Mothers and Friends

I write over at Sexy Feminist about the New Mommy War:

Let’s grant I might have a shorter wait for a child if women were coerced to surrender babies for adoption if those women were young or unmarried or their families disapproved, as was the case once upon a time.

Let’s grant that if Roe v. Wade had gone the other way, things might be easier for me.

And then let’s wrap our heads around this, which Christina Locke seems unable to do: Sometimes it’s not all about me.

My desire for a child isn’t about those other women. My desire for a child does not convey upon them any obligation whatsoever. And their desire not to have a child isn’t about me. How dare I ask them to endure misery so that I can have happiness? How dare I take advantage of their poverty, desperation, frustration, fear? Am I inherently better than them? Do I have any right to expect anyone else’s downfall, just so I can benefit?

No. I don’t. I don’t have any right to ask anything of anyone. Their lives are theirs.

They show you the embryo, you know. They show it to you at my clinic, before what they euphemistically call “the transfer,” and then they give you a picture of it. I carried that picture around after the first transfer I had, the one they were so sure was gonna take I started arguing with Mr. A about names and which grandparent would probably be the favorite. I thought it would be fun to show the kidlet someday.

That still doesn’t mean any other woman has to feel the same way about an embryo, or a pregnancy. And it doesn’t mean I have the right to judge her if she doesn’t. It certainly doesn’t mean I should write preachy posts for the Times about how much better I am than my abortion-having whore friends.

(Who the fuck DOES that? People think unkind things about their friends all the time. You go home, talk shit to your mother or your partner, and get the snark out of your system. You don’t put that snark on the Internet where everyone, INCLUDING THE FRIEND YOU’RE TALKING SHIT ABOUT, can read it. Jesus.)

There’s been some truly spectacular writing this week about the terror of the childless, like this horror about how if you don’t want kids, you should have them anyway just in case.No really:

She doesn’t want to be rushed into having kids (which is why she’s still doesn’t have any) and she’s worried that she doesn’t feel ready. Or worse—what if she finally feels ready at age 46 and it’s too late? What if it’s already too late?

Sometimes Doris reminds me of my kindergartner—”What if I get sick tomorrow and can’t go to school and I never learn to read?” Sometimes Doris reminds me of my toddler twins—wanting whatever toy the other twin has.

“In case I want it later” is a reason to get an extra bag of Oreos at the supermarket. IT IS NOT A REASON TO CREATE ANOTHER HUMAN.This takedown puts it well:

My point is that maybe Doris really doesn’t want children. Maybe she likes being a career woman, and her fears about having children are justifiable. Maybe the pressure she feels to have children comes from a culture that values mothers, but not middle-aged career women. What Doris might need is support for her feelings. It’s OK to not want children right now, yes, even in this culture where you’re not encouraged to make such a choice as a woman. I’d like to think you and Doris could make different choices and still respect one another. But I also think she needs to find a new friend.

Jesus, yes. This isn’t so much about mom versus not-mom as it is about us all needing to leave each other the fuck alone. Your abortion isn’t about my desire to have a child. My job isn’t about your stay-at-home motherhood. We are all just trying to get through our weeks without killing each other. We are not intentionally designing our lives to make others feel bad.

And as hard as it can be to not judge others, it’s even harder to not judge yourself in comparison, and then turn that judgment outward, so that everyone who isn’t you is wrong. But if you want to live in the world we have, which in our ideal imaginings would allow every woman the freedom to make the choices best for her, you have to let some of the mommy war go. Put off your armor, because there isn’t a fight here, except the one you make.


6 thoughts on “Mothers and Friends

  1. Well said.
    Reading it, I am thinking about how many of the arguments you debunk tend to treat the child as a commodity. This doesn’t even work good for dog shelters.
    Ironically, a lot of the commodity arguments are from the Christian Right. Treating a life as a commodity seems anathema to the Gospels. Yet the odd alliance of the Christian Right with the “God and Country” second amendment rights, and especially capitalism above all leads to defining all things in terms of a commodity. Not to mention the odd resurgence of Ayn Rand in certain church circles.

  2. Beautiful essay, Athenae. And I pray that a “child comes to you” in the right way and time for you and your DH and the ferrets.

  3. I am so with you on all of this. I’ve been through (and am going through) many of the same things you describe. Infertility and waiting for an adoption are frustrating and painful, but I can’t imagine wanting to constrain the rights and choices of people facing and unwanted or poorly-timed pregnancy further than they already are just so I can have something that I think would make my life better.

  4. I also think that its very telling that the women with whom she is in “competition” in the original blog post are all women just like her–same race, class status, education, all married. She doesn’t imaginatively put herself into the boots of some other woman who can’t accept/face the cost of the physical pregnancy while working full time and still living at home (unmarried) or homeless, or who has a special needs child already sucking up all available income. There is a huge physical cost to pregnancy –a risk. She acts like her friends, or her former friends as the case may be, are frivolously terminating the pregnancies as though they are cancelling the order for a prom dress. Pregnancy is risky, demanding, dangerous even with good health insurance. New babies are not always perfectly healthy. The risks that the original writer thinks she is willing to take are not actually the risks she is taking–is she willing to adopt a special needs baby? If not why does she think other women should risk carrying one to term?

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