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.