Challenging Expectations of Everyday Fatherhood
The (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries: Mike Reynolds
by Julian Alessandroni
Welcome to The (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries, where no topic — while in the middle of a goddamn pandemic — is off limits.
Before “phase two” of reopening Canada’s Capital (Ottawa, Ontario) amidst Covid-19, we had the opportunity to check in with Mike Reynolds, AKA @everydaygirldad. Mike is a nonbinary parent raising two girls, a podcast host, a writer, and a feminist cross-stitcher challenging traditional ideas of masculinity and expectations of fatherhood. They are expressing their transformative and progressive life, while shamelessly sharing it with the world. We did not have to think twice when we had the chance to sit down — drink in hand — with this incredible Canadian dad.
Between liberating their audience through sharing their mental health and body positivity journey, and running their “The Sew Manly Podcast” — Mike Reynolds found time to share some quarantine wisdom with us. Of note: How to speak candidly with our kids about sexuality, gender, and sexual pleasure; and how much our intimate relationships with our partners, and within ourselves, can see us through some of the most challenging moments in our lives. Read on for the good stuff.
(nsfmg): Mike, your journey of self-acceptance has been absolutely inspiring. Do you find it easier to lean into your true self when the outside world is, essentially, on pause? Do you feel less pressure when you’re confined in the safety of your own home? Or have you always been this damn confident? Teach us your ways . . .
M.R.: I strangely have found it a little more difficult. I had come out as non-binary days before quarantine, and then immediately was quarantined. I thought, oh shit — I just did this, and was proudly and happily doing this, now suddenly I have to go into our home and stay there?
(nsfmg): It is hard for a lot of parents to be in touch with their sexuality, and sensuality, while donning the “parent” hat. Do you find it difficult? How do you separate the two?
M.R.: I don’t find it difficult. It’s probably because of the way we raise our kids, to be honest. We are so open with the way we talk about sex.
Sex Positive is a very loaded term, just in how it is described and how it is so broad; however, the way [my partner and I] talk about sex with our kids is that there are no taboo questions to ask about sexual health and education. There is nothing that we believe to be out of bounds.
Sex is something that is not just about how to make babies; it’s how we can expereince a type of pleasure. [Pleasure is] something that our kids will end up (assuming that they are not asexual, although they could be) getting out of sex. Sexuality is not something that people have to hide, and people’s bodies should not bring along shame. Parts of our bodies, that we feel good about, are something we should not hide.
Just because we are a Mom and Dad does not mean that we don’t enjoy sex. When our kids ask about sex, we don’t hide the fact that we enjoy it. We don’t pretend that sex does not exist. These things are very real parts of people’s lives.
I think there are ways to be able to talk about sex as an OK thing. It has freed me up to feel OK about it in my own life. If I don’t hide it from my kids, I don’t have to hide it in my own life, either. I don’t feel any shame around it in any part of my life. It feels good everywhere. I feel pretty good to explore it.
(nsfmg): Speaking of exploring, you are truly unafraid to deeply learning about the issues that impact our world —immensely. And in light of the Black Lives Matter protests happening all over the world, you’ve been very vocal on this movement’s importance within your life. How do you approach conversations on racism with your children now?
M.R.: What I’ve realized is that we’ve talked more about WHY racism is bad and not enough about HOW to be anti-racist. And that’s where I — as a parent and as an individual — have to do a lot of work.
That’s some of the ways we’re approaching these conversations right now: Admitting that as their parent I’m doing the work, too, and that I’m learning what I’ve missed and how I need to speak up more.
We have never been the kind of parents who have used the “I don’t see color” kind of discussions, so we’ve already discussed inequalities faced by different racial groups. But, we’ve been discussing the violence [BIPOC] experience from governments a lot more than usual this time around.
(nsfmg): What have your kids’ responses been like during these conversations? What parts do you think are resonating the most?
M.R.: Discussions around the police not being safe for everyone has been something they have been really interested in hearing about because it is something they are just not used to hearing.
We’re talking about how police violence impacts [Black] communities.
(nsfmg): Mike, as a Canadian, have you been able to access Canadian resources and information regarding the racism that is embedded in your country?
M.R.: Yes! That’s definitely been a long-time priority of our family’s as well. From talking about the racism that Indiginous communities face right now (and historically) to learning more on Africville — that [is something] we’ve been seeing more of recently.
You see it all the time — that Canadians get complacent and pretend things aren’t bad here when protests erupt like this in the United States. But, the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) just killed Rodney Levi (an indigenous victim shot by Canadian police), and you look at the recent police-involved death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. There’s racism in our police forces, and our governments, and our communities.
We are talking about historical racism in Canada, but are also making sure that as part of an anti-racist approach, we are talking about racism that exists TODAY, too.
(nsfmg): How has what you’ve been learning recently shifted your life in tangible ways — if at all?
M.R.: Because I’ve been doing a lot of values-based work in my own therapy, it’s been a good opportunity to reflect on all the things I’ve been missing when it comes to my own biases. So as I work through books like Me and White Supremacy, I’m learning the ways I’m using white silence to my advantage and trying to put plans in place to stop [myself] from doing that.
Being vocal in my spaces when people I know make racist comments is going to be the biggest thing I can do right now. Stepping out of discomfort and privilege face-to-face is what so many white people need to do.
I’m making sure that on my own social platforms, I do regular reviews of the accounts I share to make sure I’m amplifying Black voices and not living in my own world of privilege. I’m supporting Patreon accounts of Black activists and being more aware of the places I spend my money and the places those organizations support. I’ve set up an automatic roundup investment account as well to be able to make donations to organizations that support Black trans people.
There’s a lot I have to learn and I’m going to make so many mistakes, but it’s necessary to do so in order to learn.
Being anti-racist isn’t something I [am going to] achieve, but something I keep doing and learning over time.
(nsmfg): I wanted to talk about keeping the fire alive in a marriage during quarantine, but it seems like you’re truly focusing on your children and your unit as a whole.
M.R.: I think at this point “keeping the fire alive” is making sure that the fire does not permanently go out.
We have been together for a very long time. We’re certainly OK with the ups and downs. We’re OK with creating moments where either of us can take both the kids and make sure there are times for each other to be alone in a bedroom and NOT have kids around us. Because sometimes that’s what a partnership is about.
By the time 9:30pm comes around and the kids are asleep, we often have no energy left. But maybe around one or two in the morning we can find the “energy”. You know, you find it where, and when you can! Sometimes that’s what our partnership is about — just finding the time.
Those are ways we can provide support for one another right now. That’s how we can build the relationship and maintain solidarity throughout this kind of [experience].