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 three-way relationship with my child and society.
During childbirth, I breathed in blood, sweat, tears and the unprecedented emotional depths inside me. The role as a mother 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 not discussed or not discussed at all, because we don’t want to scare anyone “from the start”. So it’s time to lose your lips, because realism is a political act. This is why I like to mark the i and cross the t.
A tight-fitting sweater called “natural fatherhood”
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 self-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 indescribably abundant nature. These good aspects are self-evident to me 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 complaining about 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 taught as “naturally” as possible. The most natural is naturally considered the most virtuous. Ergo: As a mother, it is better 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 must be a rogue wife.”
So a good mother during pregnancy begins by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, certain foods, warm meals, and cleaning products. There is also 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 deals well with the United Kingdom, always pays close attention to it, 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 are at your wits end. In Belgium, Nina Mouton proclaims the same message through the very popular “gentle breeding”. 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 is given a bottle instead of a breast, I feel guilty for depriving her of antibodies. When I play with my baby and focus my attention on her, I also feel like he’s 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 for making fresh porridge. Because anyone who still poisons their baby in 2022 with pre-made vegetable porridge full of preservatives must be a fraudulent shepherd. Will I have time for that when I start working again? By the way, my friend never got 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 per centimeter gram per gram. You are burdened with tips, advice, and tools. They provide you with 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’s a sting in the myth that our historical ancestors were loyal to their descendants. The argument that things only started to get worse when women started working out and replaced ready meals with prepared foods. 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 received the necessary care (nurture, food, drink, and clothing), today they find that their offspring should not lack anything materially or emotionally. However, fulfilling these needs is very complex, and this creates more stress, tension 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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