It’s Easter, so given my penchant for puns, I should probably post something eggciting. But since I have pretty low levels of egg chat at the moment — ummm, they’re still frozen… — I thought maybe I’d write about motherhood and a few things that have caught my eye recently.
Firstly, we’ve all got the Facebook friends who sort of ended up there a bit by accident — The New Yorker was quite funny on this recently — actually maybe that’s a little unfair (as much as anything because a) I refuse to accept friend requests from people who were bitches to me at school — seriously, what right do they have to know what’s going on in my life now? and b) I’m quite brutal and frequently cull people who annoy me) but there are some people on my timeline who I don’t really have much in common with apart from the fact that we knew each other a GAZILLION years ago.
A few weeks back, one of these people posted something, which I assume was a reaction to a very specific situation. It was basically asking people not to judge her for not working and instead being a full-time mother, pointing out that this wasn’t what she expected to do, that it wasn’t necessarily what she would always do, and that she had the utmost respect for those women who did work, whether or not they were simultaneously raising kids. I didn’t really feel I knew her well enough to send her a “U OK hun?” type message, and just thought “fair enough, we’ve all made different choices, someone’s clearly upset you, but what you’ve written is actually quite measured and even-handed.”
Then I read the comments. The first said “Being a Mummy is the most important job of all, well done you.” and the second said “Being a mummy is by far the hardest but most rewarding job, no-one has any right to judge you or anyone else for this matter.” And I was really quite angry and quite upset. Because frankly, fuck off with your double standards. If I’m not going to judge a mother for her life choices, don’t you dare tell me that by “choosing” to be a mother, your job/life is harder/more valuable/more important/more rewarding than mine.
When I wrote about that Kirstie Allsopp thing I touched on the idea that every woman has a need to validate their “choice” as being the “best” one — after all, nobody ever wants to think they could be living their lives better than they are. But in doing so, they inadvertently (or otherwise) denigrate the decisions and life choices that every other woman has made. So, to a certain extent, I get why these women are commenting like that, but this sort of polarisation of society, where motherhood is seen as the most important/hardest job makes it even harder not to be a mother – by choice or otherwise.
(Incidentally, I also think it’s one of those things that is a real thorn in the side of feminism. After all, until women can agree that mothers and non-mothers are equal, but different, how on earth can we begin to hope that we will be seen as equal, but different, to men?)
I didn’t comment because, well, basically because what could I say that would change the way that these women think? And also, because of the way it’s impossible, as a non-mother, to comment on this sort of thing without looking like you’re justifying your own “decision”. Sigh.
And that kind of brings me to a book that has recently come out in the States which is all about women who choose not to be mothers. It’s called “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids” edited by Meghan Daum who I think I’d probably like, purely because, with the title, she decided to completely take the piss out of the way that society views women who don’t have children. Some examples of the stories in there are here, here and here — and while these are women who are, if you will, wilfully childless, unlike, for example, er, me — I think, from what I’ve read, it’s an interesting exploration of how society looks at women who aren’t mothers.
(ALSO, Meghan’s twitter feed led me to a blog by a woman called Lisa Manterfield called Life Without Baby which is all about women who didn’t choose to be childless and how you deal with that. I haven’t explored it in any detail, but I thought it might be interesting.)
On which topic, there’s another blog I’ve been following called The Help Me Blog — a really lovely, engaging writer, writing honestly about trying a whole load of self-help books. A recent post entitled “Does happiness = marriage + kids” looked at, well, exactly that. And I thought the comments on it were, on the whole, an example of people justifying their choices. (I think that’s partly because saying “I wish I’d never had children” is massively taboo.)
Anyway, once more I leave you with no real answers about anything, but hopefully some vaguely interesting links to explore, if you fancy spending the bank holiday losing yourself in random corners of the internet…