16 January, 2014

Tarred with the same brush

I wanted to add some clarification to my post yesterday.

We all know that people look at us, both within the ALI community and from outside it, and assume that because we didn’t adopt, or take other measures to ensure that we would have children, then we obviously chose not to.  (I’ve written about this before, here – and Justine just wrote a great post here too.)  So no kidding women (women without children), regardless of how we got here, are all tarred with the same brush.  And therefore I was not so concerned with the article’s focus on women who choose not to have children (after all, it is the author’s prerogative to focus where she chooses, and she clearly expressed this in the title).  But I was concerned with with the assumption that if women choose not to be mothers, then obviously they would not have been very good mothers. 

And it was that condescending "there, there, weren't you clever not to become a mother" attitude, with the hidden implication that "you" would have been awful at it, that disturbed me.  Because I think that women who think through their decisions* and weigh up what they want and don’t want, and are prepared to stand up for their beliefs when it is not easy or popular to do so, well, I think these women could be great mothers.  It’s just something they didn’t choose.

Choosing not to be a mother doesn’t mean a woman wouldn’t be great at it anyway, anymore than choosing to be a mother (or accidentally becoming one) means they would be great at it.  I mean, look around!  But the article didn’t recognise this.  In fact its entire premise was the opposite.  And that’s what disturbed me, and motivated me to write.

* kudos to my husband, who made this point on a morning walk yesterday.


  1. I agree. I had some friends post that article on my Facebook, but I think they only read the title. We tried to conceive. When that didn't work, we tried to adopt. We did our best but knew it was time to quit. I hate the world assuming I didn't want kids, cause I did. It just never worked out for me.

  2. dear Mali, dear Savannah: I agree.

    I don't have kids. I will never have kids. But if I had them, I am 100% sure I would be a great mum.
    It is just that other destiny was written in my stars. And I am learning to like it.

    lots of love from sLOVEnia,

  3. You hit the nail on the head with that. The article assumes if you are not a parent (or choose not to be a parent) you would not have been a good one. That implies the opposite - people who make that choice are good parents. Of course there are those who never give it a thought, but that's another issue. Frankly, my mother made the choice (as much as a woman from the 60s could), but i honestly think she should not have had kids. She was much better as a teacher or with other people's children than with her own.

    I think plenty of people who don't have kids, and at least even some who choose not to, would make fine parents. I greatly respect people who recognize they are not "maternal" or that they don't want to give the child the attention he/she would need and make the choice. But simply having children doesn't make a good parent, nor does not having children mean that person would be a poor one.

    The article isn't bad, but it leaves a lot unsaid and does tend to be condescending at point.

    1. Amen to that! It's akin to saying someone would have been a crappy mother so it's lucky she couldn't get pregnant. I wish we could stop judging and making assumptions as a species.

  4. Must admit I haven't read the article - what I read was just your post, Mali ha ha...I actually was never sure about whether or not I would be a good mother. I was worried I'd be too lax and that my hubby would be too lax in raising children. However, that didn't matter much when my maternal instinct kicked in and I was hell bent on giving my best for the child(ren) that would come our way. Now that we're on this road, I find that it probably helped me to let go of the dream (at least logically) - that feeling of doubt as to whether or not I'd be a good mother. That said, though, I grieve the fact that I'm not even given a chance to try give my best in that area.

  5. Great post! "Tarred by the same brush" indeed. I find most people don't distinguish between "childfree by choice" and "childless (not by choice)... they just assume that, these days, if you don't have kids, it's because you don't want them (because there's always that IVF, or why don't you just adopt??). :p

    There are certainly differences in how we came to be living without children, but I find that we all have a lot in common, too (society's view of us, for starters).