There seems to be a growing trend among celebrity mothers to ask for push presents. Bentleys, diamond rings, sapphire necklaces and basically anything your heart desires. But have these women gone too far? Why set a price on one of life’s most natural, precious and awe-inspiring moments? A little tacky, maybe.
Serena Williams posted on her Instagram last year: “Ladies is a push present a thing?” Many of her fans bitingly replied that push presents are for: “Trophy wives whose only accomplishment is convincing a wealthy man to marry them.” On a less salty note, others suggested that a push present marks “the birth of a child and can later be handed down as an heirloom through generations”.
What can it really mean that women are essentially asking to be materially rewarded for carrying a child to term? Is it a step forward or back?
Wikipedia describes it very neutrally as a present a father gives to a mother to mark the occasion of her giving birth to their child. Timing is entirely up to the giver whether it is before birth after birth or even in the delivery room. And surprisingly enough, it has been around since 2004.
On the face of it, it may seem harmless, yet it is really quite menacing with a dangerous undertow. Consider the pitfalls and what-ifs. Like what if a mother feels slighted by a “less plush” push present? What if she then holds this against the father for the rest of their life, ruining the start of an otherwise beautiful and momentous occasion? Choppy waters ahead is what I say.
Alternatively, we can also applaud the symbolism of this act. Of course women should be rewarded for carrying a child to term. Not because we want to haggle over the cost of our effort, but because we want our energy, diligence and reproductive work to be acknowledged just like everything else in our capitalist and market driven economy. Somewhere our sacrifice and contribution need to be noted and registered in the minds of both near and dear. When we ensure the health of our unborn children, we also contribute to GNP.
The reproductive health and the wealth of a country begins in the womb of every woman. For the simple reason that a woman’s eggs are made in the womb while inside her mother- essentially before she is even born. The quality of care (as well as the health and age of the mother) that future mother gets while in utero affects the quality of her eggs, and her daughters. On and on in an endless web of uterine connectivity.
The reproductive work of a woman therefore begins before birth and continues later in her teen years as her body develops and she makes decisions about starting a family. Choosing to have a child in her teen years is seen as poor family planning. Society therefore prefers for a girl to wait, use protection, and forestall baby-making until later in life. The expectation is that a girl makes sensible reproductive health choices every step of the way to avoid risk to herself and society. It is so evident here how much our work is again overlooked, yet expected.
In pursuit of a tertiary education and career, timing is again a factor. When is the right time to have a family? Every woman, irrespective of her career path – surgeon, engineer or teacher – must take this into account. In Embodying Women’s Work the writer suggests that the number of women at university has increased, however, they will invariably pay for their education for many more years than males based on the gender pay gap, together with the inevitable reduction in pay when they take time out to have children. Furthermore, depending on the length of time away from the labour market, women returning to the job will be less competitively positioned than similarly aged males. In addition to this, when women have families they seek jobs that offer flexible work hours which decidedly pay competitively less, says the article Equal Pay for Equal Work.
Childbearing and childbirth are demanding, rife with complications, and potentially traumatizing. During pregnancy we constantly have to manage mood changes, diet, screenings, doctor visits and an overall lifestyle adjustment. It is a hefty chunk of our time that is required to co-ordinate all of these tasks while maintaining a household. All of this is mostly unseen and often taken for granted. After pregnancy, the woman is automatically expected to effortlessly glide into motherhood, dutifully carry out the care of her newborn and even after maternity leave, juggle home, job and care of a baby. Again, all unpaid and in an atmosphere which tells her that this should all happen seamlessly.
A push present might seem tacky as it attempts to commodify an act which we regard as immeasurable. However, we live in a world which is price-hungry. Every task we do seems to conjure up a cost. Even though the idea of a push present might be a stretch for most, I believe it helps us to tease open the notion of symbolically rewarding a woman for all of her years of monetary sacrifice, thought, planning and effort embedded in responsibly bearing and rearing a child.
(Cherith Pedersen is a clinical mental health counsellor and expressive arts therapist)