Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Thanking No Kidding Women

Life without Baby posted an article thanking women who choose not to have children.  Kathleen noted that this was a refreshing change from all that pressure and accusation we often feel.  And I agree that it is nice to be appreciated for our lifestyles, not judged.  The writer acknowledges that most probably all we hear is an “array of pro-childbearing responses” to our situation.  She's right. And I appreciate her intentions.

But the article itself made me a little uncomfortable.  Mainly because the author's list of reasons why we should be thanked focused on the fact that we didn’t want to be mothers (it was directed at women who choose not to have children) - and the whole “choice” issue always irks me -  and then implies that we might not have been any good at it after all.  The article references women who should never have been mothers, or women who didn’t enjoy being mothers.  It then thanks us for not succumbing to societal pressure and becoming one of "those" mothers, making the assumption that, as mothers, they were simply not up to scratch.

So even whilst recognising that not all women can or want to be mothers, even whilst thanking these women for making courageous choices, it still felt as if there was some judgement going on.  I certainly felt a little condescension.

So I thought.  What would I have liked the article to say? I guess, first, the title would need to be changed.  Here’s the article I wish had been written.

“To Women Without Children”
 Thank you for your courage.  Your courage to live in a society that will judge you for your decisions and your lifestyle (whether or not you had a hand in those decisions), a society that will condescend and exclude, sometimes consciously, often ignorantly, a society that will never value you as highly.
Thank you for being positive role models, showing that there are many ways to live a good life, and that you don’t have to fit in to accepted norms to be accepted, happy, and indeed, normal. 
Thank you for loving our children, caring about them and for them, for being in their lives.  Thank you for showing them that there is good in the world, that they can rely on more people than their immediate family, that more people love them. 
Thank you for paying taxes that fund my children’s schools and cover their medical costs (including all my maternity costs), and the tax breaks given for families.   
Thank you for taking up the slack at work and in extended families, neighbourhoods and communities, when everyone else is focused on their nuclear families and schools. 
Thank you for being a good example of survival, of resilience, and of acceptance.  
Thank you.”
 

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for linking back to the original article. Though I love the place the author is coming from, I think she missed the mark when she assumed that all people who end up not having children do so by choice and, hence, if means they would not have been excellent parents. Hence I love you addendum to this. That the choice of having children in one's life is not limited to being able to procreate or adopt. I especially love the points you bring up about community. Frankly, this is something people too often forget as it is assumed that children "belong" to the parents. Yet without so many people in my life who are not within my nuclear family, be they uncles, teachers, neighbors and now mentors, I would not be the person I am today.

    Thank you for that wonderful reminder and an excellent post

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  2. I love this post and your list, Mali. :) As I commented on the LWB post, my sister is childfree by choice. I know she is simply not the maternal type and I respect her (and others I know) for knowing themselves and what they want out of life and resisting societal pressure to conform. So I understand where the author is coming from. But your post is certainly something that I wish we could hear more often!

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  3. I'd add some thank yous. Thank you for telling your story and opening our eyes.

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  4. dear Mali,
    I did not like the original article at all. I felt uncomfortable reading it, so I just stopped.

    But - I do love your article! Thanks for writting it!

    Sending you my best regards (and I am off to Italy, for my first trip this year (destination: Bologna & souroundings).

    Klara

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  5. I wish that is what the article too. Well said. Very well said.

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  6. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ your letter, Mali. THANK YOUUUUUUUUU!!!!

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  7. I love your letter Mali!!
    Thank you for writing a beautiful, honest and heartfelt letter.
    *applause*
    smiles and pride

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  8. I had the same reaction to the piece - loved the perspective initially but then didn't love the assumption that all those who are not mothers chose not to be. The perspective of those who don't have children not necessarily by choice is an even rarer perspective and your rewrite captured it perfectly. So thank you!

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  9. She definitely wrote this to a subset of women who don't have children. I wonder what the percentage is - of those without children who chose or wanted it and those who came to it by chance but still desired kids.

    Thank you for writing, Mali.

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  10. Thank you for writing this. I agree that there was the judgement involved. I couldn't figure out my concern but you nailed it.

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  11. Ah, I love this! It is SO needed and was very nice to read! Thank you!

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  12. I love this! I love your list of thank yous. Thank you!

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