Sunday, September 20, 2009

Grand slam

Mothers, eh? Will they EVER shut up?

Oops, sorry Mum. And sorry too to my sister, who has recently been saddled - sorry blessed - with child. But to everyone else: just shut it.

I'm over it. I'm over hearing about how hard it is being pregnant, how painful it felt to have that 9 pound bundle of blood and flesh ripping your pink bits to shreds and, above all, I'm over hearing about the difficulties involved in raising a child.

Admittedly, as a childless spinster, I have absolutely no leg to stand on. AND YET. The thing is, mothers, you can talk about how tough it is, how exhausting, mentally and physically training etc until you're blue in the face and in need of a lie-down. But at a certain point in the argument I think we all have to sit down and acknowledge one simple fact: that billions, no trillions, no maybe even trillions of trillions of people do it. All the time. Smart women do it, stupid women do it, poor women do it, rich women do it. Even poor old bloody Jade Goody did it, and while I hesitate to speak ill of the dead, my instinct is to suggest that there's nothing Jade Goody did that couldn't be achieved by, say, a well trained monkey.

The trigger for this very unkind rant is the media coverage surrounding tennis star, Kim Clijsters, who last week capped off a stellar professional comeback by storming to victory in the US Open. Clijsters has also - if you haven't heard - managed to achieve said victory while being a Mum at the same time. Yawn. That yawn is not directed at Clijsters' blistering performance but at the increasingly hysterical coverage surrounding her achievement. The gist of which appears to be shock that a 26-year-old mother could achieve anything more difficult than putting oneleg in front of the other. Yes, we get it: she got knocked up and succeeded in not preventing the thing, 9 months later, from slipping out. It's a worthy achievement but can we get back to talking about tennis?

This hysteria culminated in a piece in the UK paper The Times (apologies, I've mislaid the link) which somewhere along the line delivered this pearler: "Winning a tennis match is a doddle compared with childbirth."

As the brilliant David Mitchell put it in his column over at The Guardian: "I'd say it very much depends on whom you're playing... while bringing up a baby and winning a Grand Slam may feel equally impossible, intellectually I know which I'm most likely to succeed at. I mean, I've got friends with kids and some of them used to try to light fags off an electric hob."

The list of hugely successful male tennis stars who have kids is massive (among them Pete Sampras and Borris Becker) but I've never seen a headline reading "SUPER DAD" above a photo of Sampras' grinning, victorious head. I know it's a bit different, given the effect of childbirth on a woman's body, but still... really? I'm prepared to be truly dazzled by anyone who can reach the peak of his or her professional career, even in a sport I find as meh as tennis, but am I prepared to heap praise on someone for achieving exactly what a heifer in a field can do? Not yet.


Big Man H said...

You articulate my sentiment so perfectly Kate.

It sits perfectly with the argument against intensive interviews for IVF too.

Dave said...

You mentioned tennis strikes you as a bit of a "meh" sport. I'm curious, is there any sport to which you don't give that response? Watching TV is not a sport. :)