With age comes wisdom and understanding – and a shed load of pressure, apparently. Something I have come to understand as I get older is that because I have a uterus people have an opinion on when I should use that uterus for what it’s really there for: growing a baby.
It never ceases to amaze me the assumptions people make about being a woman and childbearing and rearing.
People tell me:
One: that I should, of course, have children, and not before I get too old. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Two: When I do have children, I will want to give up work or at least work part-time.
Three: I will inevitably end up doing more of the domestic/ baby work than my husband.
Four: Even if I do work, my career won’t matter (possibly, shouldn’t matter).
Five: My life will be much more complete and so much more fulfilled for having children because they will be the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. (What a heap of expectation and pressure to dump on someone. Tell me something like this and I am immediately suspicious).
Six: I should breastfeed.
Seven: My life will never be the same, but transformed completely. (I’m going to be honest, it doesn’t always seem as though this transformation will be a good thing.)
This is all very overwhelming, to say the least. But really, my point is: WHY DOES NO ONE TELL MY HUSBAND THIS STUFF?
He has very little expectation (or say, apparently) heaped on him. It’s curious, actually no, it’s sexist.
The pressure put on me, and I know the same happens to other women, about children: when I should have them, why I should have them, what I should feel when I have them, what I should do with them, feels so immense I can’t breathe and the rebellious streak in me wants to remain childless as a protest and move to the other-side of the world (I’ve lived there before and it’s really rather nice).
It’s exhausting for me, not to mention a bit of a head f@@k. Whereas, the only thing my husband should worry about, apparently, is not firing blanks when the time comes.
Thinking about all this reminded me that people always moan about single mums on benefits (yes, the bloody boring benefits whinge), but don’t say ANYTHING about the absent fathers not paying and/ or looking after their children. If a young woman gets pregnant and has a child, it is HER fault and responsibility! (It’s not obviously, HELLO).
Then people bemoan working mothers and criticise them for not spending enough time with their children. The same logic is almost never applied to men. It’s really easy to criticise a mother on benefits as poncing off the state, but more than likely, that’s a mother who has been let down by someone, sacrificed her career for her family and suddenly finds herself divorced/single and on benefits, struggling, because years of doing part-time jobs and taking the lion’s share of the childcare and housework duties has left her unable to earn enough to pay all the bills. Not to mention that many mothers need to work in this increasingly expensive country or actually WANT to work. I for one adore my job.
Just goes to show, that women are dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t.
The worst thing is, there is an underlying insinuation that I can’t be happy and fulfilled if I don’t have children. What if I believed this and couldn’t physically have children? Excuse me while I go and numb my pain with vodka and wine and cry about missing out on the only experience that can truly complete me.
Fortunately, I am old and wise enough to know that this is bullshit. There are so many other amazing and fulfilling experiences to have in life. Being a mother or not has no bearing on your femininity or womanhood, whatsoever. (I can’t help but feel that getting women to believe the opposite is some kind of trick to keep the human race and patriarchy going. I’m only half joking).
For me, all this pressure and expectation just takes the joy out of what should be a free and exciting choice to make between two people. It sullies the uniting sense of adventure.
Creating such high expectations about anything in life is surely dangerous and setting some one up for a fall.
Today I watched a news story on Channel 4’s Facebook page about a report the Co-Op and Red Cross did that identified having a baby as a main cause for loneliness. In the video two mothers discuss the loneliness and isolation and the pressure to show they were not struggling had kept them housebound almost.
It is almost always assumed, without the slightest bit of condemnation, that men do not want to stay at home with their kids (they need to earn the money, of course! And because of the pay gap this is usually true. Or men aren’t interested in babies – this is not true), but that, conversely, women will love being a stay at home parent. This is odd to me.
I was hugely relieved to read Jess Phillips book, Everywoman, where she gives what I feel is a more honest account of motherhood.
Phillips says many women have children because: “Being called mom, mum, ma makes you feel like you belong”. And that: “ the truth about motherhood for me is different for the truth about motherhood for the next person” and “most of the time it [motherhood] is unremarkable, tedious and frankly a bit meh.”
(Sorry, but when I hear about parents cleaning their children’s shit off the wall, this is what I think).
But that’s OK. Most things in life are unremarkable most of the time, are hard work and at times, tedious. That’s life. Nothing remarkable is happening most nights a week when I’m sitting at home watching TV with my husband, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else (well, except sipping pina coladas on our private Caribbean island that we will buy once we win the lottery, of course).
And, finally, Phillips adds: “Who decided that having it all was to have children and a job? These are pretty low ambitions we women set for ourselves…being pregnant and employed is not the stuff that dreams are made.”
THANK YOU! This is part of what bothers me: surely we should expect more from our girls, women, than having a job and producing children. But often, there is no other expectation or nothing considered as important than the latter.
I’ll just add this quote from Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman book for good measure: “If you want to know what’s in motherhood for you, as a woman, then – in truth – it’s nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whisky with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter; growing foxgloves, peas and roses; calling your mum; singing while you walk; being polite; and always, always helping strangers. No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it.”
So, I have one piece of advice to anyone thinking of questioning me about motherhood, I don’t know how to say this in a politer way (actually, yes I do, because I have been saying it, endlessly, but no one is listening), but quite simply:
MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
Ask once and you are forgiven; Twice and I will refer you to this blog because I don’t want to waste wine time discussing it; Three times and you may not be hearing from me for a while.
P.S Anyway, we all know the only reason to have kids is so they can look after you when you’re old and soon we will have robots for that.
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