Friday, 24 January 2014

Feminism and having babies part 2: early motherhood

Before I had a baby I was determined not to turn into one of those people who talks about babies and nothing else.

I found babies pretty boring, so couldn't think of anything worse than this.

But then I had a baby. And now I have very little else to say, because I don't do anything else.

I have very little time to read (although occasionally I can balance a book on my knees if I'm expressing and the baby happens to be sleeping, which is pretty rare), I have few opportunities to keep up with current affairs, and going out in the evening is a dimly-remembered luxury.

Food has become little more than fuel to keep me going. Except chocolate - suddenly I need to eat a lot of chocolate.

I get out of the house a lot and see a lot of people, but they are almost always people with babies. Other people with babies are easiest because they understand, and I'm more likely to feel able to leave my little bundle of joy with them while I nip to the loo or order my latte.

Becoming boring

By my own pre-baby reckoning I am now pretty dull, and that saddens me.

The strange thing is that I now find babies pretty interesting.

I hadn't really appreciated that they come into the world knowing absolutely nothing, so their day to day lives are all about trying to decode the world around them. A newborn doesn't know the difference between a person and a table, they have to learn this.

Watching my tiny daughter try to figure out what's what and who's who is fascinating. I could do it all day, which is good because that's pretty much what I have to do. And that's about all I have to talk about.

Being a feminist and a new mum

How does this relate to feminism? Being a feminist to me means being more than the sum of my biological parts. I was able to live a full, free and independent life.

But suddenly I find myself living a life entirely dictated by biological function - changing nappies, feeding and sleeping.

OK, so I have an automatic washing machine and can admit to spending considerable time sipping lattes with my newly babyfied pals, but basically the things I now occupy myself with are the same things that women have been doing forever.

I'm not free to come and go as I please, as I have to constantly consider my child's needs.

My academic accomplishments are now entirely pointless - my daughter doesn't care about my thoughts on the patriarchy, and my attempts to interest her in highbrow literature have so far floundered - she prefers it when I blow raspberries and supply milk.

I am no longer the free and independent woman I was. Although my convictions about feminism haven't diminished in the least, my new lifestyle undoubtedly leaves me feeling less liberated.

3 comments:

  1. Brilliantly put, I think you have snuck into my life whilst I wasn't looking. My little darling is now nearly 2 and I'm still up st 1.45 on a Friday. A night out is indeed a distant luxury, as well as the gym, reading, bathing, working even. But lets face it they are worth it. Welliss or when it's gone. Feministy thoughts aside I do feel at one with being a mum, it's just a shame you can no longer so freely do all the things you spent a long time devoted to

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Danny, wonderfully put as usual and your baby girl is looking wonderful, as is the chocolate. I think that part of the issue is that feminism has become synonymous with being independent and free, which are great things to be to a point. But surely the greatest things in life come from inter-dependent relationships - with our children, partners, parents, friends, workplaces, even hobbies. These relationships need commitment too, otherwise they don't work. It is great that women have more choices now and don't have to live their lives in a particular way, yet a large number choose the 'partner and children' lifestyle. Personally, I don't think there is much more 'feminist' than shaping a young life and helping it grow and fill a meaningful place in the world. It's just not the way that feminism is normally seen. Jo L

    ReplyDelete