Good Girls Don't Get Pregnant
Our Deviance editor Tasha Lee ponders the practicalities of motherhood
As a teenager, in the circles I moved in, getting pregnant was the worst thing that could happen to you. Girls at my school were transferred to another secondary down the road once their bumps got too big. The other school had a nursery and was better able to facilitate pregnant teens, but to my peers it was as if these girls were being expelled. We learned that getting pregnant meant you were punished. Getting pregnant was shameful.
At my mum's church someone always seemed to be pregnant. The headscarf-wearing women, who weren't allowed to read the Bible to a mixed congregation, would gather together to talk about how so-and-so's pregnancy was coming along. Sometimes they got sick, but usually they'd recover. They didn't talk about it in front of the boy children. Only the girls.
Very few of the women in my mum's church worked. Good girls worked hard at school, went to university, met a nice Christian boy, got married and had babies. I would get into arguments with the pastor's wife about the order. Why go to university if you're not going to have a career?
And also, if education wasn't necessary, why was it shameful to get pregnant while you're in secondary school? The idea seemed to be that my own education was necessary so that I could homeschool my children. Only that way could I control what influences they received. Protect them.
It takes a single-minded young woman to go to a state school, study for three or four years at university and still want to settle down, have children and never work. It's also virtually impossible now – supporting another adult and a few children on even a professional male graduate's salary would be a struggle.
So what are you to do, as a heterosexual young woman who wants a family and a career? You've got through school and university, met a nice boy... do you get married and start having babies? While working?
In my profession working from home is an option, but it seems like it would be lonely and unstable. I want to know how to integrate work and childrearing without shame. Colleagues start to whisper about maternity leave. How many months on full pay? It doesn't seem... profitable. Wouldn't your employer resent you? Or just fire you?
My ignorance on the subject is embarrassing. While at university my friends and I understood that this would be a problem we would have to deal with one day, but I guess I assumed there'd be guidance on the issue. Leaflets in the women's toilets at work or a booklet from human resources in your starter pack. Instead the silence and shame around pregnancy still hangs heavily over me.