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[ 1 ] November 5, 2011 |

Chapter 5 of 32 in A Father’s Journal
By Forrest Seymour
Originally published in March, 1994.

Fair, a friend, said to me, “the first few years are easy.” Fair lives in the woods and batiks clothing to support herself and her teenage daughter. She seems to know her stuff. We’d run into each other in the post office and I’d told her that Nancy and I were pregnant.

“You can travel, move around,” she informed me. “It’s when they start school that you have to settle down.”

When they start school.

Why, then, am I stretching my resources, financial and emotional, to buy a house before my first baby is born? The deadline, in fact, has long passed for this to happen before Nancy and I enter our parental phase, the baby will be in our lives long before a house is, yet , in a demented rush, I maintain a pace as if this deadline were not months behind us.

And we are comfortable where we are, could stay here for years. Why do we push ourselves, at a time when we are experiencing the new, intimate stress of a first pregnancy, to embrace the overwhelming project of a House That Needs Work? It would appear that pregnancy and prospective parenthood open us in new ways to that blasted paradox of life, the struggle between security and freedom, ecstasy and predictability.

I remember as a young teen dreaming of the house I’d like to own, massive, rambling, and no doubt maintenance, mortgage and adult free. I had no concept of the price tag such ownership carries, the financial and personal usury involved.

Nancy and I not only live, but also work together. Over the last few years I have gradually moved out of teaching and human services and into her jewelry business. We have recently downsized, as they say, laying off employees, so that now it is only she and I who do everything, production, marketing, distribution, etc. We have maximum flexibility with minimal cash flow.

And we have what we have want, a lifestyle which we can support by sharing work and child-rearing as equally as possible. In doing so we may have given up the ability to own a home, but not apparently the desire.

Fair’s words rattle around in my brain. The first few years are easy. The baby will to anywhere with you. Why settle into a house now?

Why, indeed. A cousin, the divorced father of two, suggests that older parents know more about what parenthood can mean than do younger. We know, at 35, what we like and know that a new baby might not agree. We know enough to be scared.

Halfway through my life ( having just celebrated a birthday I figure I am entitled to a little philosophizing) I’m about to fundamentally change my relationship to the planet, I shall have a noisy little investment in the future beyond and outside of my own life. I am, in the act of choosing parenthood, endorsing that future, sight unseen. I must be optimistic, in some fundamental way, about our earthly predicament. Given my recent railings against such things as our culture’s treatment of the planet, of our school children, and of people who happen to live above valuable geological deposits, I am a little surprised by this apparent optimism. Another emotional conundrum.

Given all this conundrumming and pardoxization perhaps I see in land ownership some sort of security and predictability upon which to rely. And yet how can this be, when I am so aware of the fragility of ownership, both morally and legally. Of how governments can seize your land, banks can foreclose on your land, corporations can ruin your land, neighbors can claim your land, and one day natives may re-claim your land. How can one find security in this?

I am a product of my culture and its conditioning. The American dream, manifest destiny, Ward and the Beav. Perhaps it is a father thing, this dream of the endless, rambling home which makes the struggle worth while. A castle, a little green patch in the sun, a hermetic sanctuary, a home.

I know it is myth, and apparently don’t care. I see me stumbling into parenthood, wresting meaning from artifice, splitting hairs, meeting myself. Fitfully aware of all this foolishness, and wryly amused, I stagger on.


By Forrest Seymour
Originally published in March, 1994, in the Valley Times Journal, Walpole, NH

Category: Father's Journal

About Forrest Seymour: See my LinkedIn Profile Forrest Seymour is a social worker, psychotherapist and violence prevention consultant.  He has worked in community based programs, hospitals, schools and colleges supporting individual and institutional efforts to prevent sexual violence and promote emotional and community health since the mid-‘70s.  He has consulted with State Department International Visitor Groups and serves on the Cheshire County (NH) Domestic Violence Council, the New Hampshire Violence Against Women Campus Consortium and the steering committee of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Outreach.  Since 2006, Forrest has been at the Keene State College Counseling Center where he is a Counselor and the Coordinator of Sexual Violence Prevention & Education.  He counts amongst his inspirations the many men he has collaborated with locally, nationally and internationally who seek in so many creative ways to end men’s violence, but most especially, the male and female students at Keene State College who step up as Mentors in Violence Prevention peer educators, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes march organizers, Shout Out Against Sexual Assault speakers and witnesses, Take Back the Night marchers, “Vagina Monologues” and “No Zebras, No Excuses” performers,  and as violence prevention activists in countless large and small ways every year and every day.  These students are victims, survivors, allies and active-bystanders; they are leaders, role models and inspirations for their peers, for their faculty and staff, and for Forrest. View author profile.