I See You Jose.
I see you Jose.
Woke up this morning in a fog. I had major insomnia last night starting at 2:33 AM when I woke up to check up on Amaru. I think I couldn’t sleep out of anxiety that he would vomit since he was sick all day with some type of stomach flu, poor kid. When I woke up ready to start my day, you and my lil Amaru were shutting the front door of our house behind you — you had given me a chance to sleep in. I had a moment of feeling terrible — a feeling too many working parents often have. I had missed the 7:30 AM ride with you both to the gym and the opportunity to tell you that since I was so late for the gym wake up call, I could keep Amaru so you could go workout and I could spend some time with my son before heading to work.
It’s been one of those really tough weeks, working till 8 PM every night. Feel so comforted coming home to you, a clean house and a son bathed and ready for bed. Though it is not like this every week, some days are long at work and when my days are long, so are yours.
I can’t tell you enough how many times friends with a social justice conscience in my line of work who perhaps should know better and family who never knows better have asked me, “so when is Jose getting a job?” The question never upsets me, it mostly shocks me, because I know the weight behind it. I always respond, “he has a job”. My answer is some combination of the following; “He works on his publishing company three days a week, studies daily at least three hours, cleans, does laundry, picks up Amaru from day care and ensures he is in bed by 8 PM.” I realized lately that some part of me, deep in my subconscious feels pressure to satisfy patriarchy’s expectations — that you are not “lazy”, that I’m not a fool for “not making you get a job”. Lately I ended up catching myself going even further and saying “he is bringing in some money from his IFA classes and some spiritual work he is doing for people here and there,” but then I realize I was trying to prove you are being “productive” in what is acknowledged as the “real economy” as oppose to the invisible one — being a home maker, a student and a stay at home parent — because society teaches us that all of that is less valuable. My political being knows that, but somehow I still fall into the patriarchy trap. What is so wicked about this patriarchal mentality is that if I was the one staying home, my work would also be invisibilized, but no one would question me not “going back to work” because it would be my role, not yours as a man to stay home and do the invisible work. I realized I don’t really care about answering people’s questions anymore. All I care about is you knowing I see you and all your work. I only care that you know I support your path and that you support mine.
All these dynamics with people remind me that your work, like women’s work is invisible because you don’t physically leave home and show up somewhere to report to work. Reality is that the work of a parent never ends; there might be a break between 10 PM and 2:33 AM while you sleep and before insomnia and anxiety hits. The work of an IFA student/servant never ends but it’s invisible if you are not making “money” or bringing in the same amount of money as your significant other, because as it is in the case of women, “supplemental income” is never really seen as income or a real contribution.
I know I get desperate and frustrated when you travel every four months for ten days at a time for concentrated IFA study with Chief. I want you to know, I have been trying to challenge myself on that. I think I get terrified about being a single parent even if for ten days. I wholeheartedly respect the insurmountable amount of work that some of my dear friends have to do as single mothers and how invisible their work at home is as well. I feel your support the most when you are gone and I realize that showing my appreciation through frustration is completely backward and it must really feel disorienting to be on the receiving end of that. I see the amount of love and care you put into your Thursday and Friday outings with Amaru to the zoo or the children’s museum. I see your discipline with his consistent bath every night at 7 PM that helps him relax. It is endearing when you jump out of bed to rush to the toilet every morning and ensure his morning lesson of potty training is not missed before an accident. I appreciate your loving and understanding when I have insomnia or had a tough day in protecting my sleeping in and extra hour or two trying to hush Amaru as he runs around the house.
I see you and your devotion for our IFA tradition, the countless hours as a dedicated student that you put in during the day in very unconventional ways; during car rides, gym workouts, walks, and throughout every possible breathing moment. Your work is paying off, I see it and so do all those people that trust your judgment and your knowledge. I have also seen you grow spiritually. You have always been a kind and patient human being, but the depth of your understanding is deeper and more profound. We journey together aboard our faith but you steer the ship, help us sail through troubled waters and ensure we weather the storm.
I realized a few months ago by hearing people’s judgments that being a male omo awo, a student of IFA without having a 9–5PM job in this society is considered emasculating. If you do not have a “regular job” according to the nuclear family standards — no matter what you are doing at home and professionally you are automatically “living off your woman” and “not taking care of business at home”. It is a sad reflection of this society’s real failure to acknowledge spiritual work as a real calling, a journey and a profession unless of course you are famous, make millions a year, and have your own religious sermons air Sunday mornings on national television.
Know that as a woman, I know what it is like to not be seen. I know you will often remind me of your most admirable trait — that you don’t care what others think. But it is important that you know I recognize your sacrifices and acknowledge your tireless work. Know that I appreciate all of the effort you put into everything you do and the discipline and conviction with which you live, study and praise. Know that I am proud of you and I feel blessed by spirit to have you. I love you and I see you.