A voice of the child free family

Yesterday I talked in quite some depth about our goal to become parents and how we are struggling with infertility with someone who lives child free by choice.  He is a very direct and to the point person (He is German after all and told me that there is no word in German for ‘Polite’ – he’s a funny guy). So, I tried not to be offended by his probing about why we want children.  He wasn’t trying to convince me that we shouldn’t have children like him and his wife, but he was pointing everything out about the benefits of being child free.

And now as I write this, although he was probing, blunt and direct about his thoughts and questions, I wonder if actually he was ultimately being kind and thoughtful to me.  He was trying to tell me why being child free is a good thing, he was telling me it’s OK if we don’t succeed at this.  Life without a son or daughter of our own is not going to be the end of the world.  He explained to me how their decisions have ebbed and flowed over time.  Although at first I was pretty uncomfortable talking about why Chris and I are ‘chasing’ fertility treatment, it was refreshing to listen to a different point of view.

He hasn’t changed my mind, but I thought it came at an interesting time, particularly after some of my recent blog posts have mentioned living child free (The childless analyst, The Uncertain Future of the World, Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world).

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Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world….

Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world….

Ha!  Got you thinking there with that provocative statement….well it certainly got me thinking when I read this opinion article from the Guardian.  Catherine Deveny tells us that we should drop the slogan “Being a mother is the toughest job on the earth”.

Well Catherine, apparently you would be going against the opinion of 92% of mothers.  According to a survey by ‘Parents Magazine’, 92% of mothers agree that being a mother is the toughest job on earth.  The other 8% must be rocket scientists and coalminers (well at least according to @JillFilipovic.) And don’t forget the journalists at The Guardian.

Why does Catherine tell us we should quit the slogan?  Because she believes it encourages mothers to stay socially and financially hobbled, it alienates fathers and discourages other significant relationships between children and adults.  Hmmmm, I’d never thought of it like that before.

When you really think about it, she is right.  In her article she explores what a mother actually is in this context, and argues that the slogan delegitimises the relationship fathers, friends, grandparents, and carers have with children.  And what about those single dads out there?

“If being a mother were a job there’d be a selection process, pay, holidays, a superior to report to, performance assessments, Friday drinks, and you could resign from your job and get another one because you didn’t like the people you were working with.  It’s not a vocation either – being a mother is a relationship.”

(That’s my favourite part of the argument!)

But is she getting a bit het up about it all?  It’s just a saying, a phrase.  Surely it doesn’t cause any harm?  Who actually cares?

Well, when you evaluate it at deeper level it contributes to building up the idea that nothing a woman can achieve in life matters more than having babies.

My dear Friends, I am not saying that being a mother (in whatever guise) or even going through motherhood, isn’t tough, it is.  I have seen it and it isn’t pretty.  I’m looking forward to the challenge AND reward of being a mother someday.  But I’m not going to kill myself over this infertility, I’m not going to dig myself into a hole of physical pain and emotional suffering. At some point in the future we may have to make a choice of being childless and I don’t want to feel like I have failed.  Chris said this to me in the car yesterday after my HSG test.  “It’s not giving up, it’s not failure – it’s a decision”.  This slogan “Being a mother is the most important job in the world” will make me feel like I failed and will perpetuate a hole of sadness and depression in me, and I don’t want that.  And I also don’t want that for anyone of my friends and family, child-free, now and in the future (or anyone else in the world for a matter of fact).  My feelings are pretty much in alignment with Catherine…

“If you are using motherhood to assert that you care more about humanity than the next person, if you’re using it as a shorthand to imply that you are a more compassionate and hard-working person than the women and men standing around you, then feel free to get over yourself.”

NaBloPoMo November 2015