When I had a daughter three months ago, I knew my relationship with my boyfriend would change dramatically. I wasn’t ready for that I would end up in a questionable threesome with my child and my community.
During childbirth, I was tapping into the unprecedented blood, sweat, tears, and emotional depths inside of me. The role as a mom was like a new pair of jeans that I had to ‘break in’ for the first few weeks, but in the meantime they fit like my second skin. I carry my entire baby in my arms while I dig in the toes of a sock and avoid vomiting subtly. Plus, I’m now fluent in maternity language: engorgement, reflux, reflexes—that kind of thing. In short, I have grown up as a person. The responsibility of the little caterpillar is irrefutable. At the same time, it remained the same. Confused but humorous.
But lately too tired, hungry and sometimes lonely. Because let’s face it, it’s not always the best of luck. It is often the tension of the breasts, the tightening of the sutures, boredom and doubt. But these downsides are rarely or not discussed at all, because we don’t want to scare anyone “from getting started”. So it’s time to lose your lips, because realism is a political business. This is why I like to put dots on the i and cross the t.
A tight-fitting sweater called “natural parenting”
The first day my boyfriend went to work and had to take care of our new human baby on my own, I had an existential panic. And although I am a fairly confident person by nature, doubts regularly surround me. In fact, I feel like I’m constantly failing as a mother. Guilt is the first maternal gift you receive as a mother after giving birth. Don’t get me wrong: my daughter’s love is of an inexpressibly abundant nature. These good aspects are self-evident and need not be listed. But idealizing your role as a mother in society makes it infinitely more difficult. Suddenly this independent and energetic woman found herself isolated in a home and my days consisted of shopping, washing, cleaning and caring for a screaming child. Where is this feminism that I’ve been longing for so long?
Breastfeeding or breastfeeding? Staying at home or going to work? Let the baby sleep with you or put him in his own room? It sounds like a fair debate in which you as a mother have a choice, but the reality is different. In an age when women are supposed to be liberated, modern motherhood is stricter and more perfect than ever. The discourse of progress and empowerment hijacks reality. The current approach to perfection is dogmatically adhered to in which the child is best brought up as “naturally” as possible. The most natural is naturally considered the most virtuous. Ergo: As a mother, it is best to do it as naturally as possible, or consciously choose a minimal upbringing.
“Anyone who still poisons their child in 2022 with pre-made vegetable porridge full of preservatives should be a rogue patron.”
So a good mother during pregnancy begins by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, certain foods, warm meals, and cleaning products. There is even applause for keeping the birth as natural as possible: preferably without anesthesia and if possible also in your living room. When Kate Middleton gave birth to Prince George, headlines were like “11 hours into labor and everything’s normal!” By the way, he who copes well with the UK, always has full attention to him, never loses patience, does not work with a deadline. Because punishment and reward is quite ancient. For example, American psychologist Susan Gelb preaches in The Parenting Handbook that, starting with you in 2019, you should always be your ‘best’. Even when you’re at your wits end. In Belgium, Nina Mouton proclaims the same message through the wildly popular “nice parenting”. Even as your child explodes hysterically diagonally through a supermarket aisle, you must therefore stay calm and start a conversation. Grand?
The blind spot in feminism
When my daughter puts a vial in place of the breast, I feel guilty for depriving her of the antibodies. When I play with my baby, and thus focus my attention on her, I also feel that he is nibbling: Am I excited enough? Am I motivating her enough? Now that I’m close to the solid food step, I get the advice here and there to make fresh porridge. Because anyone who still poisons their child in 2022 with pre-made vegetable porridge full of preservatives must be a rogue woman. Will I have time for that when I start working again? By the way, my friend never gets recipes for vegetable porridge thrown at him.
My journalistic nature compels me to nuances. I can’t point a finger at parenting sites, it’s more than that. Much more. There is a whole maternity mafia out there. For example, the eyes of midwives, pediatricians, pediatricians and staff at Kind & Gezin have been fooling you in the back from birth. They carefully follow you and your baby. Centimeter after centimeter, gram after gram. You are burdened with tips, advice, and tools. They save you tight sleeping and eating schedules. This help is of course useful and also necessary to some extent, but its dogmatic character means that the gut feeling or instinct of the nascent mother is immediately ignored.
And I have one finger. It hurts in the myth that our ancestors in history were faithful to their descendants. The argument that things only got worse when women started working and home-cooked meals were replaced with ready-made foods is false. This moral tale does not hold in most cases. Before the 20th century, children mainly went to a wet nurse, and strollers were parked on the street and watched by neighbors. Or the children simply had to work. Many Western mothers today spend more time with their children than they did fifty years ago. a lot with one
Even children’s play was frustrating. When a parent was happy that their child has received the necessary care (nurture, food, drink, and clothing), today they find that their child should not be lacking in anything financially or emotionally. However, meeting these needs is very complex, and this creates even more stress, stress and fear of failure. In 1949, Simone De Beauvoir warned in Le Deuxième Sexe of the dangers of self-immolation. Mothers who always try to be good “lose all pleasure and give up their personal lives.”
For all the progress we’ve made on women’s rights in recent years, motherhood is a blind spot in feminism. The theory that urges women to raise children as naturally as possible is to hijack progress, as well as the controversy surrounding it. I realize that I bear my guilt silently like a cross, because though uttering it is a political act, I am a coward who does nothing more. The real revolution is not mine.
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