I’m a mom. I’m happy, grateful, and proud to be a mom. I have 1 child. I love him with a powerful, infinite, almost painful kind of love that’s unlike any other feeling I’ve ever had in my life. He has enriched my life totally, and people can see that. But I easily understand why many women are frustrated and weary and even resentful of motherhood. I’m blessed to make choices about how I live as a mother. Most women aren’t. I only have to deal with one layer of critique and personal invasion. Most women have to deal with more. I’ll try to see if I can make this make sense…
I’ve been asked about 8 kajillion (that’s a real number) times ‘when I’m gonna have another one.’ No one has ever asked J that question. In fact, J rarely gets asked about his family other than if we continue to exist. I’ve always been a stay at home parent, but I worked with several working moms when I worked outside the home, and it was expected and accepted that when a child was sick, Mom is who sacrifices work time to take care of them. None of my male coworkers left early to attend to needy offspring, and none of them missed a day of work for that, either. I stay home, so it’s never been an issue that’s come up for J at work, but he’s told me about a handful of the men he works with (he works with mostly men) leaving for their children’s needs and having other men ask them, ‘What’s your wife doing?’ or sometimes even, ‘Can’t your mom/her mom handle it?’
To men, fatherhood is a choice. It always has been. The best fathers (like J) choose to be engaged in their children’s lives and welfare and choose to be equal parenting partners, but to men, those are still choices. And they always have been, independent of the point in history they live in, or the magnanimity of their children’s mother. No one asks men how they are going to balance their career with a family. I’ve NEVER heard a man asked this question. Because men get to choose how involved they are and what kind of involvement with their families they want to have. Women don’t get to choose. Once a woman has a child, she is expected to be that child’s main caregiver and source of comfort, period. She may choose to not be involved with her child’s life that way, but she will be more harshly judged for that than she will be anyway. Because she will be anyway…mothers are harshly judged for every decision they make regarding their children, and even regarding their own lives once they have children. Men aren’t. Men can do some pretty dastardly shit before they are harshly judged as fathers. Not just making the choice to pursue a demanding career or bottle feed instead of breast feed. I’ve seen celebrity fathers even excused for abandonment and abuse, *using his career as the justification.* This is a major double standard for men and women. Fatherhood is seen as a choice and the bar for being a good father is set pretty low. Motherhood is seen as a duty and the bar for being a good mother is always high and a constantly moving target.
To answer the 8 kajillion questions I politely (or not so politely) glossed over in the past…No. I’m not going to have another one. I don’t want to have any more children. And that’s MY choice to make.
Women with no children, women with 22 children, and women with any number of children in between, if they chose to have those children, (or not have any), they made valid choices. It’s not for someone else to dictate how many children a woman should have. It’s not for someone else to decide what a woman can or should do with her own life whether or not she has children (mothers have lives beyond their children! That’s real!). Pregnancy and parenthood are serious, weighty PERSONAL endeavors that don’t require, and frankly, shouldn’t even take into account any unsolicited outside input that aren’t stopping abusive behavior.
While I adore my child and being a mom, I don’t believe motherhood is a rite of passage for women, or that all women should be mothers, or that women who forgo motherhood are ‘missing out’ on anything, and even if they were, that’s not my place to tell them so. That’s something each woman lives with on her own. And I absolutely DO believe women can live complete, fulfilled lives without children. Women shouldn’t be defined or judged by motherhood alone. Women are more than the number of children they bear. Just like men are more than the number of children they father.