News flash: There’s a pregnant woman on The Voice.
Yes, we know, if you’re watching the show, this is not news. But it still impresses us every week.
Amber Nichols is a 32-year-old Telstra executive, and she told everyone she was pregnant with her second child when she very first auditioned, and made all five of the coaches – Jessie J, Delta Goodrem, Ricky Martin and Joel and Benji Madden – turn their chairs around.
But now. Now, as the show broke through into real time, we can see that Amber is really, really pregnant – 36 weeks on last night’s show, which, let’s face it, is pretty much the end.
And that, friends, is a big deal.
Yes, I know we see pregnant women on TV occasionally – often behind the desk of a news set or in front of a green screen presenting the weather. A lot of guff is made about their ‘condition’ and a lot of headlines devoted to how they ‘hid the bump’.
But this time it’s a little different.
Because although Jessie J – Amber’s coach – did encourage her to sing lying down last night, and there are a few references to how very squished the singer’s diaphragm must be, generally, a real live pregnant woman is being treated just the same as every body else on the reality show.
In a startling turnaround, the focus seems to be less on Amber’s baby-baking skills, and more on her ability and achievement.
In a startling turnaround, what most of us seem to be talking about is what she CAN do, not what she CAN’T.
Now, it’s looking unlikely that Nichols will go far enough to be in danger of giving birth during finale (Now THAT would be ground breaking TV), since Jessie has twice chosen not to “save” her, but still, getting so far on the most-watched TV show in the country is pretty incredible.
When I was pregnant with my first child eight years ago, a lot of my planning was about endings.
Ending work (for a while.) Ending my dedication to the gym (for a while). Ending my social life (forever).
It was about closing down my life as a 30-something and beginning a new chapter as a MOTHER.
I’m pleased to see that things in the last eight years seem to have changed for the better – and it is currently being encapsulated in the treatment of Amber Nichols.
What is unusual about this is that she is being treated as a person beyond her role as a mother. She is being treated as a talented performer, and sadly this is all too unusual in the treatment of women in the workplace.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has recently released a report into workplace discrimination related to pregnancy, parental leave and associated return to work which found that one in two mothers and one in four fathers reported experiencing discrimination.
One woman interviewed actually said: “My direct manager [female]… told me that I needed to ‘decide what I wanted – a family or a senior role in the company’. [She said] ‘You can’t have both’.”
You can’t have both.
Listen to Amber being interviewed about her pregnancy on Mamamia’s podcast for parents, here: (Post continues after audio):
While these statistics are almost shameful in what light they cast on Australian employers and attitudes – even in 2015 towards pregnant woman and working parents – we need to grab hold of each tiny glimmer of hope when we can and one of these glimmers surely is Amber Nichols.
Her journey is one many, many women have followed with fingers crossed and trepidation.
Have you been there with me each and every week expecting her to be canned simply because of her ‘condition’?
Have you been there with me each and every week expecting the judges to give her a sympathetic nod – a “better luck next time”? And each and every week have you been there with me happily proven wrong?
This is the way pregnancy should be treated. This is the example we should be following. Pregnancy should be seen as an opportunity to do things differently, as a bonus rather than an encroachment.
As a baby rather than a burden.
Surely we need to celebrate when pregnancy is treated the right way.
And if those big bad bosses at Channel Nine can do this – then all employers can.