I have always considered myself a feminist. Sure, I might not ‘look’ like one (whatever that means, but I’ve been told it before), but I am. Heck, let’s be honest here: every woman is a feminist even if they don’t realise it, because feminism in its basic, basal terms is just about women demanding equality – nothing more, nothing less.
Caitlin Moran said it best:
This desire for equality and a commitment to carving a path for the younger generation is what used to underpin most of my decisions. I’m not perfect and I’m certainly no role model but I try.
I got pregnant in 2015.
I didn’t think I would require much time off. I worked for my career. I worked damn hard for it. I wasn’t going to be one of those women (eg. my mother) who gave up their career to become a mum. I can do both. I can be both. That’s what women have been fighting for for all these years, right? The freedom and the choice and the right to do both. To be both. But, what if we can’t? Not ‘we’ per say, but me. What if I can’t?
For me (and I’m speaking only from my own experience) feminism didn’t place a great deal of value on motherhood. You’re a mum, that’s great, but what do you actually do with yourself? You know, what’s your profession? Full disclosure here: I used to be incredibly jobcentric. It was how I defined myself. I wasn’t Tash, I was a journalist or an editor.
I took a year off for maternity leave. I found it hard. I’d never been a mother before. There was no ‘routine’. I couldn’t just reason with the baby to go back to sleep or to eat at a certain time. It was chaos. But then something magical happened – she began to change. She had her first smile, her first laugh and her first steps.
Only problem is that last thing, her first steps, I wasn’t there to witness them. I was at work and it killed me. Each day I would kiss G’s silken cheeks as she slept before heading into the office. My unbridled love for her would sit heavy in my chest all day until I’d come home and lavish it upon G. It is a weight which gnaws at your soul.
“Try not to think about her,” a fellow female colleague with a daughter around the same age as G once told me. “That’s what I do because if I think about S too much I’ll just cry and have a nervous breakdown”.
What happened to me?
Samantha Johnson wrote about the issue for Huffington Post saying:
“In the fight to ensure equality, as we preach to girls that they can — and should — do anything a boy can do, we are failing to prepare women for one of the greatest challenges so many of them will face; motherhood. We are teaching our young people that there is no value in motherhood and that homemaking is an outdated, misogynistic concept”
I’m still in limbo. Is that really the reason? What about ye olde days when that was all women were deemed to be good for. The resounding memories of the time seem to indicate a distinct lack of fulfillment among new mothers – they wanted more.
So, perhaps, has the pendulum swung too far the other way? Look, there are some women who want to be mothers (eg. my grandmother). It’s all they’ve wanted, it makes them happy to be a homemaker and that is fine. Others want their career and motherhood (eg. me) and that is also fine. But the question I’m asking is does feminism devalue those who want to be (and I’m loathe to use this word) ‘just’ a mother? I don’t know. I actually don’t have an answer.
I don’t know. I really, truly don’t. I can only go off the way I’m feeling right now.
At this moment I’m lucky to have been granted some extra time at home with G. It’s been beautiful, glorious. The mundane rituals of changing her nappy and taking her for walks bring with them a kind of lazy love dance that only work to strengthen a bond – I can feel she needs me and it’s intoxicating.
My only objective – to love and to care. A focused, selfless effort to nourish G with every ounce of adoration my heart can pump out.
Perhaps I cannot stand the guilt. Perhaps I can’t push her little face down down into the recesses of my mind – just like my collage advised – as I make coffee in the kitchen with Janet from product.
Maybe? Maybe that’s it? Again, I don’t have the answers and I wish I did. I wonder how other career women who became mothers feel about the topic?