This post may offend some people. But what’s a writer’s purpose when they don’t move their readers in some way? Perhaps this post is too tit-for-tat, but whatevs. I need to get it off my chest.
Being 30, single and childless is not a sore point for me. My uterus doesn’t ache for children. I find babies cute, but I haven’t given much thought to having any of my own. I haven’t been in a proper relationship since 2005. I’d love to find love, to be held at night, and to have somebody to share everything with. But right now, it’s not happening. My situation is not a sore point until someone judges me for it.
There have been a lot of mummy-wars perpetuated by the media recently, Pitting mothers against each other before they’ve even been to ante-natal classes. Mothers judging other mothers about the way they raise their children. Too posh to push. Breast vs bottle. Public vs private. Stay at home vs working mum. Enough! Some actual mothers have written about the mummy-wars – read opinions from Megan and Annie. They write about the judgment of mothers in a better informed way than I could.
Years ago when I was getting bullied at work, a colleague who seemingly meant well told me that perhaps I had too little to think about, given that I didn’t have a mortgage, husband or children. Perhaps I had too little in my life, and I was overreacting to the bullying. Yep.
And another friend compares her busyness to mine, and always tells me “well at least you have freedom”. Parenting is a choice. And so is what I do in my life. I don’t complain.
Last night I got into a Facebook argument. I’m not proud of it – the internet is forever. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t stand up for myself. It started off with a discussion about disability benefits. I asked the original poster about work, and whether there is a reason they don’t work. I wrote about the success I’ve had with work, and that I do not get disability benefits. I stated that I was not being judgmental, and was curious and also encouraging her to give job-seeking a go. (As a way of background information, I learnt a lot about the international disability support schemes and job markets, and was reminded that not all types of ichthyosis are the same. I even wrote to the original poster with an apology and clarification that I was not being judgemental.)
Then there was a question from the original poster’s friend. “Do you have children Carly?”. She went there.
I replied: “I don’t have children. But I do work full time, freelance write, volunteer as a TV presenter, keep a successful blog, study for my masters and have ichthyosis”. I forgot to add that I live alone, 300 km away from family support.
And then the clanger reply: “Being a mother and a wife is a lot different to studying Carly, and you cannot compare your circumstances with anyone who isn’t in the same situation…”. Yep, They played the “you’re not a wife and mother card”. What?! And the final statement from them was “The point is, you have no idea what it’s like to be a mother and work, which I do”.
I replied, that these words were judgmental, that I put a lot into my life, and that I am fiercely proud of it. And stated “I really hate the whole ‘you haven’t experienced life until you’re a parent’ thing”.
While I understand everyone is different and has different capabilities, there was no need to make judgement on my life experience or understanding because I am not a wife or a mother. Not being a mother or a wife is more of a situation than a choice for me. Perhaps if circumstances were different, I would be one of both. But I am not. And that’s ok. Some women don’t want children. Others can’t have them. They are no less worthwhile or experienced.
No, I haven’t pushed a baby through my cervix. I haven’t breastfed. I haven’t even changed a nappy. I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother. But I’ve seen mothers – I know what they do. I see how hard it is. I know that being a mother is a very important job – shaping young impressionable minds and teaching them to be good people. My mother worked from when I was five years old, and my Dad has worked full time since I was around two. They raised me well. My friends and colleagues are beautiful mothers – loving and nurturing their children in ways I could only hope to do some day, should the chance arise.
And that question “Do you have children?”, with the added
assumption judgment that because there are no children, you couldn’t possibly know what it’s like… could be like a knife through a heart to some. The women who are trying for a baby, desperately wanting to be mothers, don’t need to hear that. I have friends who are or have been in that situation of struggling to conceive and it breaks my heart. The thought of them being devalued for being childless is also heartbreaking. I don’t even know if I can have children – I certainly have never tried to get pregnant on purpose, but if I ever find conception or pregnancy difficult, that’s not the sort of judgment I’d want to receive.
Being single and childless does not mean you are less compassionate. It does not mean you have less life experience, insight or wisdom. Just as being a parent doesn’t automatically make you all these things. I am not going to judge you for your choices, and you shouldn’t judge me for my situation.
Mummy-wars have got to stop. It is competitive, resentful and sad. Nobody wins.
I was joking on Twitter today with two lovely mothers. We were comparing who’s “worse off” and who has the most talented child. There were stories of laziness and early enrolments and organic food.They told me, jokingly, that perhaps I should be doing more – volunteer to give those mothers a rest. Ha! It was very funny. I ended the conversation with “My child is only an egg and can recite the complete works of Shakespeare and dance like Beyonce. Already. Ner.” And then after some playful one-upmanship from the girls, I said “Ummm my child is actually a Faberge egg”.