Lying in bed, caressing my swelling stomach, pondering the changes our daughter would bring to our lives, my partner brought up the question of nudity. There was much back-and-forth about where and when nudity would be appropriate and after what hypothetical age nudity in front of her wouldn't be. Chafing under the restrictions we were creating before the baby had even appeared, we made the proud and seemingly daring declaration that we were going to flout convention and be naked in our own home, damn it!
How very radical, we thought.
Except…no, not so much.
Almost universally the age where people plan to stop being so naked in front of their children is three to four years of age, which is generally when kids start school. No one wants Child Protective Services knocking on their door because a teacher heard Susie talking about her daddy's penis or that Mark saw his mommy's breasts.As it turns out, not many parents I've asked think it's all that big a deal to be naked in front of their children. But perhaps that has more to do with the fact that these are parents of very young children, or whose children are the same sex as the parent I'm questioning. The definition of nudity I received from these parents was fairly subjective, so it is difficult to say what people meant when they discussed nudity in front of their children. A mom I spoke with noted that both she and her husband were naked in front of their daughter; he wore just boxers.
Almost universally the age where people plan to stop being so naked in front of their children is three to four years of age, which is generally when kids start school. My extrapolation is that there is a great deal of concern that the wrong thing might be said in front of teachers, who by law are mandated reporters (i.e. legally responsible to report anything they believe might constitute child abuse or exploitation in the home). No one wants Child Protective Services knocking on their door because a teacher heard Susie talking about her daddy's penis or that Mark saw his mommy's breasts. As a former teacher myself, I have empathy for the teacher and the moral dilemma such a comment would pose.
In some respects, this marital debate said volumes about our backgrounds and how the messages we had received in our childhoods had changed (or not) over time. Growing up Catholic, I certainly didn't receive any positive messages about nudity or nakedness. My partner's parents are from a fairly conservative culture, and they made it clear to him that nudity around the house just wasn't okay. Today, you'll more often find me in a tank top and shorts and my partner naked. I would have argued that we were equally sexually liberated, but as our child's existence makes me re-examine all aspects of my life, I am less than thrilled to find out how many of my childhood messages remain.
The reality, like most things, has been different from our game plan.
When the Little Mistress was a very young infant, she was hospitalized for an extended time. Although I had planned to breastfeed, it just wasn't medically possible for my daughter to go along with this plan. Rather than give her formula, I chose to pump my breast milk, attaching myself to a double electric pump every two to three hours. My partner and I also chose to stay in the hospital with my daughter; one of us slept on the cot in her intensive care room and the other in a parent room comprised of little more than the twin bed and a small chair. At first I tried to only pump in the parent room, or to pull the curtain around the parent cot. But I was missing out on far too many conversations I needed to have with the various doctors who were caring for her. It wasn't long before I was brazenly pumping next to her bed, talking with the doctors and not giving a damn that every doctor, resident, nurse and specialist could see my nipples elongating and spraying forth the milk that was being frozen to feed her once she was off the ventilator. Modesty was nowhere in my vocabulary, and my breasts were public property.