Monday, October 24, 2011

Stop pitting women with children against those without

A few years ago when I was a novice blogger, I was given a link to a parent blogging site. I'm not a parent, nor do I plan on becoming one in the near future, but at the time, the only blogs I knew that were penned by women my age were "mommyblogs." Mine didn't exactly fit the template, obviously, but I was happy to find a gang of progressive-minded women who could write, and some of them even got paid. I wedged myself into their community.

The turning point came during one epic discussion about childless -- or childfree -- women. Being a childfree women in her thirties means usually fielding questions from society at large, but in my small blogging community, I never felt judged for it. So you can image my dismay when one blogger whom I respected declared that "you're not a real woman until you become a mother." Even if you ignore the apparent heterosexism and transphobia in those words, it's still a pretty shitty thing to say. Um, hi, I'm very real.

(Also it should be noted that the panel -- a panel on childfree women -- didn't actually have one childfree woman on it.)

A few years later, on another, even more progressive, site with a cabal of childfree women, the same kind of discussion swelled: this time the commentariat was more evenly split, but the results were unsurprisingly familiar. The mothers were bad feminists who insisted their children be present anywhere and everywhere adults are, and be universally loved for it;  and the women without children were selfish, immature twits who must have had terrible relationships with their own mothers, hence their decision not to reproduce.

Can we stop this?

Fellow childfree women: children are people, not just annoying appendages. You don't have a right to childfree spaces; motherhood is a feminist issue, lest you forget. Mothers: I realize I'm not one of you and have no business criticizing how you raise your children, but not all childfree women live lives of leisure untethered to adult responsibilities. Reasons for not having children differ from woman to woman, and shouldn't be dissected. If not having children is "selfish" in the most literal, non-judgmental sense of the word, so what? Having children simply because you want to have children is also a selfish act.


  1. I came to the realisation the other day that it's actually really, really brave, given the societal pressures women of a certain age are faced with, to be able to stand up and say:

    You know what? I'm not emotionally capable of having a child. I have a mental illness, and I will not make a good mother.

    My decision to remain childless is as valid as another's decision to have two.

  2. Exactly. No one's reason for not having children should be up for debate, but I think you have to be careful not to vilify women with mental illness who have children.

  3. Oh god, that wasn't my intention at all!

  4. I know. I meant you in the general sort of way. Badly phrased on my part.

  5. I wish everyone would just drop the jabs at every one who made a different choice. Those who do so must not like their OWN choices to have to put others down for making a different choice. A life spent in measuring one's happiness against what others have/have done is not much of a life.

  6. As someone who kind of stumbled into motherhood, I can totally respect someone's decision NOT to go that route. I wouldn't give my kids up now, but if it had been entirely up to me to 'plan' having kids, I don't know that it would have been my first choice.