Motherhood, Privacy, Choice

30 07 2010

As I said in my last post, I have had a bit of radio silence and I do apologize for that!  The combination of a new job, some personal issues, and a few Sooper Sekrit projects have put me out of blogging commission, but only temporarily.  I’ll try to get back to a once-a-week or more schedule here, and I thank you all so much for your patience.

Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about children, about mothering, and about where those topics intersect with feminism.  I had some mixed reactions to the recent guest posts on Feministe that addressed the topic of young children in public spaces.  I, like a number of feminists, am happily child free.  I don’t hate children, in fact I have worked with children of different age groups in a few capacities, but I am child-free by choice.  I enjoy interacting with children, and I also like to have adult spaces where I do not have to interact with children.

I agreed with the poster on a number of points.  Children are human beings, and feminism does need to recognize the importance of mothers and girls in the movement (as well as fathers and boys).  I am a strong believer in the “flip side of choice,” aka the choice to have a child and the need for support of children.  I think the “it takes a village” concept is awesome, and I also believe that a form of “community parenting” can be a very good thing.

On the other hand, I don’t like it when I feel like someone is telling me that it is my responsibility to interact with and comfort an upset child in a public space.  I do think that if a child is crying and no one volunteers to comfort the child, it’s the mother’s job to take the child outside, calm him or her down, etc.  It’s also a mother’s (parent’s) job to teach children appropriate behavior in public.  Sure, it would be great if mothers could say “my child is well-behaved and thus should be able to enter all public spaces.”  I sympathize with the poster, who expresses concern about mothers being isolated or stigmatized.  But the fact is that unfortunately, most mothers do claim that their child won’t cry or scream in public, and usually somebody does (ruining it for the rest of them).  I can imagine how frustrating it is for parents of quiet children when someone brings in a noisy, disruptive child and the animosity gets focused on the parents of the quiet child instead.  But I don’t have a handy solution.

The fact is that society shouldn’t stigmatize mothers, nor should it stigmatize those of us who are child-free.  I am so tired of having the heterosexual relationship model foisted on me, so tired of having happy families and cute kids shoved in my face, so tired of medical professionals insisting that I will want a kid one day, so please take our fertility literature.  Just as I’m sure mothers like the poster on Feministe are tired of being ridiculed for their choices.  I hate to say it, but… can’t we all just get along?

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Blogging “Yes” Day 21: The Flip Side of Pro-Choice

25 04 2010

For day twenty-one of the Blogging “Yes” project, I read “When Pregnancy Is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Be Pregnant” by Tioloma Jayasinghe.  This essay was something of a revelation when I first read it, because like most (white, middle class) people I tended to have a knee-jerk reaction when I heard about “crack babies” and pregnant women drinking or doing drugs.  How dare the mother?  How sad for the child.  Jayasinghe does a good job of pointing out the problems with this reaction, which include ignorance of the roots of the problem in racism and poverty, studies that show hard drugs actually aren’t proven to harm babies, and the lack of available treatment options for mothers who do want help with a drug problem.  This is an issue that is in fact just as important to the pro-choice movement as the right to a legal and affordable abortion, but much less talked-about.

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