The Arrival of a child turns your world upside down. A text about the inner female struggle and about real emancipation.
When I told a girl-friend of mine that I became pregnant right after having moved in with my boyfriend, she was shocked. She reproached me, saying that I had thrown away our principles of emancipation and self-fulfillment we had as young independent women. According to her, I had acted by the principle: "Whatever happens to my body…"
I was hurt by her reaction then, but she was not wrong in her assessment. She saw in me more than anything my ambition and my strong will. So she thought that I would not let my life be determined by men. However, this was the only side of me that I had been able to show to her. She did not know that the desire to have a child with a man had been banished within me by all kinds of reasonable arguments.
My girl-friend and I both had wished to finish our education and find an interesting job. We wanted to be independent and not let a child or even a serious relationship steal our possibility of self-realization.
Being Just A Mother?
What does self-realization actually mean? What is this self that should become reality? What does my self want’ It wants to concentrate on its needs, being free to form its plans for an ideal realization according to the situation. Thus it wants to be able to act spontaneously. Being spontaneous is the motto of contemporary people. In Latin, spontaneous means "from your own will", spons is the "drive".
Is my self based on a will or is it based on a natural disposition, a program of certain drives? The development of the self implies finding a profession that will enable the self to express its capabilities. It implies getting social acknowledgement, being rewarded for its deeds. In the capitalist system work is recognized as such, if it writes black numbers.
The working father of my child (who cannot take a paternity leave from work here in Russia) is still looked upon as the breadwinner by many, being able to find fulfillment in his job. In comparison to me, the mother is "likely going to spend all her time at home with the child, doing laundry and getting tired of it pretty soon" a friend of mine remarked mockingly when finding out about my pregnancy.
The possibility to have a child and to raise it is generally regarded in a too one-sided manner. Motherhood, thank god, is no longer seen to be woman’s natural and only task. But to present motherhood as a mere necessity in order to keep the system alive, how it is done in newspapers or political discussions, is just as short-sighted. This kind of thought denies young people the opportunity to discover and live the gift of being a parent.
No wonder that regarding this general negative attitude young women do not feel like having children. No wonder that young mothers have the feeling that in the 24 hour reality of child diseases, piled up dishes and sleeping deficits there is nothing in it for them to gain.
The Ego And The Self
If I think that self-realization first and foremost takes place in a successful professional or public life, I identify with the image of woman that is taught in the Western capitalist society: the image of the independent, flexible, spontaneous woman, if possible having an ideal body as well. Here, however, I am likely to switch off an important part of myself: the desire for closeness and devotion, putting my heart and soul into it.
The desire for closeness reaches the borders of the self, where I have to take on responsibility for the ones being close to me. Being close to someone, devoting yourself to him or her means losing your self-control. You become ineffective, as you are setting free energies that are not to be steered or controlled by a pre-designed life plan. Devoting yourself to your partner, you are bound to him or her. You start to become responsible on his or her behalf.
But the self wants to stay spontaneous, thus free of responsibility towards another person. The self is afraid to lose power and the possibility to invest into its own realization. Explaining the self in that way, we are defining the ego, though. Egoism is our internalized elementary principle in the capitalist system.
But the self is not only the ego. The self could be explained as the natural disposition of certain gifts inside of us. Therefore, self-realization means recognizing the gifts inside of us and granting them space to develop. The more this is happening, the more we grow and let a reality that is good for us come into being.
My love and my nourishment for the child are selfless. Here I might become afraid that my self comes "loose" and I am "lost". As long as my child is very small I cannot identify with the professional, independent, spontaneous woman who is above all attractive and has an ideal body. If self-respect as a mother comes only out of this possibility of identification, it does not come as a surprise that I am devaluing the great accomplishment to keep a child alive through my unconditional love. And if I lose self-respect, I get the feeling that I am sacrificing myself in my selflessness.
Where exactly does the reproach come from that claims that I turned my back on emancipation by deciding to have a child with my husband? In our heads the thought of emancipation, both in a gender context and individually, has been tightly locked. Where does the fear come from, in many young people, especially women, that they would have to give themselves up to be a parent? Emancipation can be translated as equality – however, the concept should not be narrowed to women equally fulfilling male functions in our system.
Rather, emancipation means "freedom from dependence and domination". We young women believe that we are emancipated from the roles of our parents and therefore from patriarchy, because we don’t let ourselves be forced into the role of the beautiful "second half" on the side of the patriarch.
Nevertheless, our thinking remains marked by the patriarch model if we are striving for self-realization in the mere shape of professional success – it is the powerful symbol of the rising sun. "Emancipatio" means releasing a child from fatherly dominance. Emancipating yourself means freeing yourself from the given patriarchal patterns of identification in the course of self-realization.
"Reality is something that, by trying to recognize, we create in our thoughts, our language and our actions."
God’s will, fate, pure incidence: The arrival of a child can be seen as an opportunity for self-realization. Our child is like a mirror to ourselves. Whatever we give to it comes from us alone, and we are receiving back from it along the lines of how we act in front of it and with it. No mother should say good-bye to her professional desires because of her child. When the child is independent enough, one should be able to go back to university or work.
Of course you cannot be spontaneous in your life plans anymore – but now you can be spontaneous in all situations in life. The arrival of a child is a great challenge to the parents: to face yourself and ask yourself what you are capable of and how you can handle unforeseen situations together.