This week, NY Times published an article about what it means to be a girl turning 18 around the world. I couldn’t help but think about how far I’ve come since then and how far I still have to go.
The girl I was almost wouldn’t the woman I’m becoming. To be fair to myself, she’d be impressed that I’ve made it to third year of uni (although she thought I’d be studying physics, silly her), and that I’ve somehow convinced The Broad to let me scribble 500 words for them every week. She wouldn’t be so impressed by how regularly I cry. I cry when I think about the future, when I drop something for the fifteenth time that day. Today I cried because I saw a small child in a dinosaur costume on my walk home.
I thought that by 21, I’d have it together, or I’d at least be a little bit taller, funnier, and a lot less sleepy. Thing is though, I’m only 21. Books, TV shows, films, Instagram, they all convince us that everyone else is sorted by now.
I’m also very aware of the ticking clock of my body. Due to my faulty womb, I am acutely conscious of the fact that I have a limited amount of time to get it together if I want to carry my own children. Equally, I want to have a successful career, to be an individual as well as a mother. I want to do things I’m proud of, to make a difference but also raise my children myself.
Most men don’t think like this. Men, unlike us, don’t have expiry dates on their reproductive capabilities. What’s more, men don’t have the societal assumption, or personal pressure, of being the primary care-giver. I don’t want to be there for my children because society says it’s bad if I don’t, I want to do it because I want to. Or at least I think so, it could be internalised misogyny rearing it’s ugly head.
Though I’m sure many men are having early-onset existential crises, I don’t imagine theirs involve fears for parenthood. As such a strong-minded, modern feminist, why am I constantly having to fight myself from diluting my personal plans with family plans? The answer is sad: because we have been conditioned to consider motherhood as such a significant part of our futures, as an identity equal to our career identities. I don’t have a solution to this. I don’t know how to think about the direction my life will take without thinking that my desire to be a mother will interfere with it, and that needs to change.
If I do have children, I don’t want my daughters to dilute their own aspirations because they’re fearful that having dreams will reduce their competence as mothers. It is more than time society completely made room for parenthood in all sectors so that we aren’t having to choose between the loves of our lives: career, or family. We should all be able to have our cake, and tuck into it with gusto.