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The weight of gender November 13, 2010

Posted by Amanda in Fashion, Observations, Personal, Uncategorized.
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Is it a boy or a girl?

It’s the first question someone asks when you have a baby – or even before. These days the gender question might be answered well before birth. It goes along with “do you have a preference for what you have?”

It must be so common to find out the sex of the baby that we had to ask what we’d had in the delivery room because no-one told us.

But since the moment they said “It’s a girl”, I’ve felt the weight of responsibility for bringing up a child of the female sex.

If you had asked me in my younger years whether I wanted a boy or a girl, I probably would have strongly preferred a girl. There are a number of reasons for this – I only have a sister, I went to an all girls school. I didn’t really grow up with boys and I think for a long time I didn’t really ‘get’ boys.

But when it came to realising that we were actually having a child, it mattered less and less. My only reason for preferring a girl was that we could agree on a name – something that eluded us for a boy.

Unlike many other cultures, it seems the preference for girls in western nations is quite common. I was surprised at the number of people who expressed a hope that I’d have a girl and I’ve heard parents almost defending why it’s good to have boys.

The marketing of baby goods is strongly skewed towards girls – go to any clothing department or baby market and the products for girls outnumber those for boys many times over.

I feel real pressure in bringing up a girl child. How do I instill in her the strength she’ll need to stand up for herself in this world where men still have so much of the power and influence? How do I help her to avoid the crippling problems of self-esteem and body image that I suffered? Can I let her know that being intelligent is a good thing for a girl and playing dumb isn’t a way to get through your teenage years?

Perhaps these are all problems that I’d have to teach a boy as well, but having a girl, I directly relate it to my own experience.

But the first issue I have to face is dressing this little being – I’ve never been a ‘girly-girl’. I remember loathing pink throughout my childhood and now I eschew anything that is overly feminine or that might cast me in a role of femininity that is contrary to how I’d like to be perceived.

During my pregnancy I was quite outspoken about my feelings about pink and haven’t been given much in that particular hue. But within me there is still a battle in my mind as to how we dress her.

When she was in hospital, she wore mostly gender neutral suits but on the day we brought her home, I put her in a dress for the first time and it shocked me to have her put so clearly into the gender box. Do I just accept that I dress differently from Chris and that’s the way the world is, or should I avoid the fripperies of so much female clothing? And then there’s the aesthetic part of me that wants her to look good – anyone who’s seen my wardrobe would understand that it’s something I care about and enjoy.

I suppose the only thing I have to fall back on is my own upbringing  In my recollection, my parents never tried to strongly put us in the girly camp. My dad took my sister and I hiking and surfing, and we requested and received more lego, car tracks and sporting equipment than we did dolls Рor at least I recall preferring those toys.

Perhaps that’s the model I need to take with my daughter – don’t ask her to be feminine or not, just let her be what she is.

 

 

A new journey November 10, 2010

Posted by Amanda in Blogs, Observations, Personal.
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“Carry the bags” was a phrase that Chris used when we were headed overseas for six months of travelling. Sometime he’s a reluctant traveller until he is actually on his way so he complained one day that the mammoth journey wasn’t for his benefit, he was just going to carry the bags. It became a bit of a joke between us, but really the phrase has a lot more weight than just a flippant comment.

There are lots of journeys in life and we have just embarked on one from which we can never return – parenthood.

Of course the phrase ‘carry the bags’ is one that’s very applicable to any western parent because all of a sudden it seems our life has been invaded by more ‘stuff’ and more ‘bags’ than we’ve ever had before. We’re the type who travel for six months with 15 kilo backpacks and yet now we’re lucky if we can leave the house with equipment that weighs less than that.

And yet of course the blog title is also apt considering we really are on our way to destination unknown – does parenthood even have a destination? Or is that just the desperate hope that you will live to old age and die before your offspring?

Perhaps now this blog can be an occasional drop-in point for my thoughts on this trip of a lifetime.

Many of our friends were surprised, if not shocked, when we said we were having a baby. We’d managed to cultivate the impression that we were quite happy with our two cats and yearly overseas jaunts. The truth was that although there wasn’t the desperate need to have children that some people experience, it is something we had long hoped for, but for a while it didn’t seem like it would happen and we were in the process of accepting that perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

I found out I was pregnant in February and it was a big surprise to both of us –¬† a pleasant one, but it was hard to believe. In fact I stayed in denial until the day our daughter Freya was born one week ago.

I had meant to blog throughout the pregnancy, but it just never happened. I was fortunate to have the easiest pregnancy of anyone I know – no sickness, no cravings, no real exhaustion. Even though I ended up having an emergency caesarean after about 24 hours of labour, I can’t even say the birth was something I look back on as being particularly eventful until the last hour or so. It was frightening when the baby’s heartbeat dropped low enough to warrant the emergency button being pushed and being rushed in to surgery but maybe the drugs have made the rest a bit of a blur.

Having never been a ‘baby’ person, I was a little concerned about how I would relate to my own child. I can’t say I’ve felt the overwhelming rush of love for my child that many seem to experience in the delivery room but it’s certainly something different and deeper than I’ve felt before. There is something special about holding this little warm bundle who is totally reliant on me.

I thought I was having that moment of ‘falling in love’ with Freya late one night when I was in hospital. I had just fed her and she was sitting in my arms looking into my eyes for what seemed like a very long time. I really was overcome with wonder that this small child was mine and she was staring into my soul. Then I realised she was actually concentrating on the enormous green production in her pants. But perhaps that’s the first lesson in how children keep you grounded.

She’s asleep now and will soon wake up needing to be fed. This isn’t the post I sat down to write but it’s an introduction to how I might use this blog from now on. I have no intention of becoming one of the myriad mummy bloggers and it’s more of a place to sort my own thoughts and make some sense of what’s happening to us.

I’m glad I called this space “Carry the Bags” so long ago. It might just be a place to dump all my mental luggage as well.