Recently, a couple of people have invited me to certain Christmas season events, and I have done my best to politely decline, reminding them that I am in my last weeks of pregnancy, and feel that I need to spend this time taking it easy and resting. They did not seem supportive of that approach. Instead, one person didn’t answer me back at all, not even with any sort of, “Oh, I hope you’re doing well, and you are able to get the rest you need,” etc.; and the other person couldn’t contain her disappointment, and did not say anything sympathetic to me, either. She even sounded incredulous that going to one of those events would really tire me out as much as I thought it would. I did not feel that they had any sense of compassion for me.
However, the purpose of this post is not to complain about those two people, but rather, to ruminate on the more general principle I believe is in play here: that of feminism (I don’t really know those people’s true reasons for why they responded the way they did, but I’m taking a guess that it may have something to do with a feminist-influenced attitude).
Feminism says, “I can do everything a man can do.” This attitude translates differently in different areas of life. In the case of pregnancy, the mentality becomes, “Why can’t we women do everything we’re used to doing, even if we’re pregnant? We should be able to, anyway.” Many women adopt this mentality for themselves, which might be okay for them; but when this perspective is allowed to harden their sympathy toward other pregnant women, the problem becomes larger.
When I told one woman how I was trying to be careful to not overexert myself, her response was, “Well, when I was pregnant, I ran several miles a day, even up to my seventh [or was it eighth?] month!” Great, if you’re used to that sort of thing, I suppose–but I’m not.
My husband used to not believe that I was really that delicate, too. When I would say to him, “I need to rest now, because I’m just sooo tired!” or, “I can’t lift that heavy thing, because it would tax my abdominal muscles,” he used to say, “Well, the women at my work lift heavy things all day long when they’re pregnant, and they don’t complain; then, after the baby is born, they come right back to work.” You know, that’s silly. Lifting heavy things while pregnant is not recommended by doctors for a reason. And what’s more, think of that poor, poor little baby, left by his mother at the babysitter’s; I couldn’t bear to do that. Is it really that those women have to work, or is it mainly by choice–is it their preference to be working, but not truly necessary for survival? (Of course I understand that there are exceptional circumstances which warrant a single mother’s working outside of the home, or a mother whose husband is severely disabled. However, this should be the exception, not the rule.) Seeing those “tough” women at his work made my husband think that all pregnant women must be able to withstand heavy workloads with no problem; but this viewpoint is false.
It is expected that women will work right up until the baby is born, and that afterwards, they will only need to rest a few weeks (or less), and then, back to work again. This isn’t logical thinking. A pregnant woman IS NOT able to do all the same things as a man! To try to convince ourselves otherwise is just insane! There are physical, emotional, and mental reasons why a pregnant woman (or any woman, for that matter), should not be expected to perform out in the world like a man; we were not designed for it. When women try to live oblivious to the facts because they want to be respected by men, they only do themselves, and the rest of us, a disservice.
So, take for instance those two women I mentioned at the beginning of my post: they apparently expected (it seemed to me, at least) that I should be able to do what I normally do (on occasion)–drive long distances (60 minutes round trip), go to outings, and hang out with people for hours at a time–despite the fact that I’m very pregnant, and expecting this baby to be born in the next few weeks. And I have done those things while pregnant, before. But, now I’m wiser, and know that my body (and emotions, and mind) needs the relaxation of staying home, and staying away from the bustle, right now. Why can’t they understand that? They’ve been pregnant, too! But, I think it’s due to the feminist way of thinking that even Christian women have absorbed: thinking that to be pregnant is no big deal, and treating this stage of a woman’s life as if it were no different than any other time in her life, expecting her to be able to do everything that she would normally do, because, “We can do everything a man can do, even if we’re pregnant,” right? So, their attitude toward my wants and needs as a pregnant woman is unsympathetic. Feminism has caused women to be more hardened toward each other, and to underestimate the reality of the truly sensitive condition that we women find ourselves in during pregnancy. Not only that, but when men see that women don’t care that much about each other, then they too, start to think that pregnancy is not that big of a deal; they begin to treat women, not with more respect, but with more carelessness.
My husband has since changed his mind about pregnancy. Now, he’s the one who tells me I should stay home and take it easy. He sees how easily I become tired, and he is genuinely concerned for me. I love his compassion and care! Part of this change may have come about because I explained to him, at one point, that those women at his job probably get home absolutely dead tired from all that work while they’re pregnant, and probably go straight to bed as soon as they get in the door! I bet they don’t have the energy to cook dinner for their families or to spend time reading stories to their children, since all their effort has been expended trying to prove to the world, and to themselves, how tough they are, no matter how contrary to reality. But what happens in their homes after they get back from work is not what the rest of us see.
You know, Superwoman doesn’t exist, and we need to stop trying to convince ourselves that she does. It’s not reasonable to think that women can do everything that men can do. That’s not to say that we can’t do anything! Yes, we can do many things that men can’t do! We were made by God to bear children and nourish them with milk from our bodies. We were outfitted by God with everything we need to care for babies and children. We are compassionate and caring, perhaps more so than most men, generally speaking. We have an eye for detail, and notice when something is “just not right” with our children, before dad even starts to think about it. Yes, we are smart, very smart: we were gifted by God with the intelligence needed to supervise the inner workings of a home, and to manage a houseful of children; to be mother, teacher, and manager all at once!
Let’s let go of Superwoman, and embrace instead the Godly Woman God designed that we should be! Hopefully, as we do this, more pregnant moms will get the sympathetic support that they deserve, and the compassionate understanding of their tender state that they need.