SARcasm











{November 2, 2012}   “Mommy Wars” and Beyond – or “Pro Choice” Means More than You think it Does

OK – so really, people judging each other’s parenting choices is probably a pastime older than the hills; from whether or not to have children, to how many, to how to raise them, to how to prevent having them, to how to go about having them if things don’t just happen ‘naturally’, to whether we should prevent having them … there are plenty of opinions to go around and always have been. Perhaps the advent of internet 2.0 – social media, blogging, etc. – has just made it more prevalent, quicker to be put out there in the world, harder to erase, and  all the more mean-spirited and less open to compromise and actual debate due to the anonymity of the internet and the braveness … brazenness … that provides. But in the meantime, the debates over whether to parent or not as more and more people make the choice not to, the arguments over access to contraception and abortion, and the ridiculously judgemental “Mommy Wars” that the potentially useful but often nasty “Mommy Blogging” culture has led to, is by no means healthy for anyone. And while these might at first blush seem like disparate issues, really at the end of the day they come down to the same core; an attack on women on the one hand, and/or women being too busy attacking one another to recognize the realities of the world around them, and the fact that honestly we have more common ground than not.

First of all, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. I find it telling that almost the entire focus of any of the above debates – from contraception/abortion to whether or not it is selfish/selfless to have children or not have children to how to raise them if and when you do, focus on women as opposed to, you know, that other parent in the room, which one is he? Right – “Daddy”. In an age where dads are getting more and more involved in parenting decisions, or should be, where women are more and more accountable for the ‘working outside the home’ issue, where the domestic and public spheres are blending more and more, neither parent should be solely accountable, or not accountable whatsoever, for these decisions. And this isn’t to disparage single moms or dads out there – where you ARE solely responsible for all that heavy lifting though, perhaps that’s more deserving of empathy than judgement, and a recognition that the fact that the balls you are keeping in the air make up an amazing feat, rather than the ones that get dropped being recognized as a glaring failure. But when talking about two-parent homes, be they homosexual or heterosexual in composition, let’s remember that both partners are co-parents, co-bread earners, etc. at this point. If they CHOOSE to divide those duties traditionally, or reverse traditional roles, then that’s OK, of course, but it’s a choice, and not to be judged any more than splitting both ‘types’ of work is. If we are going to judge and rate women as moms, if it is going to interfere with their careers and become perceived as their primary role, men, where involved and able, should be involved in some of those sacrifices and help lift that burden as well.

I experienced this disparity in perception first hand, by the way; with our first, I stayed home on parental leave while Ari went to work, and this was simply ‘the way things were’. When our second came along, we decided, as Ari worked for the government and would be topped up  pay-wise for leave while I worked on call and was only paid if I worked, would continue working. This choice, when it was made for me to stay home, was simply the natural order of things; when Ari decided to stay home, I got to hear what an AMAZING partner I had and a whole lot of dumbfounded, dare I say somewhat judgemental ‘Oh? Really?’s. Now – for the record – yes. I have a phenomenal parenting partner. I don’t want this to seem like complaining about the role he plays in our kids’ lives because he is fantastic. But he’s fantastic as all fantastic parents, Mom or Dads, should be.

Now, having said all that, given that the world seems to focus its attention on women in these issues, while I clearly disagree with that. I will do the same. And I want to point out and share, that “Pro Choice” doesn’t just mean being in favour of legal abortions – it means allowing people to make the best choices for them, trusting them to make the right one, and maybe supporting instead of judging and fighting with each other. If we as women learn to accept and understand each other’s choices, even when they differ from one another, we would be better equipped to deal with, for example, grey-haired male lawmakers telling us how to do things because we’re too busy pointing fingers at each other. This ca be demonstrated along almost any decision relating to parenting … or not.

Whether or not to have kids I have seen childless women and couples judge people for having kids, for letting them run wild, for having the nerve to be parents to imperfect little people. I have seen parents judge and condescend to non-parents that ‘they’ll change their mind’, they ‘don’t know what they’re missing’ … and to a certain extent all of the above can be fair, in individual cases. But not all parents are ‘smug marrieds’ who aren’t aware of their kids and their shortcomings, with a nose up at anyone with a different concept of familial bliss than theirs; and not all childless people are simply selfish hedonists who simply haven’t met the right person, or grown up yet. In fact – if you don’t want children, ‘selfish’ is having one simply to avoid arguments, judgements, etc. IF you do want children, ‘selfish’ is not having them when they could be raised by loving parents to be a positive force in the world. BETTER OPERATING ASSUMPTION: People should be able to choose whether or not to have children based on what’s right for them; they should not be guilted into one decision or another due to societal expectatins or pressured or any of that. And yes – this includes people getting off the backs of women who don’t have children, and it includes making it easier for women who do have children to do so without taking such big setbacks in their career. Men can have it all – a good career and a perception as a good dad. They can also choose to not have children without being seen as some kind of failure or somehow missing out. Why can’t we?

Whether to use contraception or abort when an unwanted pregnancy occurs No brainer. Some parents who didn’t expect to become pregnant can ‘come around’, pull it together, and become really amazing parents. I’ve seen this. But for those who can’t, or those who don’t think they can, or those who just think they would do really a much better job with a few years and maybe an education behind them, or with a partner, or really, no thanks I don’t want to do this at all … If you can’t empathize with the woman (who of course, if she ends up in this position, must have made a slew of horrible choices and must therefore be condemned to a life of unwanted, ill-timed parenthood), please do any potential babies  in this siuation a favour and allow them to not be born into a potentially horrible start to life. Contraception and abortions should be accessible, for everyone’s sake.

If you want kids, but can’t have them naturally, you had better … adopt/visit a fertility specialist …Our babies are adopted. I couldn’t love them more if I’d gestate them for nine months. I am a huge adoption advocate who really hopes the myths about it (that it MUST take a long time, MUST be expensive) be dispensed with (we took one year, without spending a dollar outside of what raising kids costs). I don’t personally understand the importance of genetics in loving someone more or less. HOWEVER – I DO grieve a bit over having never gotten pregnant and, unless I lose a fair bit of weight, probably being unable to do so responsibly even through fertility treatments. I understand people build families that work for them. And just because a biological connection isn’t important to me, it IS important to enough people I don’t think it’s strange or unusual that it is. That’s the thing – I don’t need to ‘get it’ to support your right to it as a choice. If genetics IS important to you – by all means do yourself and your future children a favour, tune out the “Why don’t you just adopt” rhetoric and check into a fertility clinic because you will be a happier and more comfortable parent in the long run. IF you could see adoption working but are concerned about money/time/open-ness … it might be worth taking the time to speak to your local social service agency, and don’t let anyone make you feel like less of a parent for the lack of a genetic connection to your children, or because you can’t breast feed them, or whatever. You’re Mommy and Daddy at the end of the day. Period.

Choices we make on how to raise kids attachment parenting, helicopter parenting, breeding more independence, letting kids make their own choices, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, one parent staying home vs. both parents working, daycare choices … God we moms can be a catty lot to each other (ignoring, again, of course that our partners, where applicable, often get out of this debate with minimal judgement). How about whether or not we need to work, whether we give our kids more or less supervision vs. independence, or any of those things, be left to us to choose? You don’t know my kids and what works in our home, anymore than we know you, yours and what works for you. Honestly, if kids aren’t being frozen to death, starved or beaten black and blue (or really put in indisputable danger, like throwing a non-swimmer into a deep pool, to yes, admittedly exaggerate wildly to prove a point) I’m going to tend to assume you’re making the best choices you can in your situation, and would appreciate the same credit.

BOTTOM LINE: Women, moms and non-moms alike, there is enough out there in the world, even today, to beat us down, stand in our way, and there are more than a few people (men, and other women) who are more than happy to step in and make our decisions for us. Why don’t we at the very least stop doing it to each other? Why don’t we at the very least say, hey – just as we mock the other side of the abortion debate for being ‘pro-life’ until birth, when we want to deny food stamps, education etc. and send them off to war at 18, let’s not stop being pro-choice simply over the abortion issue. As human beings, we are all (or OK, mostly) capable of making good decisions, and they aren’t necessarily the same for all of us. Until there is evidence to the contrary, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt, huh? Because as human beings, much less women, there’s a whole world out there more than willing not to.

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