Tag Archives: babies

What They Expect When You’re Expecting

So when I first found out I was pregnant, or rather when I first decided to stay pregnant, I went through what I would call the normal stages. The ‘Jesus Christ!’ stage, the ‘WHAT DO WE DO?!?!’ stage, and the ‘Okay, really, what do we do?’ stage. Foolishly, I was under the impression that the ‘we’ here in question, was my boyfriend and I. As it turned out, there was a third parent that I was leaving out and being pregnant means you’re required to listen to the opinion of every other woman who has ever had a baby, seen a baby, or heard of babies.

To clarify, in this little rant, I am mostly talking about other women, a group that I’m not used to criticising much. There seems to be an embarrassing element to ‘baby stuff’ for men, and they are far less likely to comment on it, lest they trap themselves in some sort of lady bits conversation or accidentally unleash the wrath of a hormonal preggo, enraged by his audacity to presume to know more about the beauty of baby-forming. Far too many women, however, don’t have the same social graces, and have no qualms about telling you exactly what kind of mother you need to be, how you’re doing pregnancy wrong, how your ideas on parenting are wrong and how you’re generally a fat failure who should be lynched for drinking a cup of coffee. It doesn’t matter how rude they sound: I’m young and this is my first baby, so they’re right and I’m an idiot

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I could never be described as the maternal type. I’m also clumsy, untidy and generally not very good at anything. I’ve come to regard these characteristics as fun little quirks that only mildly bother those around me. I can’t change these traits in the slightest, and to do so would be to change myself entirely. The thing is, you’re not allowed to be clumsy or scatter-brained when you’re going to be a mother, and you’re certainly supposed to enjoy the company of children. My plea that I could just love my child and continue silently hating everyone else’s doesn’t seem to fly.

To a lot of women I’m going to be a bad mother because I can’t keep up with all of these suppose to-s. These supposed to-s put a tremendous amount of pressure on women, for example on issues such as breast-feeding (which is often out of the mother’s control) and attachment parenting. Am I the only one who thinks that there’s something deeply wrong with women telling other women how they’re supposed to be? Would we let men away with it?

I suppose when you break it down, it’s about identity. There is a certain loss of identity that comes along with pregnancy. It’s a stressful time. My body doesn’t look like my body, my hormones mean I have no control over my own emotions and strangers suddenly think its okay to touch my stomach in the street. This experience, one that has always been regarded as the ultimate female experience, has almost taken away my womanhood altogether and left me as a temporary incubator. ‘I am vessel, hear me roar!’ hardly has the same ring to it and honestly, I could really live without other women telling me that I’m not living up to their expectations and trying to change me even further. If I can’t be Carol Brady, can I at least gestate in peace without feeling like there’s some sort of mould that I should be trying to squeeze myself into like an ill-fitting maternity bra? Can’t I do what women have been doing since the dawn of time and figure out this whole matriarch thing without taking on everyone else’s conflicting views and losing all command on the situation? Or is it a ‘no birth control, no control at all‘ sort of situation?

I guess what I’m saying, ladies, is that as long as we’re the ones that have to fire humans out of our genitals, can we accept that there are different types of mothers? I mean, there has to be because there are different types of women. Not every woman who hasn’t won an award for their organic baby food recipes is endangering their baby. I would like to propose a little wiggle room, so that all women have the right to experience motherhood whether they are the ‘type’ or not. Just give us a little room to breathe: we’ll call it a social episiotomy.

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The Kirstie Allsopp debate

Today saw an almighty bombshell dropped on the Twittersphere, in the form of a controversial interview with Kirstie Allsopp. The property expert has a reputation for being outspoken on matters relating to maternity, feminism and relationships. Yet, her remarks in an interview with Bryony Gordon have been subject to much discussion today.

Indeed, certain individuals may be guilty of engaging in this debate without reading the article in full. But, having read the interview, I feel her advice to young women may be teetering on the verge of dangerous — not to mention being non-progressive. In the interview, she counselled young women to skip university, have children in their mid-twenties and postpone their careers until later.

I don’t have a girl, but if I did I’d be saying ‘Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.

This reordering of rites of passage may seem like a valid, viable option, but it seems fair to say that this lifestyle will not be adopted by the majority of men. By adopting Kirstie’s model, women will immediately set themselves apart from men, thus allowing men to progress professionally more quickly, without the threat (or existence) of women in that field.

Naturally, as Caitlin Moran points out, it is important to weigh up other options which allow women to be professionally fulfilled as well as having a family. With increasing pressures placed upon us by society, and ourselves, it does at times seem impossible to envisage having a family whilst also having a career. Yet, if women postpone their education until later, certain industries will become saturated with educated, better-qualified male candidates. Meanwhile, women are expected to sit at home with their babies and wait for their careers? It seems regressive, and reminiscent of a 1950s model of family life.

It is healthy to discuss other alternatives to the prescribed way of life — and it is right to acknowledge that this lifestyle does not suit all women, nor does it suit all men. It’s important to remember that feminism is about choice — but we must not impose our life decisions on others.

The importance of education should always be impressed upon young women, and young men, for that matter. For centuries, women were denied the right to a proper education, so to negate its importance is unwise. Nonetheless, this is not the right avenue for everyone, and that’s a decision to be made by the individual in question.

I don’t want the next generation of women to go through the heartache that my generation has. At the moment we are changing the natural order of things, with grandparents being much older and everyone squeezed in the middle. Don’t think ‘my youth should be longer’. Don’t go to university because it’s an ‘experience’. No, it’s where you’re supposed to learn something! Do it when you’re 50!”

Kirstie Allsopp didn’t go to university, which perhaps doesn’t lend much credence to her arguments about higher education. University is hugely beneficial, and not just an ‘experience’ — going to university has granted me access to certain jobs which absolutely require a higher echelon of education. It is not merely an excuse to leave home and engage in bacchic merriment, but also a formative experience which teaches us how to become an independent adult.

Perhaps I do feel I should be young for as long as possible, but I don’t see the harm in that. I want to be established in my career path before I have a family, and that’s my choice. Other women may choose a different path, and they are entitled to do so — it’s their choice.