Howl

Howl

By Annie Ridout

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by the patriarchy, starving ‘hysterical’ objectified,
dragging themselves through each day with the additional burden of caring for all the kids, as well as parents and their friends, employees, freelancers, employers, fellow parents on the school run,
who like them are overworked and underpaid and told that motherhood is a woman’s calling and yet they get there and feel it’s part of the picture but not all of it,
and are then riddled with guilt because society tells them their worth lies in their ovaries and if their reproductive organs don’t perform as they should, they feel they’ve failed – and if they do, and the babies come, they should forfeit all other aspects of life to be a Good Mother and that means caring and loving and never needing time for herself but needing to find the time for her man,
because he needs her body and to be mothered by her because now his own mother is ageing – or gone – and really, we all need to be mothered through life but no one mothers the mother except her own mother, until she can’t anymore, and then the daughter mothers her instead and finds herself in the ‘sandwich years’ as she cares for her parents, as well as her kids and yet men don’t find themselves sandwiching because they’re expected to be at work and so as long as they’re there, they’re in the right place and maybe sending some money to pay for the care home, but
don’t worry about visiting – because your wife or sister or daughter will be there doing that duty, and it is a duty, even if there’s love, because caring is hard and that’s why women with or without kids sometimes feel like their heads might explode with the enormity of their responsibilities, because at work they’re told to make the tea and take the minutes while the men manspread and find ways to augment their already augmented power,
and while the women are picking up the Starbucks coffees, even though they’re partners not interns, the men are stretching that pay gap as far as it can go, like a wet piece of chewing gum that stretches and stretches until it dries and snaps and can no longer be put back together,
and so men keep rising and women keep falling and they fall so fucking hard when they reach their 30s, because then all they care about, according to the white men in suits, is weddings and babies and so they stop getting the job because the Ring signals she’s wedded – and the absence of it signals she’s searching – and ready to drop her career for a baby, even though she probably has no intention of doing that and plans to find a way to work and earn her own money while raising her baby, because new feminism says this is where the power lies: doing it all,
and if she does have the baby and takes some leave off work it is literally ‘leave’ because at least 54,000 women a year in the UK are made redundant while pregnant or on maternity,
and so she grows a baby in her body and it exhausts the fuck out of her and zaps her confidence because she knows her worth isn’t just located in her ovaries but also in her waistline and now her stomach protrudes out in front of her and slows her down til she’s waddling through the days with strangers stroking her stomach like they own her pregnant body and when the baby arrives, and it doesn’t really ‘arrive’ – it tears through her body after hours of contracting as her muscles and hormones push that baby down the tunnel and towards its exit from her body and entry into the world, and she lies in the hospital bed – or at home, if she’s really succeeded with birthing – drinking tea and wondering how the fuck she’ll keep this baby alive and sometimes feeling maternal and set for this new role she’s sexed her into and other times thinking she just can’t do it because the tiredness aches her limbs and bones and the responsibility weighs her down with a heaviness she never expected, and she has to find a new community to keep her buoyed in motherhood or the loneliness will drown her,
and the baby’s dad is still working, except for those two weeks, and if he takes longer to bond with his baby and support his partner while she navigates new motherhood his boss will call him a Pussy, because men who care about their kids don’t have drive and ambition, they are like walking vaginas; soft and sensitive,
but if you’ve ever witnessed the way a baby looks at his dad when he knows him as well as he know his mum, you’ll see how much the dad matters too, and so if that dad can stick around and lighten the mother’s load while her body recovers from nine months of carrying a child, then birthing it and feeding it with milk sucked from her very bones, so she can allow her womb to shrink back down and vagina to tighten and stomach muscles to draw in and ligaments to firm up, and then if she feels ready, to reconnect with her purpose outside of motherhood, which might be to draw or write or sing or paint or do public speaking or design buildings or build computers or find cures for viruses or support others mentally and physically – or whatever her calling is – then she might no longer feel starved and instead feel seen
and in this life, we all need to feel seen,
and not just through the eyes of our children who don’t even really see us but feel us as this presence in their life, as the very essence of what it means to being alive, because a mother is just there,
but if she can have the time and space and respect to be fully herself, as a woman and person, she can be so much more to her children and parents and friends and community but that isn’t what actually matters; what matters is that we fully smash this glass ceiling and use the shards to pierce the patriarchy at its core and dismantle the layer-upon-layer of now fossilised sexism and remove this idea that
women should care and men should be cared for and to instead instil the notion that we need to all nurture ourselves and then one another without pertaining to sex or gender and this next generation with its gender fluidity might be moving a step closer to this because if you are neither he nor she but they or them then no one can tell you what your role is in this life, and instead you can choose

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