I’ll admit that I used to get a bit annoyed with those who ranted about the non-supportiveness in our culture of women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, and otherwise raising children. Oh, please, I thought, it’s not that bad.
Except that it kind of is.
I’m currently in a state of fulfilling my biological PURPOSE: that of procreation. More of my organs are in active, essential use right now than ever before, particularly those that determine and are unique to my sex. Despite maximizing my woman-ness, though, I’ve never felt less ladylike. And damn it, that’s just not right. Why is it that those things that culture says make you attractive and appropriate as a girl are totally out of my reach right now? There is nothing dainty or waif-like about pregnancy. It isn’t quiet or demure or virginal (I mean, seriously, we all know where babies come from). My ankles, well, aren’t, and I have to acknowledge every 30 minutes or so that even girls pee. I have the seventh cold sore of my pregnancy thus far (hopefully the last-I want to be able to kiss my baby, damn it), and cold sores aren’t sexy (just for the record, I got my first one from a babysitter when I was a year old, not from making out with random teenage boys who had herpes). I waddle. Badly. I cannot stand up without considerable effort (and often grunting- so hot right now).
About the only thing that is consistent with cultural standards of hotness is that your boobs get bigger, but heaven forbid you attempt to use them for what they were designed to do. Men get freaked the hell out by breast-feeding. For those women who don’t choose to breast-feed, the most common reason I’ve heard is that their boyfriend/husband/random sex partner doesn’t want them to because he thinks it’s weird or doesn’t want to share or whatever. Seriously? Breast-fed babies do way better than formula fed babies in just about every way. They receive immunities that formula can’t provide, the closeness of the skin-to-skin contact is hugely positive in bonding between both parties, they don’t smell as icky when they spit up or poop. Also, their IQs tend to be higher (though this may be a correlation without causation). Formula is an important thing, don’t get me wrong. There are women who, for whatever reason, cannot successfully breast-feed their babies, and this is literally a lifesaver for them. Going back to work while breast-feeding an infant is a massive challenge, and, because most American women get such little time off (even three months of unpaid leave is pathetic compared to what would be ideal, and that’s for those who can afford three months without a paycheck), it creates another barrier to a successful first year of breast-feeding (which is recommended as a minimum). Oh, wait, you just freaked out a little bit at the idea of a woman feeding a one-year-old with her boobs, didn’t you? I used to, too. A child’s primary source of nourishment for their entire first year should be breast-milk or the equivalent, though, with solids as supplementation after about 6 months. Milk should still be supplemental after that, too. That’s what breasts are for. Sure, some may appreciate their secondary, uh, uses, but firstly they are for keeping human infants alive. Which is really pretty awesome; this whole procreation thing is remarkably kick-ass.
But then why are all of these things so mysterious and gross to so many people? It’s seriously ridiculous. Everybody grow up and get some damn respect for child growing and rearing already. Preschool teachers, despite interacting with children during the most formative years of their entire existences, only need a certificate to teach, if even that. The grammar I hear at the good preschools I work at makes me want to weep. Why is that? Because the pay for preschool teachers is ridiculously low. Piteously low. Appallingly low. Why? Because we as a culture don’t value the education of children nearly as much as we should. Why should the girls I know decline to go to college because they “just” want to be stay-at-home moms? They should be as educated as the rest of us; it’s probably the most challenging occupation of them all (well, president seems like a rough gig, but you understand). It’s probably the most essential occupation of them all. There is no “just” a mom.
I also never thought I’d have any desire to stay at home full-time with my kids; I need a challenge, I said. Wow.