alternative futures: distributed parental/communal leave

two loud knocks at the door pulled me away from starting to sanitize the formula bottles in the sink. i dried my hands on my apron and went to see who it was.

“oh my goodness! is that you shola?!?!”

shola smiled, nodded, and gestured to m. “yes, uncle, and this is my partner, chias.”

“it’s a pleasure to meet you, uncle lawrence. is it ok if i call you that? i’ve heard a lot about you from shola. and, if you don’t mind me saying, i can’t really believe you’re in your 60s! geez, they’re not joking when they say ‘black don’t crack’!”

i chuckled and welcomed them in. “welp, when your people live for centuries in the sun, built in sunscreen is a pretty sweet perk, eh?”

i walked them to the kitchen and started put the bottles in the sanitizer. “so do you feel ready for your shift?”

“mmmm…ready as we’ll ever be…” shola nervously noted while glancing around the kitchen.

“it’s alright, sholita. i’ll show you two everything you need to know to have a successful shift. but one process thing first: how was it with your organizations giving you the week of distributed leave?”

chais jumped in: “well, since the national policy is still rolling out, our teams dealt with it pretty differently. my org was very accepting and even excited to have me be the first person to take advantage of the 12 month distributed leave situation. our team had always found it bizarre that maternity and paternity leave were only for the bio-parents of kids so we were raring to go when something better came along. we were ecstatic that parents got 52 weeks of leave to distribute however they want, between themselves, their family members, their friends, and whoever else.”

shola elbowed him. “yea and my team wasn’t so excited about it. they asked me a lot questions about why we wanted to throw ourselves into one of the hardest parts of someone else having a kid: the first few months. i think i convinced them to let me do it by saying that it felt like a win-win-win: the kid’s parents got to have help around the house, especially during the night when we can stay up so they can sleep; we would get to spend precious time with our newest nibbling in their earliest days; and the little one would learn the arms and heartbeats and nervous systems of all the adults who would be tending to them.”

“ha! amazing!” i signed. “i love that all this was foreshadowed at jayden and blue’s wedding and you, so young, stepped into the circle with the adults, too. you committed yourself to helping out when the time came and, though we thought you were bold to do it, but none of us were surprised. that’s always been who you were…”

“ok uncle, enough, enough. now you know that we’re cleared for the week to be here and support these three as they restructure their lives around each other, are you gonna show us how to clean these bottles or what? you know we only have 24 hours of transition day before you leave.”

and just like clockwork the baby started screaming from the crib, three hours after having been put down to nap.

“bottles soon. but first, let me show you how this little nuggetface likes to be held…”

(to be continued…)

note: this story is inspired by the many parents i know who are primarily shouldering the sleepless first months of their baby’s lives with very little support, mostly from close family, a few friends, and (for those who have the economic means for it), paid help.

words / writing / post-processing
481w / 22min / 22min