Rant? What rant?

I have a cold. I know that doesn’t seem newsworthy but I have a cold on top of morning sickness which really has to be one of the most unpleasant minor-illness combos around. For the last week, pretty much every time I stand up, I throw up. The only upside to having a cold is that I can no longer smell anything which is a massive relief, as I’ve discovered with my new pregnancy induced super sensitive smelling abilities, China smells yucky - like rancid electrified rat (that actually may very well be the source of the smell). Everything smells bad to me - soap, lavender, broccoli, the floors, face cream - things that I either usually think smell good or really aren’t supposed to smell at all suddenly are overpoweringly, nauseatingly disgusting. And my poor Little A - he does not smell great either - morning hugs are no longer the source of joy they once were.

I have been feeling nauseous now for 8 weeks. It’s an endless, grinding sickness that has rendered me essentially useless to the world during that time. I think I’m supposed to grin and bear it because pregnancy is a miracle and those who complain about it are ungrateful. I’m not ungrateful, I just don’t feel well. I’m definitely not glowing. I think women are supposed to silently suffer through pregnancy despite its many discomforts (in this case ‘discomforts’ is a euphemism - pregnancy hurts bad - pelvises moving, insomnia, vomiting, organs being squashed…I could go on). I remember when I was pregnant with Little A, I heard about a colleague who had suffered terribly from pregnancy sickness and would often have to make use of the ‘sick room’ in the office to lie down for spells. Apparently, this behavior was frowned upon, like perhaps she was a bit of chancer. Nothing was said to her face, of course, but there was no sympathy for her and her plight. She didn’t grin and bear it (probably because she couldn’t)- she didn’t carry on as if she was totally fine (because she wasn’t) - that’s what you’re supposed to do. Am I getting a bit whingy feminist? Gosh, that won’t do.

I was very sick when I pregnant with Little A. I would faint on the bus, throw up on the street, spend entire weekends in bed unable to eat anything except cereal. But over the course of my entire pregnancy, I only missed one day of work, and that wasn’t even a full day - it was two half days when I’d gone in but was actually unable to carry on and had to go home at lunch. There were days when I really wasn’t fit for work but I went in anyway because I didn’t want to be seen as a slacker. If I had the flu, I wouldn’t have gone in. If I had food poisoning, I wouldn’t have gone in. If I’d been as sick as I was for any other reason, I wouldn’t have gone in. But I was pregnant, so I had to. I felt that it was ‘bad enough’ that I was going off on maternity leave without giving anyone an excuse to say that I wasn’t a good worker. Pregnancy is pretty annoying for colleagues and employers - I understand that. They have to carry additional burden but I think often, in the workplace, women are made to feel guilty about being pregnant. (Oh, you’re pregnant…*big sigh*…congratulations). Of course, no one says anything, (well, one of my colleagues did!) but it’s there - palpable, passive aggressive and unspoken.

A lot of women have proudly told me how they were back at work six or eight weeks after the birth of their child. Why is that good? If that’s what you want to do then that’s fine. But if that’s what you think you need to do for your career, to prove to people you’re a good worker, then that just makes me sad.

I think the only way to tackle this is to share the child-bearing burden between the sexes. I had an arrangement with Mr Oh - one on which he has now scandalously reneged - by which I would have the first child and he would have the second. I got duped on that one. But the reality is that, if we want to have families, it’s the women who have to carry the physical burden and often also take the career hit. Because the working world is not set up for families with two working parents. Much of it is still constructed for a society where men work and women stay at home and run things there. A man could work until 6.30, travel home and he could find his dinner cooked, his children fed, their homework done - there was someone else to take care of this. But I don’t understand how, in the reality we face now, a man and woman are supposed to both finish work at 6.30, travel home, cook dinner, take care of their children and have them in bed by 7.30. It addles my brain.

Why aren’t we adjusting our workplace practices to a society where parents - both men and women - require more flexibility? With the amount of technology available to us, why do people need to turn up at a desk miles away from their home for a prescribed set of hours? Why do schools finish hours before the working day does?

I don’t know how my little, tiny rant about my nausea has turned into a rather larger rant about inequality in the workplace but I guess one just feeds into the other. I do know that it would all be much easier if nobody had any children and then everyone could work at their desk in the city until all hours without having to worry about pesky kids. If there were no children, women wouldn’t have to take reduced hours at work to take care of the children and, by doing so, dramatically reduce their chances of ever getting promoted again. If there were no children, a woman wouldn’t go back to work after maternity leave to find that almost her entire salary is going on childcare. But, then again, if there were no children, the teachers would all be unemployed and angry and then the human race would die out (not because the teachers were angry though)…so I’m thinking maybe lets keep the children and just make things a bit easier for parents.

[Disclaimer: it should be noted that this post was written by a woman who is currently on a career break to follow her husband to China for his job. It’s ok though, next time she will be the one working and he can stay at home and write angry feminist tirades from his bed when he has morning sickness.]

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