Is Gender Parity An Urban Legend?

From the moment my biological clock first started to knock at around 27 years, to when it was banging at 35, I always wanted a daughter. The reason was simple. I wanted to recreate the relationship I had with my mother, who was taken from me at a young age. It just felt right; a means to reincarnate her spirit and pass on her love and nurturing to a baby girl through to adulthood, the thing I sorely missed. It was such a strong need that I did not really think about the kind of father I would want for that baby girl. That was somewhat irrelevant.

 

This feeling was so intense that when I eventually fell pregnant, I just assumed that it would be a girl. My hubby also wanted a girl, we just didn’t agree on her name, so it made sense. I ignored the initial dreams I had of a baby boy as any indication that I was carrying a male child. It was only when the gynae gave us a firm, “I will reimburse you for any girl’s clothes that you buy” that it finally sunk.  Then it all came together as only the Master can conjure! He had gifted me with the perfect role model for a son. And with that realisation, I let go of the need to biologically mother a daughter.

Nevertheless, I remain deeply concerned about society’s double standards for the girl-child.

Having two boys, I regularly get “Don’t you want a girl?”. No. I’m completely and wholly satisfied parenting my sons with someone who negates my inadequacies; this is the perfect balance for me. Nevertheless, I remain deeply concerned about society’s double standards for the girl-child. My heart bleeds as she struggles to come into power in a historically patriarchal world. She’s told that she can be and do anything she wants to. World leaders speak to women empowerment, international organisations and constitutions enshrine her rights and freedoms, yet she experiences entrenched misogyny on a daily basis. She’s abused, emotionally and physically, in ways that continually remind us that we do not live in an equal society. We have far to go.

 

I want to share an anecdote told by a dear friend who had the privilege of ‘pearls of wisdom’ from a female mentor; an older, educated, successful business woman. It went along these lines… ‘always make sure that you look good when your husband comes home from work. Your make-up must be done, wear a pretty dress, always have a smile on your face when he walks through the door, make sure there’s a meal ready. That’s how you keep him’.  It wasn’t the first time I’d heard such nonsense. But it made my blood boil. Still does. If older women, who we look up to, are telling us that we need to be ‘pretty and subservient to keep a man’, Lord, we’re in trouble!

Can any woman honestly say that you long to get up every morning to ‘paint your face’?

I’m all for women taking care of themselves, looking good, eating well, exercising; but your motivation cannot be a man! Or anyone else, for that matter. It has to come from within. You need to do it for yourself. Can any woman honestly say that you long to get up every morning to ‘paint your face’? That spending hours and hours preening yourself to be acceptable/admired/valued by another is what you’d rather do than spend quality time on whatever feeds your soul? I enjoy looking my best, but there are those days when I don’t feel like doing my hair or getting into a ‘pretty’ dress or high heels. I just want comfort, to be at ease. I feel pity for women whose partners never see them without “hair and make-up”. How soul-destroying is that? In essence, it means that you’re not living the truth. The truth is: we’re not perfect. Which man gets up, first thing in the morning, to run to the bathroom to ‘get himself presentable’?

Self-worth has little to do with the external and everything within.

There’s a serious disconnect with how society purports women to the world. This is why girls as young as 6 years have eating disorders, by 18, before the body is fully developed, they’ve had all sorts of plastic surgery. Boob jobs are so passé these days. All in the unattainable pursuit of beauty and perfection; to be more attractive to others. Self-worth has little to do with the external and everything within. When we show little girls that you have to be beautiful and sexy in order to be loved / successful / happy, what we say is negated. ‘Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you’. Robert Fulhgum.

 

Men have cheated on some of the most beautiful women in the galaxy; Halle Berry always comes to mind. Men leave women who are good mothers and cooks, who are smart and successful, who are faithful and committed to them. If your man is a serial philanderer, he will be unfaithful regardless of what you do or don’t do. Yes, relationships have problems and each party has to take responsibility for their role, but taking a position that your physical attributes play a starring role in this is at best laughable and at worst, tragic.

 

Little girl, love yourself first. You are worthy; without validation from another. You are a child of God; He doesn’t make mistakes. Your beauty and power within will never fade with time. My prayer is that we experience #GenderParity in this lifetime.

 

Ageism; The New ‘Othering’?

My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get”.

Forrest Gump’s quote from the 1994 movie of the same name, always comes to mind when I reflect on my life thus far. Married at 37, pregnant at 40, giving birth at 41 and again at 42. My box of chocolates has been interesting. Crazy for some. Inspirational for others. Just fascinating for me.

 

I was born to a woman, who in 1972 at the age of 30 defied societal norms and gave birth to her first child at a ‘ripe old age’. From my Mother’s recollections, I knew that it was quite an usual “achievement” but I only fully grasped the enormity of it when I, at 37, had not “used my womb”.

 

I called one of my dearest Aunt’s, now deceased, to share the joyful news of our pending marriage. Her response was priceless. With all sincerity she said, “Oh that’s wonderful, I’m so happy for you and you don’t even have to worry about having children now cause you’re too old”. We had a good chuckle together. In her mind, I was getting a good bargain. A life partner without the “hassle” of child-bearing. Even today, I cannot reminisce about that without it bringing a smile to my face. I know that she, together with my Mum and all my ancestors, are so proud of our precious gifts.

 

So being an older expectant mother, I had the advantage of many years of witnessing a trend of how women, particularly those in what is considered to be middle to upper-class in South Africa, treat pregnancy and giving birth. My Mother gave birth to four children, between the period 1972 to 1981. The first three were natural and the last “lammetjie” was a c-section.

Back then, it was still uncommon for fathers to witness such.

I wish she was alive today so that I could get her version, with the value of my life experience. I also don’t have the benefit of my Father’s memory as he was not present at any of our births. Back then, it was still uncommon for fathers to witness such. But her description of the last birth was that, at 39, she was “ordered” to have the operation which was part of a medical practical session as she had a group of medical students, presumably soon-to-be gynaecologists, witness the procedure.  I now understand that that could have been a tacit acknowledgment that she was old, which made the c-section viable. There was never any mention of trauma or distress before labour or anything untoward which would have necessitated an emergency c-section. So I’d say my assumption is fair.

 

Since that was in 1981, more than 36 years ago, and in the absence of valid research, I will use that to pinpoint the beginning of a transition over the years that has seen women elect to have caesarian sections; major abdominal surgery and what is now common place in private hospitals around the country. The statistics are vague, but you can do a quick survey amongst your own family members, friends and colleagues. If you can find 10 women who have given natural birth in the past 10 years, they’re bucking the trend.

 

When I found myself pregnant and AMA (advanced maternal age), I would have become another c-section statistic if I had continued with a gynaecologist as my primary ante-natal caregiver as I, as one doctor described me, was high risk. Based purely on my age. I was able to fall pregnant naturally, without any invasive medical intervention, have a normal healthy term, but I could not give natural birth. I had seen and heard this from others, but to experience it first-hand was quite an assault.

 

At playschool, my son’s contemporaries have parents who are almost half our age. Honestly, it isn’t an issue for us at the moment as we seem to be “blending” in quite well. But we’re not sure whether nature will be as kind to us in the next 10 to 15 years and whether we may be mistaken for the grandparents at graduation.

Why are we so obsessed with the “normal” age range to have children?

Which brings me to my point. Why are we so obsessed with the “normal” age range to have children? My Mother was confined by it in the 1970s and I experienced it 40 years later, along with thousands of women who battle sub-fertility and infertility in growing numbers, regardless of age, by the way. The so-called “lifestyle” diseases, as though we consciously chose this alternative, so must deal with it.

 

Grandmothers have taken on parenting roles for centuries. Socio-economic variables in South Africa and indeed around the world, see many more women in their later years continue to provide primary care for children of all ages. There’s no perception that this is abnormal and it’s actually preferred in the absence of parents. But a woman feels intense pressure to have children in her “child bearing years”. Once she’s passed that, she feels like a loaf of bread, a few days beyond its sell-by date. Stale and good for toast, maybe.

 

Parenting is a lifelong commitment to nurture, love, discipline and provide a stable, warm environment that enables a human being to grow and excel on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. To be the best that one can be. Is there an age limit for that?

Single Is Not Sinful! Part III

You will not always be part of a twosome for every single day of your journey on earth. The reality is that your soul mate may die, you may get divorced, you may grow apart, you may live apart, you may find him or her in your sunset years, you may have several soul mates over time and not just one. Or, and this is the option that many don’t want to entertain, this may not be a part of your destiny. Monks and priests take an active approach to this, but for some of us, we may have periods, some more extended than others, where we are single.

Do you rate being single with disrupting your purpose?

Have you ever embraced this as a form of communication from God? That He is either preparing you for someone or simply, that your purpose and destiny is not within the construct of society’s ‘happily ever after’? Or that His purpose for you is something much greater? Do you rate being single with disrupting your purpose? Do you even know your purpose? Every human being is a soul searching for its earthly purpose.

 

When you enter into a relationship with someone, even momentarily, their pain-bodies and yours are intermingled. Add children, in-laws, families, friends, colleagues and so on into the mix, and it can get quite crowded. If you have not done the necessary ‘work’ on your side and they theirs, this is how we unconsciously bring chaos into our lives. Chaos has the potential to lead to enlightenment and self-growth, but it’s easy to see how we can get side-tracked. Being single offers an opportunity to be undistracted by relationship and familial responsibilities.

 

If you are single and feel any discomfort about it, you have no choice but to find the peace and happiness, that only self-love can bring, before you entertain the domain of another. And finding your purpose and making a difference may be the very ‘distraction’ that could lead to a life of infinite possibility.

End

Single Is Not Sinful! Part II

We need to stop romanticising being part of a twosome. Every soul is whole and complete from the moment of conception. We are one in the love of the Creator and that is all that matters. Once we leave the palace of the womb, some kicking and screaming louder than others, we are received into various familial structures that start to shape our range of emotions and connection with the world.

Every soul is whole and complete from the moment of conception.

Do not confuse this as advocating for isolation and ‘each to his/her own’. That’s another societal dysfunction that plays out amidst growing inequality and heightened insularity.  We need greater diversity, more inclusivity and a broad-sweeping return to Ubuntu, in order to alleviate many of our socio-economic ills. Rather, this is about challenging the ‘need’ that many seem to have, to be part of a pair.

 

What society does extremely well is position romantic or sexual relationships as the panacea of happiness. I do not deny that these can provide some enjoyment and pleasure, but real happiness has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else! I struggled with this concept for many years, right into my 30s. I thought it had to do with my particular upbringing, but I still see young women in their 20s as well as older women, who grapple with their single status. It breaks my heart as I see myself in every one of them. I feel the pain, the heartache, the sense of abandonment. Cause it feels like we’ve been abandoned in the cruelest way.

Oh, you will find someone/some people who will appear to be Mr/Ms Right, but this will only give you interludes of “happiness” and ultimately continue to perpetuate the cycle of loneliness.

Here’s the truth. You cannot find love, real, meaningful love, if you have not learnt to love yourself. Oh, you will find someone/some people who will appear to be Mr/Ms Right, but this will only give you interludes of “happiness” and ultimately continue to perpetuate the cycle of loneliness. The very thing that you’re trying to escape. My moment of revelation came when I understood the power of attraction. If you are not comfortable with yourself, in whatever way, you send that vibration to the Universe and that is what is returned to you.

 

If you think that I’m anti-marriage or relationships, you’re wrong. Being in a mature, committed relationship is just another channel for further self-development and discovery. Companionship, joy, happiness and all that good stuff is one aspect, but like everything in the Universe, it has an opposite. One cannot grow without pain and strife. There’s no way around it.

 

You are worthy of love. Exactly as you are. Today. This moment. Find the love within and prepare to open yourself to a world of discovery and growth.

 

To be continued…