It’s strange sometimes, how little value is placed in motherhood. Now, I’m not one to preach that “being a mother is the hardest job in the world”, in fact, I’m almost more inclined to agree with Bill Burr on that notion. But actually being a mother, actually creating life, growing a living being in your womb for nine months and then allowing it to come tearing out head first, occasionally ripping you apart in the process, that part, we like to gloss over.
But it’s getting harder and harder to pretend, to lie to each generation. Women are becoming more and more aware of the pain, the dangers, the aftermath of being a mother. Watching an OB-GYN discuss the actual statistics noting that the dangers of eating food during labour are in fact, negligible, and an outdated practice that probably only increases discomfort and fatigue. I started to share this fact and he interrupted me with: “well eating something before I have knee surgery is probably not going to kill me, but what’s so fucking hard about not eating for three hours”. As if labour was the same as knee surgery, and it only ever lasted three hours.
It was such a benign comment, and yet it ignited such rage. To equate hours of conscious, excruciating pain, with a surgery that happens in your sleep. To claim ignorantly yet confidently that labour could only last three hours. When confronted with the knowledge that the first stage of labour can last 10 – 14 hours, the second stage one – two, and the third stage 45 minutes, and that in fact some women are unlucky enough to suffer far longer than that, he continued to argue that only the second stage really counts, and that’s what he was referring to anyway, despite not knowing five minutes ago that there were several stages.
“I’m not interested in knowing more.” That’s the end of the conversation, as it often is with him. “You’re completely wrong, because I say you are.” His opinion is fact, and mine are merely misguided, incorrect, emotional outbursts.
I am a carefully curated convenient package of all the attributes he desired in a wife, and how dare I disagree with him. How dare I have opinions that differ from his truth. Not just his version, because why would there ever be any other version than his own? He has always been the centre of the universe.
It’s surely not a surprise to all that happy families are so few and far between, that more and more women are choosing not to procreate. Certainly none of my career oriented, financially independent friends find the idea of changing nappies and drowning in piles of dirty laundry desirable. Nursing an ungrateful child and then caring for an even more ungrateful husband, it’s the stuff nightmares are made of. But dishes magically clean themselves. Food miraculously appears in the fridge. The soap dispenser replenishes itself. Clean laundry appears folded in his wardrobe. The toothpaste never runs out. All courtesy of the faeries.
Then to add insult to injury they mock you for giving up on your career in the first place, as if it were a choice you made. Would you like to erase any chance of progressing your career by actually caring for your child, and watching them grow up, or would you like to sacrifice 60% of your salary so someone else could do the bare minimum to keep them breathing by the time you pick them up, too exhausted after a day of work to do much better than that yourself? We’re always presented with such superb options. Who even cares about your career anyway, he probably makes much more than you. Surely your “sacrifice” is the only one that makes any financial sense. How could it possibly be considered a sacrifice when everyone agrees motherhood is oh so beautiful and rewarding, the best thing to ever happen to you. You should be eternally grateful for the chance to be a housewife, condemned to your new and only identity. No longer contributing to society, and merely a burden to it. Mostly a burden to your husband of course, the one doing all the work.
No wonder most Chinese parents are still disappointed when they have a daughter. What a disappointment it is, to be born with ovaries.