It’s My Motherhood, And I’ll Celebrate It If I Want To

August 6, 2009

When I saw the headline, I rolled my eyes. “The Case Against Having Kids.” WHATEVER. Haven’t we heard this all before? That children are overrated, that parents have superiority complexes, that motherhood is an epic social scam, that children are more environmentally destructive than SUVs and air travel and Crocs combined, that life is just that much more pleasant without the stench of diapers and the din of Barney in the background?

Like I said, I rolled my eyes. These are not new arguments. These are not particularly interesting arguments. Some people don’t like the idea of having kids, so? They should just not have kids. I actually feel quite strongly that people who really, emphatically don’t like children and/or who believe themselves incapable of caring for children should not have children. And those who do like children – or who believe that they would like their own children – and who believe themselves capable of caring for them, well, knock yourselves out. To each her own.

But some people, it seems, feel quite strongly that the case for childlessness – and by extension, the case against parenthood, which, for all intents and purposes, is actually a case against motherhood – needs to be asserted more emphatically. Why? Because according to some, parents – which is to say, mothers – get undeservedly good press. Such undeservedly good press that unassuming individuals might actually get conned into motherhood without fully understanding what they’re getting themselves into. They might actually get tricked – by, say, seeing how good Kate Gosselin has it, or by noticing that Madonna became so much more likeable after becoming a mom – into thinking that this motherhood thing is the key to feminine fulfillment and social esteem. Because, you know, moms have it so awesome. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that?

This is where I stop rolling my eyes.

Moms (and dads) do have it awesome, of course, but not in the way that the ‘Children: Just Say No’ people think. The awesome of parenthood, the reward of parenthood, is the intangible and immeasurable joy of the children themselves. It is not increased social esteem (more on that in a moment) or some abstract sense of accomplishment (other than that which is contained in the aforementioned intangible joy); it’s the kids, dammit. The kids are awesome. Everything else is pretty much really f***ing hard. Maybe not for everybody, but for most of us, most of the time, parenthood is hard. Even when it’s awesome, it’s hard. Anything that involves cleaning up so much shit is hard. Anything that puts your heart so at risk is hard. Anybody who doesn’t have at least an inkling of this going into it deserves the shock that they get.

But the ‘Children: Do Not Want’ advocates must know this, right? I mean, they don’t want children, and they don’t want children, presumably, because they’ve looked in the parenting shop window and decided that nothing inside warrants the prices charged. Or they just don’t like children, full stop, in which case any discussion about the costs and benefits of parenthood is about as relevant to them as is a debate over cheeseburgers to a vegan. So why all the whinging about what good press parenthood – again, we should just resist playing coy and call it: motherhood – gets, and all the hard-selling on rejecting parenthood? Well, apparently, any positive attention paid to mothers, any social legitimation of motherhood, amounts to a delegitimation of the choice to not have children. Which is, apparently bad. Because this is a feminist issue, ladies: beware those who would praise motherhood, who would indoctrinate you into the cult of motherhood, for they would drag you back to the dark ages and shackle you to the hearth and force you to reproduce and bake bread until you die.

This, obviously, is where I call foul.

I call foul because a) motherhood is not, contrary to all appearances as represented on the covers of parenting magazines, revered in our society. It’s not, full stop. And b) even if it were, such a thing would not be bad for women. Any women. Yes, even women who choose not to reproduce.

To the first point: say what you want about ideals of motherhood and reverence for motherhood in the abstract – doesn’t everyone coo at pregnant women? don’t we all squee at the sight of mothers doting upon children? isn’t there a whole DAY for talking about how awesome mothers are? – that reverence, such as it is (and I would argue emphatically that it’s not as uncritical as some make it out to be), does not translate into social practice. Sure, we nod approvingly at Angelina when we see her and her brood on the cover of a magazine, but when was the last time you saw anyone nod approvingly at a mother dragging a gaggle of children behind her in real life? Never, that’s when. You try taking babies or small children on a airplane, on the bus, into a restaurant, to a shop, through a park (and let’s not get started on nursing those children) – anywhere, basically, that isn’t clearly marked CHILD LEASH-FREE ZONE – and see how many approving nods you get. ZERO, that’s how many. Not that you’d notice any approving nods, anyway, what with being all distracted by the stink-eyes and the grumbling and all. Public mothering doesn’t get a hell of a lot of social support, except from other parents. Most people would prefer that we keep our mothering private, just like they did in the good old days, when children were rarely seen and never heard and mothers kept quiet about nasty things like diapers and depression and Dora. (Is there an exception for representations of motherhood among celebrities? No. For every celebrity who gets what one critic calls the ‘motherhood whitewash,’ there are dozens of others who get their every maternal move scrutinized and deconstructed and held up as examples of their moral failing. Kate Gosselin, anyone?) Mothers, revered? Mothers, above critique? In what world does that occur? Because, seriously, I want to go to there.

To the second point: we would all -  women especially – be much better off if the art and craft and science and discipline of motherhood were better respected. Motherhood is women’s work. It’s the ultimate women’s work. Call me out for being a biological determinist, I don’t care: motherhood, in its barest biological outlines, is the only work that women do that only women can do. Making babies, nursing babies: it’s what we’re built for. Many of us don’t want to do what we’re built for, and that’s fine – but it doesn’t change the fact that women are built to birth and nurture children. To be mothers. Of course there is much, much more to motherhood than birthin’ babies – much that has little or nothing to do with pushing a miniature person through one’s parts – and so it would, in some respects, be fairer to talk about parenthood and to remove any elements of gender determinism from the discussion. But the fact of the matter is that when we talk about parenthood, we’re usually talking to or about mothers, and mothers – regardless of whether they birthed or adopted or foster – the people doing the work of motherhood – are usually women. So in disparaging motherhood you disparage women, full stop. And why disparage motherhood? Because it is so essentially feminine in so many respects? Is there something essentially problematic about anything essentially feminine (whatever that means)? Or is it just that nobody can help getting all Freudian and Leave It To Beaver and Carol Brady and apron strings and squick and – have I said this already? – Freudian when they think about motherhood?

There’s no reason, no reason at all, for motherhood to be inextricably associated with 50′s-style domestic servitude. There is nothing essentially retrograde or anti-feminist about motherhood. It’s attitudes about motherhood that are retrograde and anti-feminist. And I have news for you: the most retrograde and antifeminist attitude about motherhood is the one that holds that there is something limiting and unimportant and retrograde and antifeminist about motherhood. Mothers (and fathers, although I’m not speaking for fathers here) do the most important public work that there is: they raise citizens. We don’t always do it well, and we might argue about the choices that we make in carrying out this job, but it is nonetheless our job, as parents: to raise citizens, to nurture children into better-than-functioning human beings who will contribute to society. How on earth is that something that we should worry about over-respecting? In what universe should we be worrying about valuing that work too highly? Especially when the fact of the matter is that that work is, in our society, wholly under-respected and undervalued?

Excuse me while I catch my breath. Ranting tires me, after a full day of lashing children with my apron strings and reveling in my dizzying social status.

My friend Liz wrote, earlier this week, about feeling defensive about being a mom in a culture that so often turns up its nose at moms and the work of moms and – not incidentally – the discourse of moms. She said that being defensive about being a mom just makes her want to be a better representative of motherhood, that she wants all of us to be better representatives of motherhood. Which, yes. I wholeheartedly agree. But I also wish, wholeheartedly, that we didn’t have to be so defensive, that we didn’t have to say things like oh, I’m a mom, but! I’m also a writer! Who writes about being a mom, yes, but! Also other stuff! Important stuff! That may or may not have anything to do with being a mom, but still! Important! Important! That we didn’t need to worry about whether we were representing ourselves well enough (when was the last time you heard doctors collectively wring their hands about whether they were making it clear enough to society that they were useful and important and deserving of respect?) That we didn’t feel the need to constantly defend ourselves and justify our choices, to each other and to our communities and to the world at large.

Women have fought hard for the freedom to make their own choices. I chose to be a mother, and I’m happy with that choice. More than happy, actually: making the choice to have my children is hands down one of the very best things that I’ve done in my life. I’m proud of it. I’m deservedly proud of it. And I’m sick and tired of defending it.

I’m a mother, and I think that motherhood is awesome. I think that I am awesome, in all of my baby-slinging, preschooler-wrestling, breastfeeding-promoting, yoga-pant-wearing, diaper-bag-toting, bad-mothering, mommy-blog-spinning glory. Anyone who has a problem with that can suck it.

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    { 89 comments }

    ame i. August 6, 2009 at 11:13 am

    Parenthood isn’t for everyone. Those of the “child-free zone” should absolutely do themselves & the rest of us the favor of NOT having children.
    I vividly remember my best friend telling me “DON’T have kids!” when her son was 3. He’s 13 now. I’m not sure if she would offer that advice now.
    I’ve known since I was a teen that I wanted children. My late-husband had a horrible childhood and was totally against having kids. After 6 years of marriage I told him that I WOULD be a mother and if he was so opposed we needed to cut our losses right then and there so I could get to meeting my next husband.
    We had our first daughter a few months before our 10th anniversary & the second daughter 2 days before first daughter turned 2. Being a mother was more important to me than being his wife.
    He died when our girls were 3 and 5. I married again almost 2 years ago. This is first marriage, my/our daughters are his only children. He is a great husband and father.

    jaelithe August 6, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I am happy that you and Liz wrote about this because I have been meaning for a at least a month to write about something slightly different on the same topic and I keep putting it off and putting it off for random silly reasons, and I think it’s just that my subconscious has been putting it aside because I know it will cause major dramarama.

    But now I sort of have to write about it, don’t I? Because everyone is writing about it. (At least, that is what I can tell the stupid part of my brain that has been holding me back.)

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Yeah, you sort of do ;)

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Have to write it, that is. DURR.

    Mrs. Flinger August 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    AMEN. I wrote once about the pressure I got to go back to work from “The outside world” after having my daughter. As if my being a mom wasn’t “enough”.

    It is enough. OF COURSE it’s enough. It’s amazingly enough. I wish more people would get that.

    I need your badge. :)
    .-= Mrs. Flinger´s last blog ..Words We Aren’t Allowed to Say =-.

    Cecily August 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Suck it, indeed.

    Well said, my dear, well said.
    .-= Cecily´s last blog ..10 Things I Learned In Manhattan Yesterday =-.

    Diane August 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Catherine, seriously. I avoid this topic because I can’t stand listening to the “Childfree NOT Childless” crowd drone on and on about how it’s not far that parents get this benefit and that benefit and OH MY GOSH JUST SHUT UP PEOPLE. Now, thankfully, I have something far more coherent than I could have put together to direct them to. This was brilliant. As usual.
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Girl Talk Thursday – Let’s talk music =-.

    j. caroline August 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Very well written and thought out piece. But I must go now and clean the spit up off my shirt and throw out the poopy diaper that’s been on the floor since last night (and has since been stepped on).

    Motherhood rocks and stepping in shit is just one of the many benefits.
    .-= j. caroline´s last blog ..Patty Young’s Mezzanine is here! =-.

    Sarah Mae August 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Gosh, wow, yea…

    Hearing this from a (don’t take this the wrong way *please*) non-Christian is so refreshing. I am a Christian, and it seems like in my own circles people are against motherhood when usually (or so I perceive) it is the Christians standing up for moms – especially full-time moms.

    I don’t know if I’m communicating clearly.

    I guess what I really just want to say is, thank you for this article.

    :)

    Mr Lady August 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    I got nothin’ but a big fat WORD UP.
    .-= Mr Lady´s last blog ..If My Mother Tells Me To Stop Playing With My Latte, Does That Mean I Have To Make A Commitment? =-.

    The Mother Tongue August 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    So much THIS.
    .-= The Mother Tongue´s last blog ..Puzzle pieces at BlogHer =-.

    Annagrace August 6, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Brilliant.
    .-= Annagrace´s last blog ..Graces, #26 =-.

    Mandy August 6, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    That’s right! And then some.
    .-= Mandy´s last blog ..Non Sequitur =-.

    michellew_ August 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Damn girl, those fools got SERVED! Amen.

    Nickie @nsmith729 August 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I love you. I do. Just when I think you can’t get any better, you go and get better. And here I thought your Bad Mother Manifesto was my favorite post EVER. Can I have a few favorite posts ever?

    Of course, I completely agree with you. I’ve always been of the opinion that those who lobby against motherhood are those who are terrified of it and ignorant about it. As far as I’m concerned, they can have their ignorant bliss. I love my life- love beyond anything else being the mother to my kids. It is, above and beyond anything else, the BEST thing I have ever done. Period.

    The anti-kid folks can totally SUCK IT!
    .-= Nickie @nsmith729´s last blog ..Girl Talk Thursday #1 =-.

    Mama in the City August 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Great post and well said. I have had this debate with a few friends who have chosen not to have children and always in the middle of arguing our points I think, what am I doing? I wanted babies so I had one.

    Major Bedhead August 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I swear, I’m going to print out some of your blog posts and make them required reading for my friends who refuse to read blogs. You’ve said so many things that I’ve thought for so often. It’s amazing to me that I even hear that stuff from other mothers – I remember one woman asking me if I was a student or “only a mom.” I wanted to slap her. What do you mean, ONLY a mom? Gah!
    .-= Major Bedhead´s last blog ..Pictures Of You =-.

    aqua August 6, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Awesome and brilliant as always, Catherine! I am just about to spend some time with a friend who is rabidly anti-children, and the happy place I will go to while she is ranting will be this blog post :)

    liz August 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    You? You are AMAZING. I love this post.
    .-= liz´s last blog ..Question for the health conscious =-.

    makyo August 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    ok, i clicked over and read the article in full so i could really figure out what it said. and the thing is, there are parts of it i agree with. i *don’t* think that people should have children just because they think they are supposed to. i think it’s true that in some cases society sort of pushes this life track on us (not just women): grow up, get married, have kids. and i think it’s ok to not want to go down that path, to decide that you don’t want to have kids because it’s accepted or expected. in my opinion nobody should have kids unless they really want to, not that you have to plan it down to the exact date and time but at least have had a conversation with yourself and/or your spouse where you agree this is what you want.

    BUT… these same people, the “child-free”, who demand so harshly that they not be “judged” because of their decision, seem awfully quick to judge those who don’t agree. and that’s where i have the biggest issue. you don’t want kids? fine. you don’t want to be judged for it, or look at as though you’re inferior for making that decision? agreed. but don’t turn around and point the finger at those who’ve chosen to bring a child or two (or more) into the world as though they are the harbingers of doom. there ARE children here, like it or not, and they need to be looked after and cared for and doted on to make sure they grow up into the kind of intelligent, thoughtful, well-adjusted people who are capable of making their own decisions without feeling the compulsive need to attack everyone else who hasn’t made the same decision.

    /end rant :) lovely post, HBM. thanks for the opportunity to think and argue and rant and even get angry.

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I totally agree – there are some relevant points in the article, especially to the point about motherhood being something that is expected, to some degree, of women. But that social expectation, and social approval of/respect for motherhood in practice are not the same thing. We should be free to have kids or not have kids as we desire. Nobody should be bashing ANYONE for those choices.

    But yeah, end of the day, it’s mothers that struggle most in practice for social respect. I’m just sick of all the mom-bashing.

    julie August 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Someone in my office once complanined during an HR briefing that it’s “unfair” that parents (read: moms) get an extra 5 days leave per year for family-related obligations.

    I looked him in the eye and said, “I’ll trade you my five days for ONE full night’s sleep.”

    Every mother in the room applauded.
    .-= julie´s last blog ..It’s not you, it’s me. =-.

    Mona August 6, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I really believe that if parents, but especially mothers, were looked at with more respect it would help us do the job that much better. Being a mom is hard, but even more so when you have to fight to defend your choice to have kids! Always worrying about what other people think and keeping kids as quiet as possible so as not to disturb those who don’t have kids ( or sometime those who do but still give you the stink eye when yours act up in public) is a lot of work. I hate going to my sons school for anything because it always seems to be a competition to see who can be the best mother while not looking or acting like a mother. In days past mothers were respected, and dare i say it, worshiped. We were the life givers, the nurturers, the ones who held the family together. What happened to the days when the world looked at us and knew just how much work we did every day? And now even more since we work at home as mothers and outside the home as whatever? It’s hard work and I just want some respect! And if you chose not to have kids, great for you. But you have no right to look down your nose at me for my choice.

    Angela August 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    The folks who want to point out that the decision to be a mother, especially the decision to be a SAHM, is somehow anti-feminist just makes me either want to laugh or cry.

    I mean, what is feminism if it is not the freedom to make our own choices? I choose to have children (hopefully more than the one, wonderful one I have now). I think that’s me, exercising my feminist bone right there.
    .-= Angela´s last blog ..The Tooth Pirate =-.

    red pen mama August 6, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Amen, sister. Sing it.

    Now maybe I’ll read some comments.

    ciao,
    rpm
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Fried Green Tomatoes, with Children =-.

    Amy August 6, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    From one mother to another…thank you!

    Liza August 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I have nothing to say that the women above me haven’t already expressed. Your post brought me to tears, as I’m here at work, worrying about school starting and what to do with my daughter once that happens, and all the shit that goes along with the awesomeness of motherhood. Sigh. Anyway, THANK YOU.
    .-= Liza´s last blog ..Nothing but Canadians and trouble =-.

    kelly August 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    I would get up and cheer, except that would wake up my kid.
    You’ve said it all so so well. Merci.

    red pen mama August 6, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I will add that after reading Makyo’s comment (and not, yet, the article to which HBM refers), I think her first paragraph is spot on. My sister — who is brilliant and attractive and, yes, mentally ill — whings on and on about how she just went to chiropractic school because she wasn’t married and having babies. Guess what, not everyone should get married and/or have babies. It’s okay. It’s hard when you feel it’s less a choice than life circumstances (like my sister feels), but it’s okay. I have many happy childfree friends who have never bitched about not being parents — or who look down at me for being one.

    ciao,
    rpm
    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Fried Green Tomatoes, with Children =-.

    harrytimes August 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    This is great. I agree with you, and the notion of biological determinism is a sticky one when it comes to mothering.

    In my academic work, I have struggled a lot with the motherhood/parenthood distinction, and the conclusion I am slowly coming to is that we are living in a time of ideological flux– our generation is finding that notions of intensive mothering don’t fit our needs anymore, but the work of raising the family is talked about– and written off– as women’s work. When we have proper critical distance, I think we’ll look at the way motherhood is taken up right now as a pivotal moment in the transition from women’s work to parents’ work.

    A lot of historians (like Judith Walzer Leavitt, whose book Making Room for Daddy is fantastic) are starting to re-tell histories of motherhood and fatherhood to focus on parenthood without ignoring that the work of care has been women’s burden historically.

    This is a fascinating conversation and a truly great post.
    .-= harrytimes´s last blog ..4 years of wedded bliss =-.

    jeneria August 7, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I’ve been deep into the Feminine Mystique for an article I’m working on and my general feeling is that we haven’t come very far in many ways.

    Biology still comes before ability where women are concerned. And there’s more, but I don’t want to get into a fight.

    I don’t have kids. I don’t want them. I do feel that there is so much pressure on me to have kids and that by not doing so I’m somehow letting everyone down. And I get angry about that. I don’t tell people they shouldn’t have kids so stop telling me I should, that I won’t know what it’s like to be a woman until I do, that I won’t know pain or exhaustion or fear until I have kids. That’s just not fair.

    Meredith August 6, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    HBM,

    I love, love, love this post. It’s your ability to push all the bullshit out of the way and get to heart of the matter that brings me back to you blog time and again. I don’t blog, but want to get started, and the issues you tackle in this post are the things that always get me composing would-be posts. If motherhood is so revered, why is every trip outside my house a stress-filled, anxiety-ridden experience punctuated by evil glares from strangers at my sons’ every whimper, screech, giggle and questions? And don’t even get me started on motherhood as anti-feminist. Ack. Freedom to choose. Every child a wanted child. Weren’t these some of the pillars of early feminism? What possible good comes from women attacking women about their choices? What good comes from decrying the birth of a child as an indulgent and destructive habit?

    Awesome post. Love reading this blog.

    annie August 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Despite all the moms who gleefully come clean about the downside of the job, I still think that we the urge to do what we were built for hits – we blissfully believe that we will be the ones with babies who sleep and don’t hate their carseats from the first moment they are strapped in and that we will look like St. Angelina of Pitt leading her perfect brood about by the sheer essence of her maternal instinct. The reality is always a shock.

    But those who don’t want children seem to me to be defensive in their condemnations of the whole mom thing. And it’s a mom thing, you’re right. No one protests fatherhood with the same vehemence.

    Motherhood is so unglamorous in reality and so completely reviled and looked down upon in the work world that it surprises me that women actively contribute to the bile. But again, it’s a source thing and it should be considered. Women who choose to remain childless are free to compete as men do but their femininity is suspect and it, rightly, pisses them off. So they vilify mothers instead of firing back at the sexism that runs rampant in our workplaces and is promoted in the media and codified by our governments.

    Women are terrible about the whole “team” and “got your back thing” that men just seem to be born knowing how to do.
    .-= annie´s last blog ..Spoons =-.

    The Diaper Diaries August 6, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Nothing more coherent to say then Amen!! Thank you for this post.
    .-= The Diaper Diaries´s last blog ..Things I Love Thursday- Spanx =-.

    Catherine August 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I haven’t read all eleventy-hundred comments so I don’t know if anyone has said this. What seriously – excuse me – pisses me off is that the “Children: Just Say No” folks are completely overlooking something very important. Who in hell do they think is going to pay the taxes, drive the ambulances, be the nurse, doctor, lawyer, advocate, delivery person and so on that they’re going to NEED in another 30 years or so?! The personal, intangible satisfaction of parenting is our own business, yes, but we also are performing a very important social responsibility/obligation. People talk about “giving back to society” well, the most basic and important way to do that is to have kids. I ain’t bein’ selfish, my childless sisters are, especially with their stated expectation that my kids will help out when they’re old.
    For 20 years, about the nicest thing anyone said to me when they heard I had six children was “You must be crazy” About 5 years ago, they started saying “Oh, you’re so lucky.” What changed? Humph.

    Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) August 6, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I don’t think I’m being selfish because I’m not having children.

    I think it would be selfish to bring children into the world that I don’t want and/or don’t feel equipped to parent for the next dozen-and-a-half-at-least years. How hard would that be for my child? Very, methinks.

    By the way, I do think — often — about what *will* happen to me when I’m unable to care for myself… It is scary. I will consider it an honor if someone else’s child chooses to help take care of me. I know I can’t expect that, however. And I know I shouldn’t expect it.

    For the record, I think it’s awesome that you have six kids. I love kids. I just don’t think I want any of my own.
    .-= Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba)´s last blog ..Clearly, I need to plan better next time… =-.

    mo August 10, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    It pisses ME off that people on both sides, parents and childfree alike, wag fingers at others despite never having walked in their shoes, make assumptions about a person’s life they know nothing about, and make judgmental statements about other people “being selfish” simply because they’ve made different choices in life.

    Selfishness is assuming that yours are the only valid interests and concerns out there. I look forward to a time when the loudest voices on both sides are the tolerant ones.

    Amy August 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the comments, but my internetting time is slim today so I will just say this:

    I think it is sad for everyone in our society that motherhood is not revered. Whenever I’m not sure what to do as a mother, I wonder what humans are biologically equipped to do. Not sure how to feed the baby? Well, I DO have these milk-dripping boobs. Not sure if the baby should cry? I think the extreme anxiety I feel when she cries is meant to tell me something. People get all cute and happy when they see a pregnant woman? We, as a species, are SUPPOSED to reproduce. (Likewise, when I am cheating biology by trying NOT to reproduce anymore, it feels strange and dishonest or something.) We are supposed to dote upon pregnant women and babies. We are a social species that is meant to work together to raise our young. Biologically speaking, there is no more important thing we can do than raise children.

    Jae August 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Sometimes, I really have to wonder, have any of you given any thoughts what is like to be a mother with teens. Or early-college years? That is truly when much of the hardcore parenting begins.

    Parenting is not just adorable, kissable little toddlers and pre-schoolers. It’s not that I don’t totally understand and agree with much of what is said. However, as a parent that had her family early (we’ve always been precocious, my husband and I, skipping grades in school, graduationg early, bought our first house when still at University, et. al.) that now has really grown “children”, graduated from excellent private schools, totally self-supporting, I cannot help but recall what my aunt said,”People want BABIES, not children.”

    I have watched for years how the devotion and selflessness vanish at the march of the decades go on, as those sweet, small-size people shoot up, develop their own lives, interests and talk back. A lot. I even had “good” children, polite, funny, handsome, not my words, other’s words and I was told over and over how lucky we were.

    It was still hard: Two thousand dollars towards books (child working 20 hour a week at college still short) and health care costs, paying insurance until they recieved their own, helping/co-signing for cars, keeping ours forever.

    I’m just curious. You all have barely started. And I mean that in a very kind way.

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Believe me, I think that this stuff is hard now, and I’m bracing for it to get even harder.

    But I totally expect to still be proud of being a mother, even when my sixteen-year old daughter is tormenting me with her angst. Or at least, I hope to be.

    Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) August 6, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    The big reason my husband and I don’t plan on having children is BECAUSE I think I want a baby… not to be a parent. (My husband doesn’t want either.)

    Of course, everyone here is free to laugh at me if we change our minds or if God changes it for us via an unexpected pregnancy. :)
    .-= Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba)´s last blog ..Clearly, I need to plan better next time… =-.

    Lindsay August 7, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Seriously? You think caring for a baby or a toddler is easy? Granted, it may be easier than the teenage years, and I’m as prepared for that as I can be, not having been through it, but caring for a baby was/is HARD. Really, really, gut-wrenching-ly, insanity provoking-ly HARD.

    bubbs August 10, 2009 at 7:26 am

    i had a difficult baby.

    i LAUGH when people warn me about the teenage years because they simply cannot be harder. They just can’t. I was alone in a house being screamed at by my baby for up to 12 hours a day for months and months and months (a gastro-intestinal problem was diagnosed at 10 months). I was so utterly, helplessly in love with that baby and each and every cry ripped my heart apart. It was pure, unadulterated agony which i cannot believe that i survived. Apologies for the dramatic language but that is simply how it was for me.

    so no, the cost of university texts is not keeping me up at night.

    also, i think a lot of parents kind of drop the ball in the elementary school years. the difficulties of babies and toddlers behind them a lot of parents just get too comfortable … then the teenage years hit and they have to saddle-up and do some intense parenting…. and most just don’t. Instead they sit back and complain about awful teenagers are. IMO.

    The Grown Up Teenager August 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I find this entire post amusing. Maybe I’m jaded from stumbling on some bad mommy blogs, but it always seems that parents have no problem whining, complaining and bemoaning dealing with their kids daily, but when someone else dares to say something against it, suddenly, they’re proud.

    Suddenly, they own it and they’re super mom awesome, because they’re proud of it and its great and they wouldn’t trade it for the world…even though minutes/hours ago, they were begging for alcohol or drugs to deal because they can’t stand one more minute around their own kid(s).

    This isn’t to say parenthood doesn’t have its tough days. I know it does. I just find it amusing that some parents are only proud when the childfree by choice crowd speaks out against kids, but other than that, you’d swear they hate parenthood, by the way they talk.

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    That’s a bit disingenuous, isn’t it? Or maybe it is just from my perspective. I don’t know a single parent blogger who isn’t proud of being a parent, regardless of how much they write about the difficulties. As I said above – this shit is hard. But so is, say, running a marathon or completing a doctoral thesis or surviving cancer or whatever, and no-one would say, ‘oh, seeing how much you bitched about 5am runs/all-night study sessions/undergoing chemo I wouldn’t expect you to be PROUD of what you’ve done.’ We’re proud BECAUSE it’s hard.

    Finding motherhood difficult and being proud of being a mother are not in any way mutually exclusive things. In fact, I’d say that they go hand-in-hand.

    Ruth August 6, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Amen!

    I’d like to add that we’re also proud when our children reach milestones (3 successfully visits to the potty today! Baby slept through the night!) We celebrate the good too – it’s just those posts don’t tend to be paid attention to on the same level as a social commentary ones!

    The Grown Up Teenager August 6, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    But the difference in attitude is evident. There’s nothing wrong with being proud of something that wasn’t easy to reach.

    But someone who runs a marathon isn’t only proud of it when someone disses runners. They’re happy with their accomplishment for their own sake.

    Its not “I am runner, hear me roar,” when someone says they don’t understand how people can run marathons. I don’t know chemo patients who struggle for gratification from others. But I sure know plenty of parents who do.

    There are lots of parents with a sense of entitlement, “because I have kids!” It gets sickening to people who don’t have them.

    That said, parents have every right to celebrate their child’s milestones, and their life. I completely agree. But I don’t know if you can claim supermom status when it takes numerous Xanax to get through the day without hating your own kids.
    .-= The Grown Up Teenager´s last blog ..Oh hi there =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Again, I don’t know any parent bloggers who don’t express their pride/pleasure/joy in being parents alongside their venting about how hard-won that joy is sometimes. But maybe we don’t read the same blogs. I’ve written plenty of posts about loving being a mom. I also have written a lot about struggling with PPD, and with taking medication for that, and about all variety of struggles I’ve faced in being a mom. But again, struggling doesn’t negate the possibility of pride.

    And I don’t know if you’re referring to me in your last line (I’ve certainly never claimed, and didn’t claim here, to be a supermom), but here’s something about women struggling with and taking medication for PPD – it’s not about getting through the day without hating your kids. It has NOTHING to do with loving your kids. The suggestion that a mom off her meds might hate her kids is deeply, deeply offensive. A mom struggling with PPD is struggling with many things, but love for her children is not one of those things. And any woman who recognizes that she needs Xanax or any other medication to cope with PPD or an anxiety disorder can absolutely claim supermom status, because she is doing exactly what she needs to do to be the best mom she can, full stop.

    Joy August 7, 2009 at 12:14 am

    The Grown Up Teenager, with the sentiments you are expressing in your comments, I find it puzzling that you are reading blogs about motherhood and parenting in the first place? But if you are reading to try to understand, may I suggest you adjust the lens with which you are viewing the experience of Motherhood?

    1/ What I encourage you to remember as you read any parent’s blog, is the love – the deep, unbounded, complete and total and absolute love – that we have for children is at the root of EVERYTHING. It is what makes our job as Mother so difficult and wondrous in equal turns. Our love and wanting the best for our children is why we agonize over every choice, big and small. If we didn’t care so much, and feel the weight of their future raising up out of our hearts, then this gig would be a whole lot easier. And less anxious.
    2/ Drugs and Alcohol references = Gallows humour. Cops have it. Lawyers, doctors, nurses. Parents. We all use dark humour to cope. Read Far Side for some classic pieces of dark, sometimes inappropriate humour. Also, Calvin & Hobbes.
    3/ Parents don’t blog and communicate with others for gratification. Most comments on posts are about acknowledging their existence, and ‘omg, me too! I am not alone!!” than posts seeking gratification. You have heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child”? Well, this is one modern equivalent of that village. The villages were not just communities that a child played safely in, but a place in which mothers/parents were supported and mentored and cared for…

    Joy August 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    AMEN!

    “Mothers, revered? Mothers, above critique? In what world does that occur? Because, seriously, I want to go to there.”

    Oh, thank you for these words. I want to go there, too!
    .-= Joy´s last blog .. =-.

    Carrie @ Who Knew? August 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Great post! Seriously I have written a ton of posts on this exact subject and never said it a tenth as well as you just did. Wonderful, wonderful post.

    Thanks!
    .-= Carrie @ Who Knew?´s last blog ..You will be rich, gorgeous and happy! That’ll be a $500. =-.

    Amber August 6, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I totally agree with you. Motherhood is undervalued. And it does no service to anyone.

    Feel free not to have babies. That’s a fine choice. It’s no skin off my teeth. But I did have babies, and I don’t think that should be any skin of yours, either. After all, someone’s got to do the procreating, and honouring that choice isn’t the same thing as saying that everyone else has to make it.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..Maternity Leave and Breastfeeding =-.

    Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) August 6, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Amber said: “After all, someone’s got to do the procreating, and honouring that choice isn’t the same thing as saying that everyone else has to make it.”

    As someone who doesn’t plan to have kids, I LOVE THIS. I totally agree.
    .-= Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba)´s last blog ..Clearly, I need to plan better next time… =-.

    baltimoregal August 6, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    We’re wrong no matter what we do, aren’t we?

    If I were already married, I’d probably have kids. I always wanted to. But I’m hopelessly single at 36 and while I still have time, of course- I’m rethinking the concept. And you would think I was considering needlessly severing a limb from people’s reactions.

    I don’t want to have a child on my own, at least not anytime soon. And of course I can adopt later on (if I can afford it) if I am so inclined. My friends have kids. I love kids. I love (many) people.

    I’ve just found that everyone wants to judge everyone. (See? I’m judging!)

    Marinka August 6, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    I have to comment on the “motherhood/parenthood is hard”. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s not a bad hard, it’s a good ache.
    I was a wreck when my daughter was born, postpartum-y, unable to nurse and overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all. And I’ll never forget my father telling me, “it’s hard, but it’s full of joy” and it is.

    My kids are older now, 11 and 8 and hell yes, it’s still hard. But it’s still so much easier than not having them in my life. So much easier.

    Oh, I get the resentment towards mothers. I really do. When I was pregnant the senior person in my office, a man in his 70s told me that I could use his office any time that I wanted to rest. He basically switched offices with me, his huge one overlooking Central Park with my not huge one overlooking Not Central Park because he felt that I was carrying on the human race and what he was doing was less important than that. And although I absolutely basked in it, I can see how it would be annoying to people who did not get the same privileges, attention, etc., not just at work, but from society as a whole.
    .-= Marinka´s last blog ..Achoo =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I agree that it’s good hard. HARD hard, but GOOD HARD hard.

    And I found that the positive attention I received during pregnancy dissipated pretty quickly once I was toting a baby (or, especially, breastfeeding publicly), and then even more as that baby got bigger and bigger and became a messy toddler and then a loud preschooler. Like I said, I think that society likes motherhood much more in theory than in practice.

    Annika August 6, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    I kind of want to make out with you now. I hope that’s not too weird, since we don’t know each other and all. But seriously: WORD.
    .-= Annika´s last blog ..This is the last straw. =-.

    Meredith August 6, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I wish it were a choice for me. With a diagnosis of “unexplained” infertility (and no insurance for infertility), my options are 1) go into debt to have the child I desperately want, 2) give up the dream, 3) expect a miracle.

    Though, for sure, you don’t want them, don’t have them. But for me, it’s not much of a choice.
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..Are You in the Infertility Closet? =-.

    Theresa Suart August 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Thanks for this. I’ve been fuming since reading the Maclean’s article — in between doing speech therapy and OT and playing trains with my 5-year-old autistic son. Your rant hit the nail on the head.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant August 6, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I don’t expect – or really, even want – support from anyone but my partner, let alone society.

    That said, nitwits who revel in their child-free status and grouse about the supposed societal preferences shown toward mothers have obviously forgotten that for a good 2-3 years, someone else wiped their ass at least six times a day.
    .-= Julie @ The Mom Slant´s last blog ..Buyer’s remorse? =-.

    Amy Jo August 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Earlier this week I had some troll criticizing my mothering, and parents in general, because of a photo of my 3 year old son in a stroller. (Never mind the fact that it’s his little sister’s ride and he was only in it for a few seconds while we tied his shoes, but whatever.) All I wanted to do was find some way respond without getting all, ‘You’re a douche!’ on him, but I couldn’t. I rarely can find the words when I need them, but now I know where to look for inspiration. Thanks for being so intelligent and insightful and good at expressing those things for those of us who are a little less eloquent.
    .-= Amy Jo´s last blog ..On Birthing Naturally, or Am I Certifiably Insane? =-.

    Annika August 7, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Sometimes you just have to say “You’re a douche.” (Or you could say nothing at all, I GUESS, but the high road is so dull.)
    .-= Annika´s last blog ..This is the last straw. =-.

    Al_Pal August 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Great post!
    I don’t know if I’ll have kids, but I’ve got mad respect for the people who choose to.
    Some of the childfree people do seem pretty whack. ;p

    Sarah Lena August 6, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    I met a new friend for lunch one day and she mentioned her sister-in-law and said, “Yeah, she’s child-free.”

    I thought that was such an odd label, one so PURPOSEFUL, that it meant she was child-free not by choice.

    She corrected me and later sent me some links. My blood BOILED.

    “Crotch-droppings”, they called kids. Kids like mine. Kids that did NOTHING to these people.

    I’m a fan of live and let live. I’m not going to tie you down and impregnate you and FORCE you to be part of the status quo. It’s your body; it’s your choice.

    But BY GOD, do not judge me in my choice either. Lest I train my ninja child to come for you.
    .-= Sarah Lena´s last blog ..And Then My Ovaries Imploded =-.

    Meg August 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t think that our society will ever embrace or respect motherhood until we stop criticizing each other’s parenting choices. Instead of complimenting each other or lending a hand, we bitch about the way they feed their baby or hold their baby or put their baby to bed(“We” being a blanket term). It’s one huge catfight, rather than that sisterhood that is seen in other countries.

    The bottom line here is that I love this post. You have such a gift of words and I could never have written this as eloquently as you did. Thank you for standing up for us.

    (PS – I’m medicated and I loved my daughter even when I wasn’t. The difference is at I love MYSELF now.)
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..Friends =-.

    Alicia August 6, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    And another: WORD.

    To every last word.

    The HARD is one of the DRAWS to having kids. I have never been more challenged than I am every single fucking day by my children. I WANT this challenge.

    Is it difficult and mind-numbing? Yes. Does it make me proud of myself that I TRY so hard every day to be the best mother I can (which, many times, isn’t that great)? Hell yeah. Do I love my children, even though I often feel tortured by them? More than I could ever explain.

    I’m medicated too, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my children or my ability to mother or my love for them or how challenged I am by parenting every day.

    LOVE THIS POST.
    .-= Alicia´s last blog ..wordless wednesday: or, another great reason to post gratuitous pictures of my kids =-.

    jenB August 6, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    fucking yes, that MCLEANS’s article made an important artery in my head burst. I am so glad you wrote this so I can just link it. You do these things so much better than most.

    Someone recently wrote an editorial to our local paper asking that our Farmer’s Market be STROLLER FREE, because they are so difficult to maneuver around. “Especially when Mom has a latte in one hand”. I need to find that link.

    Reverence for mothers? bullshit. Disdain and calling me a breeder – more and more common.

    Stefanie August 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Wow. This was the most fascinating blog post I’ve read in awhile. I agree wholeheartedly with all of it. I didn’t want children until I actually had one and didn’t know there was anything implicitly wrong with that. I thought that was how lots of women felt. I asked my therapist how do I really know if I should have a baby and she said, “If you sort of want one, that may be as close as you’re going to get.” I know, not very therapy-like, but it was true. And I’ve never regretted that decision although I’ve many time fretted that I almost didn’t make that decision. I had Elbs at 38 and my twins at 41 so I knew life before kids and I know life with kids and hands down as hard as it is, I’ll take my kids thank you very much. I have friends that have decided not to have kids and I think it’s great. I just can’t believe that the author of that article would really take the time to write such a ridiculous piece of crap especially when the best example of a “child-free” person she can come up with is Cameron Fucking Diaz who ISN’T EVEN SURE SHE DOESN’T WANT KIDS. Okay, so now I’m mad.

    P.S. are you following me on Twitter? If not, get on it, bitch.
    .-= Stefanie´s last blog ..On a Very Special Episode of Sesame Street… =-.

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I am SO following you on Twitter. How else would I know that you’re only living for Real Housewives of Atlanta?

    Her Bad Mother August 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    But what I meant to say was – me too. I wasn’t sure that I wanted kids until, well, the first one got placed in my arms. or maybe when the stick turned pink? Dunno. All I know is, that doesn’t make one lick of difference, end of the day. I love that I have my kids. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Jennifer A August 6, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    I have friends who, for many reasons, choose not to have kids. But they have great respect for those who do. If you don’t want kids, fine but don’t make us feel like garbage because we chose to. Yeah, its not an easy job and I’ve had lots of guilt for the world my children have been brought into, but still I’m doing my best to overcome those circumstances.
    .-= Jennifer A´s last blog ..He’s so stinking cute I won’t sell him on eBay for now =-.

    Issa August 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve read this three times and I still can’t put into words what I want to say. Tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow.

    Until then, let me just say, I adore you and this post. I’d applaud, if I didn’t have a sleeping child in my lap.

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