Even as I type this head I’m scared.
I’m scared of the backlash from my fellow sisters who might read this post and think that I am, “anti-feminist” or, “unappreciative of how far we have come as women”.
Neither is true. I am a feminist and believe me, I am thankful for everything those bra-burning suffragettes fought for and those of us still fighting today – some in the boardroom, courtroom and some on the rugby field trying to get sponsorship.
I know I have choices that my forebearers and women in other countries still don’t have. I know I am lucky! I do. And yes, I am raising my sons as feminists, too.
But I don’t feel like popping the champagne on International Women’s Day. Why? Well, I think I might be feeling a bit miffed now that I’m a mother.
Let me explain.
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Motherhood has made me experience inequality
Before I become a mum, I enjoyed the knowledge that I had equal pay, that I could freely travel abroad and not need a male chaperone, or that I could get a credit card in my own name. Yay for feminism I would think. We have come so far. I didn’t feel less than a man and I didn’t feel like I needed to fight for my gender rights. I already had them (well, so I thought) and I felt empowered, strong and independent.
But then I had a baby.
And suddenly, my world shrunk to the size of him and I realised a few things.
I started doing it all
When my pink squidgy newborn was placed on my chest, a rush of, “I will love you always and give all that I am to you” came over me. Best feeling in the world! It was a life-defining moment. And I knew I would never be the same again, and I’m not.
So ever since that day, I have given. Because isn’t that what us mothers do?
Even as I write this my husband (who is a really great guy and partner in parenting) is on a work development ‘camp’ – this is basically a few days away spent attending lectures during the day and then hanging out at the pub afterwards (I know, hard slog). He didn’t get much notice that this work thing was coming up as it’s a new job, but it didn’t matter. Because he is a man. And he has me.
In our household (and I am not assuming this is every family, some better divvy up the childcare/chores than us and hats off to single parents who don’t even have that option) I do the bulk of the kids and household stuff. I am the primary carer for our two little loves (which I wouldn’t have any other way), I also work part-time but it’s me who does the drop-offs and remembers things like drink bottles, or schedules doctor appointments for them and gets their hair cut.
Also, when they were younger, it was me who breastfed them at all hours, me who willingly gave up work after maternity leave and then sought to find more ‘family friendly’ employment so I could better juggle everything, and it was me who one day realised I was doing most of the housework simply because I was home more.
Domestic disparity had set in.
And so, my husband escaping for a few days away (can you imagine the unbroken night’s sleep he’s going to get?! Not jealous at all.) was no biggie. But if this had been me? Well, it would have been an epic mission in logistics – “who will do the school/kindy drop and mind our youngest on the non-kindy days?” – that sort of thing. Plus, I’d also have the mum guilts being away from them.
My point is, a lot of us mothers are doing the lion’s share when it comes to our babies, bigger kids, the home, as well as trying to juggle work, and well, that just doesn’t feel like equality.
So yeah, I’m sorry if I am not reaching for the bubbly and clinking my glass with my fellow empowered, liberated mum-friends on IWD. I just don’t feel like it, but this is probably all the more reason that I should.
It’s also about money
IWD is great in the way it makes everyone stop and think, so I probably should still celebrate it and use it as a tool to speak out about mothers. Because we are doing it tough. Just look at our money sitch.
When I dropped from a full-time wage to nothing to raise our babies before finding flexible work, I realised my role as a mother wasn’t one that society valued. I was too sleep deprived to be political about it then, but now, I feel all the unpaid work we do as parents raising the next generation of taxpayers, who will fund the public transport system and pay for the nurses etc, needs to be appreciated and also remunerated (let’s look at Finland).
But in addition to this, we need to address the fact that many mothers are restricted with the type of work we feel we can do after having babies. And also, that many of us just want to raise our little ones for a while before ‘contributing to the economy’ again (as so many politicians urge us to do) like we haven’t had children. Or like our priorities haven’t shifted.
I know I am not the only one to feel this way. Erin Riley wrote a fantastic article over at the ABC about this very thing. In it she says:
“It’s not just about comparative pay, it’s also about the ways women are limited in the work they can do, and the grossly disproportionate amount of unpaid work undertaken by women.”
More posts about motherhood
- What I really think when I see a mum lose it in public
- Duchess Kate on motherhood – “It’s so hard”
- Now THIS is what motherhood looks like
It’s good to get angry
So yes, I realise IWD Day is as much about celebrating how far we’ve come as opposed to how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. But I think we still have a way to go when it comes to mothers. And maybe I need to address this in my own home first and foremost.
I feel that it’s only since becoming a mother and experiencing the ways motherhood has shifted my life, that I truly understand inequality and I’ll be honest, it makes me angry. But hey, getting angry is a good thing because it motivates us to change what we feel is wrong.
Motherhood is a privilege
I should add that I love being a mum more than anything. This isn’t a moan sesh but I also realise now that there is reason us women tend to do it all.
It’s because we are so damn capable. We have a mum brain because we are thinking about everyone, as well as ourselves. We are tired because we are emotionally, physically and mentally worn out – because we are doing it all and doing it as best as we can.
So on IWD, I will put this message on Facebook:
“Happy International Women’s Day everyone! And a big shout out to all the hardworking mothers in the trenches. Let’s keep fighting for domestic equality, respect and appreciation for all the unpaid work we do and the inclusion of US in this important day. Fist bump ladies x”
And I might pour myself a glass of bubbles after all. Because even if I don’t feel like celebrating, because we do still have a long way to go when it comes to mothers and equality, I damn well deserve it. We all do. Happy International Women’s Day, mums!