By Julianne Hing
Becoming a mother forced artist Janine Macbeth to search for a new definition of fatherhood. After giving birth to two children, Macbeth found that old gender norms and ideas about fatherhood were not just hopelessly outdated, they were breaking her down. So after her second son was born, she and her husband started from scratch to explore new ways to be a family. “Oh, Oh, Baby Boy!”, a new children’s book from Macbeth’s brand new publishing company Blood Orange Press, is her tribute to that journey. It’s a celebration of loving, engaged fathers, the children they once were and the ones they now raise.
Ahead of Father’s Day, Macbeth joined me over the phone from her home in Oakland, Calif., to talk about engaged fatherhood, the importance of showing images of loving men and fathers of color, and the political space she’s creating to tell more stories like these with her new publishing company.
What compelled you to start this project?
It started gelling when our second child was born. I became hyperaware of how disenfranchising motherhood can be and how traditional gender norms reallly, really, really hold moms back. That was a painful realization.
And the flip side of that coin was my husband was absolutely amazing and stepped up. And his commitment to his kids and his commitment to me broke our family out of traditional gender norms so even though they tend to hold moms back, he didn’t let them hold me back.
Is there a memory that sticks out in your mind as an example of how your husband was able to be there for you and for your family in a way that society doesn’t expect fathers to be?
With our first son I had some complications around nursing. And I was literally not getting more than an hour and a half of sleep a day, for many days. And so when the baby would cry or need something it got to the point where it was like, okay, if [my husband] Lome gets the baby I might get a little more rest and my health might improve. It was survival mode. We’d talk about it and I’d say, I need you to take the baby half the night. And that helped me even have brain power and be able to be present. And that evolved into him always doing dishes, cleaning, doing the laundry, which literally freed up my energy and space to be able to start working on art projects.
Read More A New Definition of Fatherhood – COLORLINES.