Yesterday was Women’s Day in South Africa, which means today is our day off from work. I often laugh at the public holidays in South Africa, but I sort of like Women’s Day. Okay, I hate all the marketing that goes along with it, and the fact that one day has become an entire month, but it’s nice to see women celebrated. There is so much that women do, that women are expected to do, and even the most staunch feminists among us fall into that trap. And I can feel myself doing it.
Being pregnant has made me think about these things a lot more. How will I raise my son/daughter? How will I teach him/her about gender, about how to exist in society, about how to be his or her own person and not cave to social norms? I am very happy to have a husband who appreciates me, who treats me with respect, who loves me completely and is totally supportive of all my endeavors. However, I wonder if even he will fall into the same gender traps.
Sure, I know that he will be an active part of our kid’s life. He will change diapers, watch the baby so I can go for a long shower or bath, or maybe even take care of things to give me a night off. But I wonder what the balance will be. I plan on breast feeding and expressing so that he can also help with feeding, but I wonder what the proportion will be of boob and bottle. I am fairly confident that he will watch the munchkin so I can attend events or have a “night off”, but how many nights off will he have in a week? It’s not me being resentful of him or questioning priorities. It just seems to me that even the most empowered women I know seem to do more of the childcare than their husbands.
So, how much equality is there, really? I work from home, which means that in theory I should be able to look after the little one and still continue working. But how will that actually work – I already see my work not taken as seriously as his because I can do mine in slippers and pajamas. Will that only get worse once a baby is in the picture? Will it also mean that I can do nighttime feedings alone because “at least I’m at home all day”? The assumptions just seem to spiral out in my head and get me rather nervous.
Plus there’s that big question – what sort of feminist would I be if I DID take on the lion’s share of raising the child? What sort of feminist would I be if I did sacrifice more of my career to raise this child than my husband will? Is this yet another reason that I’m a bad feminist, or is it just the reality of life that someone needs to make time to take care of a baby and it’s simply more cost effective for it to be me? Also, supposedly mothers “just know” what their babies need – food, rest, a nappy change – so won’t it also be “easier” for me to just do it, even if that flies in the face of gender equality?