When I gave birth to a daughter three months ago, I knew my relationship with my boyfriend would change dramatically. I was not prepared for the fact that I would end up in a questionable threesome with my child and my community.
During childbirth, I tapped blood, sweat, tears, and unprecedented emotional depths inside of me. The role as a mom was like a pair of new jeans I had to ‘break into’ for the first few weeks, but now they fit me like my second skin. I hold my baby nicely in my arms while I fish for a missing sock with my toes and deftly dodge vomiting. Plus, I now speak the language of motherhood fluently: engorgement, reflux, reflexes—things like that. In short, you have grown as a person. The responsibility for my little larvae is irrefutable. At the same time, it remained the same. Disorganized but in a good mood.
But lately also tired, hungry and sometimes lonely. Because let’s face it, it’s not always roses and sunsets. It is often the tension of the breasts, the tightening of the stitches, the boredom and the doubt. But these downsides are rarely discussed, because we don’t want to scare anyone into “starting up.” So it’s time to relax your lips, because realism is a political act. That’s why I like to dot the i.
A tight-fitting jacket called “Natural Parenting”
The first day my boyfriend went to work and I had to take care of our new human baby on his own, my existential panic overtook me. And although I am naturally a fairly self-confident person, doubts regularly grip my heart. In fact, I feel like I’m constantly failing as a mom. Guilt is the first mothering gift you receive as a postpartum mom. 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 the idealization and role you are assigned as a mother in society makes it infinitely more difficult. Suddenly this independent, energetic woman found herself isolated in a house and my days consisted of grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, and taking care of a screaming baby. Where is this feminism I’ve been screaming about for so long?
Breastfeeding or breast-feeding? Staying home or going to work? Let the baby sleep with you or put him in his own room? It seems like a fair discussion in which you as a mother have a choice, but the reality is different. In an era when women are supposed to be liberating, modern motherhood is tougher and more perfect than ever before. The discourse of progress and empowerment hijacks reality. There is dogmatic adherence to the current approach to perfectionism, according to which it is best for a child to be brought up “as normally as possible”. Because what is most natural is naturally considered to be the most virtuous. Ergo: As a mom, you either do the best as naturally as possible, or you consciously choose an inferior upbringing.
“Whoever poisoned their own child in 2022 with a pre-made vegetable porridge full of preservatives must be a rogue woman from Truila.”
So a good mother during pregnancy starts by avoiding alcohol, caffeine, certain warm foods and meals, and cleaning products. There are also applause to keep the birth as natural as possible: preferably without anesthesia and if possible also in your own living room. When Kate Middleton gave birth to Prince George, headlines like “11 hours of labor and everything is normal!” By the way, those who mean well with the UK always have their undivided interest in it, never lose their temper, and never work with a time-out. Because punishment and reward is quite ancient. For example, American psychologist Susan Gelb preaches in her parenting guide, She starts with you from 2019, you should always be ‘your best’. Even when you’re on your wits. In Belgium, Nina Mouton is spreading the same message with her wildly popular “gentle parenting.” So even when your child is obliquely blocking the supermarket aisle and screaming hysterically, you have to keep calm and strike up a conversation. Grand?
The blind spot in feminism
When my daughter gets a bottle instead of a breast I feel so guilty that I am depriving her of her antibodies. When I play with my child and thus focus my attention on her, I also feel him nipping: am I excited enough? Am I motivating her enough? Now that I’m getting the step closer to solid food, I get the tip for making fresh porridge. Because anyone who is still poisoning their child in 2022 with pre-made veggie porridge full of preservatives has got to be a rogue Truila woman. Will I have time for that when I start working again? By the way, my friend never gets recipes for vegetable porridge thrown into his ears.
My journalistic nature forces me into nuances. I can’t point fingers at parenting websites, it’s more than that. Much more. There is a whole maternity mafia out there. For example, the eyes of midwives, paediatricians, paediatricians and staff at Kind & Gezin have you glued to your back from birth. They watch you and your baby very closely. Inch by inch, gram by gram. You’ll be overburdened with tips, advice, and tools. They hand you tight sleeping and eating schedules. This help is of course useful and to some extent necessary too, but its dogmatic character means that the gut feeling or early maternal instinct is immediately cut short.
And I have one finger. Surprisingly, our historical ancestors were loyal to their offspring. The logic that things only started to get worse when women started working and home-cooked meals were replaced by prepared foods is incorrect. This moral story is not true in most cases. Prior to the 20th century, babies were mainly wet nursed, prams were parked on the street and watched by neighbors. Or the children simply had to work. Many Western mothers spend more time with their children today than they did fifty years ago. many with one
Even the child’s play was frustrating. Where once a parent was happy that their child received the necessary things (care, food, drink, clothing), today they believe that their offspring should not lack anything materially or emotionally. However, meeting these needs is very complicated, and this creates more stress, tension, and fear of failure. In 1949, already in Le Deuxième Sexe, Simone De Beauvoir warned of the dangers of self-immolation. Mothers who are always trying to be good “lose all the fun and give up their personal lives.”
For all the progress we’ve made on women’s rights in recent years, motherhood is a feminist blind spot. The theory urging women to raise children as naturally as possible abductions is progressing and so is the controversy surrounding it. I realize that I wear my guilt as softly as a cross, because when I cast it on as a political act, I am a coward who does no more. The real revolution is not mine.
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