The four-letter word every woman needs to stop using.
One itty bitty word. Just four letters long. But dammit, I’m going to force myself to stop using it.
So what’s the word?
Wine. Just joking. (Have we met?) And if you think I’m not going to be muttering the word ‘wine’ – or more precisely ‘Give me all the wine’ – post delivery, then you’re cray-cray.
Nope. The word I’m planning to ditch from my vocab is “just”.
Think about it.
When women are feeling self-conscious, not good enough, as though they need to justify something they’ve done, they tend to use the word ‘just’ in their answer. It’s a word that signals to the world that you’re excusing yourself away. Belittling your own choices. Feelings. Decisions. The word ‘just’ – when used in an answer to a question – tells the world you’re apologising for who you are.
Q. So what do you do?
A: Oh, I’m just a stay at home mum.
Q. Are you going back to work already?
A: Well, it’s just that my maternity leave has finished/financially I need to return to work/I miss my job/living with baby Epponnee-Rae is like living with Anna Wintour coming off a nasty ice habit.
Q. Did you seriously quit your full time job to go to Magician’s School?
A. Well, it’s just …
Sound familiar? Ever found yourself in a situation where you are repeatedly apologising for the choices and decisions you’ve made?
What’s really interesting is that psychologists will tell you that women and men who are routinely berated (read: verbally or emotionally abused) by their partners often use the word “just” when explaining what they’re doing. In her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship: how to recognise it and how to respond, author Patricia Evans says:
‘…the partners of verbal abusers often say, “I was just …”. And if they have been berated quite consistently, they may preface most of their actions, even when no-one is around to hear them, with “I’ll just …”, such as “I’ll just vacuum this room because I have a little time before I have to pick up the kids …”. The partner’s habit of saying, “I’ll just …” may be a way of saying, “I hope no-one will find a problem with this and berate me for it or vent their rage on me , or devise a negligent or malevolent motive for my actions.”
Devise a negligent motive for my actions. BINGO.
At no time do women worry more about being seen to have selfish motives than when they’ve just given birth. That’s when the word ‘just’ gets one hell of a workout. All of a sudden the delivery, the feeding, the sleeping habits, the care of that baby are (apparently) EVERYBODY’S business and you are forced to justify your decision making.
And Lord do I know this from personal experience.
You see, I’m about to have my fourth caesarean. No, no, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. You read that correctly. My fourth child will once again be delivered via the sun roof. As Mia joked to me last week, ‘When you had Ava in 2008, you should’ve just asked them to put a zip in.” I laughed out loud at that. Well, I would’ve laughed out loud if my mouth hadn’t been full of chocolate. But seriously, WHO has FOUR caesareans? Who do I think I am? Victoria Beckham? (Actually, right now, I look like I ate Victoria Beckham …).
Even as I type this post, it is taking ALL MY WILLPOWER not to justify to you how it is that I’ve ended up having each of my via caesarean. In fact, every single time I’ve been asked – sometimes subtly, sometimes not – about how I’ve delivered Ava, Georgie and Fin, the word ‘just’ has crept into my answer.
I find it impossible to simply say, “I had a caesarean.”
Instead I hear myself saying, “I had a caesarean. It’s just that ….”
But why do I need to tell you whether my caesars were elective or emergency ones? Why do I care what you think? And more to the point, why do YOU care what my reasons are? Does it really matter?
And I know this need to justify our childbirth decisions is true for the deeply personal decisions we each make about every other aspect of motherhood and, you know, OUR LIVES.
The reality is, so often we wrongly judge others by joining dots that simply don’t exist. We jump to conclusions. Make assumptions. But the fact is we can’t control how others perceive us or what assumptions they make. Also? You can’t try and live your life by other people’s totally subjective rule books.
So from here on in I’m going to work hard to remove the word “just” from my vocabulary.
In a week’s time if you ask me how the delivery of my fourth child went, I flat out refuse to feel bad and I’m simply going to say, “I had a caesar. And we’re both doing wonderfully” – which will be quickly followed by, “Now hand over all the wine …”
*This post first appeared on Mamamia.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.