I’ve been thinking about how to get around the fact that women get pregnant. Someone was reporting yesterday that women earn X% less than men over their lifetimes. Women still do most of the child-rearing and all of the child-bearing (with props to transgender men who have babies), and that is the major reason why this is so.
Imagine if a man in your workplace gained thirty pounds in a matter of months, then he took some time off, and came back to the office at his normal weight. Wouldn’t you wonder what had happened to him? What if he told you that not only had he gained and lost a lot of weight, but also another human being was depending upon him for their entire nutrition? Quick weight loss/gain is of concern even in men, but in pregnancy, women’s bodies are affected by not only the physical changes, but also by hormonal, emotional, and even spiritual changes brought about by bearing a child.
I used to work as a secretary in a law firm, though with a different set of details, it could be any kind of workplace. When my firm started hiring women, in the late 80s’, early 90s, the attorney I worked for, we’ll call him Rick, felt self-satisfied when 50% of the first-year associates they hired were women. Then they left. Year after year. Few exceptions. These women had spent a good part of their prime child-bearing years buried in their studies, so it was no surprise when many of them got pregnant. Rick turned surly. “We train all these women, and then they just leave.” His attitude was “Okay. If you want to play with the big boys, we’ll let you in, but we can’t make exceptions. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Women can repair lamps, shovel snow, mow the lawn, do their taxes, lift heavy things, negotiate the purchase of a home, and discipline the kids. They can write legal briefs and present cases in a courtroom, but they can’t always play with the big boys when they’re pregnant, nor should they be forced to try.
There are dozens of ways for the community to support pregnant mothers without stopping the wheels of progress, and they’re being used in dozens of countries. But as important as policy is attitude. Women bear the children that are our future. They should be thanked, not penalized.