September 16, 2008

John Lennon, Househusband

john_yoko_baby.jpg

I'll have to find the credit for this photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono with their newborn son Sean, though the date is probably fall/winter 1975, and the place is the family apartment in the Dakota. [update 30 seconds later: Rock & Roll photographer Bob Gruen. You can buy a signed print in a range of sizes at Rockstore.net for $350-1,400.]

In the spring of 1980, Lennon and Ono gave a looong interview to Playboy Magazine where he talked about the challenges of trying to have a kid, and then the experience of being a "househusband" and raising their son.

There's an excerpt after the jump.

PLAYBOY: Yoko, after this experience, how do you feel about leaving Sean's rearing to John? ONO: I am very clear about my emotions in that area. I don't feel guilty. I am doing it in my own way. It may not be the same as other mothers, but I'm doing it the way I can do it. In general, mothers have a very strong resentment toward their children, even though there's this whole adulation about motherhood and how mothers really think about their children and how they really love them. I mean, they do, but it is not humanly possible to retain emotion that mothers are supposed to have within this society. Women are just too stretched out in different directions to retain that emotion. Too much is required of them. So I say to John----

LENNON: I am her favorite husband----

ONO: "I am carrying the baby nine months and that is enough, so you take care of it afterward." It did sound like a crude remark, but I really believe that children belong to the society. If a mother carries the child and a father raises it, the responsibility is shared.

PLAYBOY: Did you resent having to take so much responsibility, John?

LENNON: Well, sometimes, you know, she'd come home and say, "I'm tired." I'd say, only partly tongue in cheek, "What the fuck do you think I am? I'm 24 hours with the baby! Do you think that's easy?" I'd say, "You're going to take some more interest in the child." I don't care whether it's a father or a mother. When I'm going on about pimples and bones and which TV shows to let him watch, I would say, "Listen, this is important. I don't want to hear about your $20,000,000 deal tonight!" [To Yoko] I would like both parents to take care of the children, but how is a different matter.

ONO: Society should be more supportive and understanding.

LENNON: It's true. The saying "You've come a long way, baby" applies more to me than to her. As Harry Nilsson says, "Everything is the opposite of what it is, isn't it?" It's men who've come a long way from even contemplating the idea of equality. But although there is this thing called the women's movement, society just took a laxative and they've just farted. They haven't really had a good shit yet. The seed was planted sometime in the late Sixties, right? But the real changes are coming. I am the one who has come a long way. I was the pig. And it is a relief not to be a pig. The pressures of being a pig were enormous. I don't have any hankering to be looked upon as a sex object, a male, macho rock-'n'-roll singer. I got over that a long time ago. I'm not even interested in projecting that. So I like it to be known that, yes, I looked after the baby and I made bread and I was a househusband and I am proud of it. It's the wave of the future and I'm glad to be in on the forefront of that, too.

ONO: So maybe both of us learned a lot about how men and women suffer because of the social structure. And the only way to change it is to be aware of it. It sounds simple, but important things are simple.

PLAYBOY: John, does it take actually reversing roles with women to understand?

LENNON: It did for this man. But don't forget, I'm the one who benefited the most from doing it. Now I can step back and say Sean is going to be five years old and I was able to spend his first five years with him and I am very proud of that. And come to think of it, it looks like I'm going to be 40 and life begins at 40 -- so they promise. And I believe it, too. I feel fine and I'm very excited. It's like, you know, hitting 21, like, "Wow, what's going to happen next?" Only this time we're together.

ONO: If two are gathered together, there's nothing you can't do.

4 Comments

Interesting the disparity between the treatment of Sean and Julian.

Julian said of his father, "I've never really wanted to know the truth about how dad was with me. There was some very negative stuff talked about me ... like when he said I'd come out of a whiskey bottle on a Saturday night. Stuff like that. You think, where's the love in that? Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit ... more than dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad."

--wikipedia

"And come to think of it, it looks like I'm going to be 40 and life begins at 40 -- so they promise. And I believe it, too. I feel fine and I'm very excited."

Damn.

Wow--I have newfound respect for John Lennon. I am going to give this to my husband to read. As for different treatment of Julian and Sean--looks like it definitely took having to take care of Sean from day 1 to make him a better father.

I'm not so sure Lennon's worthy of any "newfound respect", or that Sean had it so much better than Julian. At least one biographer (Giuliano) reported that Lennon violently kicked Ono in the stomach when she was pregnant with Sean.

There were multiple instances reported during Sean's early childhood of John hitting Sean in public, and I remember seeing a (Vanity Fair, I think) piece on John and Yoko which described John kicking a very young - younger than six months - Sean because he would not stop crying when John was either practicing some form of martial arts or trying to meditate. (Yeah, I know. Complicated guy.)

Regrettable as it is, none of this is particularly surprising when you consider Lennon's very hardscrabble background. But it's not exactly the stuff of romantic stay-at-home daddy worship, either. The music is fabulous; the creators, well, maybe not so much, at least as far as parenting was concerned.

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