If you don’t work, you feel as if you’re letting your sisters down and aren’t respected. And even when you decide you will work, you question the job you have and wonder if it is meaningful enough or creative enough? It’s a total headache. Women claim they want it all, but do they really? It’s really hard to work and be the parent you want to be, so if anything, you’ve made your life harder rather than easier.”
I want to negate what he’s saying and tell him he’s a pig, but some of what he says makes sense. Yes, I want it all—the fulfillment of working along with the rewards of being there for Spencer’s first tooth, the day he crawls, or says his first word. And I can have that. Can’t I?
Corbin Lewars is the author of PNBA and Washington State book award nominee Creating a Life: The memoir of a writer and mom in the making and Losing Him, Gaining You: Divorce as Opportunity. Her personal essays have been featured in over twenty-five publications including Mothering, Hip Mama, and the Seattle PI, as well as in several writing anthologies. She teaches writing at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle and at national conferences. She lives in Seattle, WA, with her two children. Website