Recently author and feminist influencer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah, The Thing Around Your Neck, and We Should All Be Feminists) revealed that she did not go public with her pregnancy because she felt that women were forced to “perform” pregnancy:
“I have some friends who probably don’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby. I just feel like we live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy… We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood.”
I can relate to Adichie’s sentiments. In my own pregnancy, I can honestly say that there is a cultural temptation to always be glowing, always be dressed in the best Target maternity dresses, always be baking or prepping for a baby and obsessively posting to Instagram to document/show off how pregnancy looks on you. Is this a performance?
We can all recognize that celebrities are put under pressure to make pregnancy seem desirable and effortless- but this mentality of #iwokeuplikethis bleeds over into reality in significant ways. Let’s not forget that most women aren’t aware of how freaking hard breastfeeding is or how swollen your ankles will get from a short walk around your eighth month. And, can I tell you the immense guilt and shame I feel when my toddler throws a fit at daycare? Have we done our fellow woman an injustice by only documenting the pretty and posed aspects of bringing new life into the world? And what standards does that set for motherhood in the years to come?
And, what about fatherhood? Why don’t fathers succumb to the pressures of making their transition into parenthood seem light and airy? In fact, do we do the opposite to men? Do we just make fathers seem so clueless and lost that we don’t really expect much? In some ways, this lack of expectations for men combined with the highly unrealistic expectations for women results in not only a mentality of fathers being glorified “babysitters,” but also greater pressure for new moms- they are alone in the pressure with a partner who is devoid of influence from society. New moms are made to answer for all the faults of their pregnancy and children, whereas dads, at no real fault of their own, are coddled and praised for even the most minuscule competence in parenthood. What is this world?
I want to know what you think. Did you feel like you had to perform your pregnancy? What about your husband or partner, did they have the same pressure?