Friday, September 21, 2012

Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal (New Book)

The Atlantic:
One woman who got pregnant at 42 wrote, "I hate being a mother too. Every day is the same. And to think I won't be free of it until I am like 60 and then my life will be over." Another, identifying herself only as k'smom, said, "I feel so trapped, anxious, and overwhelmed. I love my daughter and she's well taken care of but this is not the path I would have taken given a second chance."

Gianna wrote, "I love my son, but I hate being a mother. It has been a thankless, monotonous, exhausting, irritating and oppressive job. Motherhood feels like a prison sentence. I can't wait until I am paroled when my son turns 18 and hopefully goes far away to college." One D.C.-based mom even said that although she was against abortion before having her son, now she would "run to the abortion clinic" if she got pregnant again.
I'm sure plenty of women enjoy motherhood, at least in sum.  Maybe even most.  But the fact that not everyone does sometimes seems like this dirty little secret.  A secret often confessed to us childfree friends in hushed whispers away from the prying (and condemning) ears of their mom friends.  I've even heard confessions from complete strangers when they found out about my work for No Kidding!

It isn't like we hide the difficulty of parenthood, and, specifically motherhood.  Hell, sometimes those difficulties mount to near-martyr status as women bemoan just how busy and exhausted they are, and how  reading a book, taking a bath, and even going to the bathroom uninterrupted is an unheard of luxury.

But there's a rule.  When they're done garnering sympathy for their plight, they must, must end by telling us how rewarding it is.  How it is all worth it.  It is a trope so unrelentingly uttered that I sometimes suspect there are parenting police waiting in the wings with a gun pointed at the writer's head mouthing a command to include the hackneyed sentence.  Certainly there's a figurative enforcement brigade that will attack with a slew of angry comments to punish the rare failure.  Furthermore, when faced with the notion that some women don't want kids, these same women surge from all sides to tell us we're missing out on the best experience ever.

It isn't.  Not for everyone.  Not for all mothers. If women who chose to have kids can end up with regret, it stands to reason that it would not be a worthwhile experience for those of us who lack that drive to begin with.

Do you think we will ever get rid of the script?  Or will voices like Valenti's forever be drowned out by the cacophony of parents ending virtually every single article ever written on the hardship of parenting with a mandatory sunny outlook?

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1 comment:

CM said...

If you didn't have the mandatory "but it's so worth it" part at the end, nobody would be able to be honest about how hard it is.

Our kids exist. We brought them into the world. I can't imagine any decent parent telling their child, I wish you had never been born so I could get my life back. Or saying that publicly and non-anonymously, which is probably worse than saying it directly to your kid because they will find it one day and realize your relationship with them is based on a lie. It's completely different from saying you don't want kids in the first place.

Also, even if you regret becoming a parent, you probably want to care for your kids and don't want to risk having them taken away from you.

I get why childfree adults want to hear about others who became parents and regretted it, so you can say, See? It's demonstrably not for everybody. But I think encouraging people to openly express regret that their children were born is a losing battle, for good reason.