A pleasant surprise is discovering that I can identify as a feminist and a caregiver


A pleasant surprise is discovering that I can identify as a feminist and a caregiver
- Rhiannon Lucille Coslet


I should be writing about joy, but instead, I've been sobbing uncontrollably. Nothing major, just the physical effects of illness, lack of sleep, and a baby who has a strong dislike of the heat due to her Celtic ancestry. Parenthood is teaching me that while the highs might feel very high, the lows are also fleeting because of the joy, oh my God, the joy! It helps you get by.

Of course, the cult of motherhood has enough supporters. Many mothers have been unhappy and frustrated because we are all expected to be so upbeat about raising children. Many ladies have admitted to me that they did not experience the expected tremendous, golden oxytocin high after giving birth. Instead, when they got to know their babies, the delight increased, but they continued to feel guilty.

The issue is that I am overjoyed. I am giddy and clappy because, as the song I've been singing to him nonstop would have it, I know it. The infant is adorable right now; now that he can laugh, he makes these huge, wide-mouthed gurgly chuckles. When he's not fun, he can be challenging, but the fun parts make the challenging parts bearable. When a baby is laughing at your antics, it can be difficult to feel sorry for yourself for very long.

One of the few facts about babies I didn't know before starting this trip was that you should pump their small legs like a bicycle to release the wind. That surprised me. I keep chanting "pumpy pumpy" as I do this. Admitting that it is absurd probably implies that I will never be regarded as a writer of Serious Intellectual Importance. But I've come to understand that any parent worth their salt can only maintain a very low level of gravitas when faced with a young child who expects to be amused. I now speak what linguists refer to as "motherese," or baby talk. My mother hates the word, and she still holds Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker accountable for undervaluing the role that women play in their children's language development. However, as I remarked to my son as I changed him during our conversation with his grandmother: "They are guys, therefore they would say that, Mr. Poopypants,"

That must be the compromise you make when you have a child. Particularly if you're a woman, some people will stop taking you seriously, but in return, you get to stop taking yourself so seriously. And in that, there is so much delight to be had. I'm still thinking (why do I feel like this). But, I also have found new freedom in lightness.

I've said it before, but during my pregnancy, I could have used a little more joy and a lot less hate. I attribute this to an overcorrection of the historical taboo against airing one's displeasure with mothering's expectations. However, I believe that parents occasionally hold back their happiness for other reasons, particularly when around others who do not yet have children but desire to have them.

Other people's happiness could seem like a personal slight when I yearned for a kid so intensely that I felt as though the need for it would choke me. Wanting a child but being unable to have one is a very challenging situation.

The fact that providing care requires work is another issue. Even though it was some of the hardest labor I have ever done, I was prepared for it and it didn't come as a surprise. However, it is also love, and love brings delight. Some people believe that because the two are so closely related, highlighting one will diminish the other. It's strange since, despite your love for the job, you wouldn't be required to perform any other job for free. But even though we rely on all that unpaid labor for our economy, doing the work of mothering and finding joy in it while both wanting remuneration for it and societal support is sometimes presented as an unreasonable demand. And so the joy decreases as we make our political demands.

I've only recently acquired the ability to balance my feminist and caregiver sides. I spent a lot of my adolescence in the latter role, and while I never felt it was unfairly thrust upon me, I also never realized how rewarding it could be. Taking care of another person's needs and attending to their physical requirements is an act of beauty and grace. I always noticed it in other people but never gave myself any credit. Now, I enjoy and feel validated when my son cries, and I reach for him, pick him up, and hold him in my arms while he drifts off to sleep. Moreover, joy.

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