Happy Tuesday from the F-Wave!
This will be the first post in a weekly project here on the blog where each of the F-wavers will reflect on a topic, event, what-have-you of the editor’s choosing. This week, Mary selected the topic of Motherhood: how and in what ways it is involved in our lives and thoughts:
I haven’t thought of motherhood in my life as a potential-mother (creepy phrasing) but as the recipient of motherhood — as a daughter. My conception of motherhood (as well as family, home and love) is really fluid, not at all rigid. As much as my own mother smothered me with affection, my experience with motherhood was often influenced by other women in my life, random friends, older female co-workers or relatives. I often borrowed other people’s mothers and to an extent my relationship with my younger sister was that of a mother.
For a long time I was turned off to the idea of giving birth to children and to this day I’m pretty indifferent to the idea. But I do feel like I can still be, and have still been a mother and have experienced motherhood as a beautiful thing in my life. Though I am sure she would have preferred otherwise, being a mother to my sister has been so emotionally exhausting and rewarding I would not give it up for anything. I do not like the idea that giving birth to a baby biologically is the only conceivable way to legitimize ‘womanhood’, like some rite of passage. If I never give birth to children in this world, I know that I am capable of and have experienced motherhood in so many other relationships— I believe in a progressive definition of Motherhood!
Motherhood is an interesting topic to tackle for our first roundtable. The first thing that needs to be pointed out is way too obvious: having a womb does not automatically equal a desire for babies Babies BABIES!!! I’ve been told by many since I was a young girl, whether babysitting my siblings, cousins or friends of the family, that I would be a great mother. And I will be someday. I love children and I hope to share them with someone special to me (Kind, strong, progressive mini-revolutionaries, yep). But I know that many women feel differently, and I respect and accept their choice.
At the conference, one of the speakers went into pretty specific detail with an analogy of the birth of her daughter and the crowning of the women’s movement. My reaction to this was mixed. There was the ‘Ew, really?’ factor from one still uninitiated into all the gore/beauty of motherhood. There was the ‘Yes, definitely!’ from the part that identifies strongly with my organic, ‘women’s wisdom’, feminine side. And there was the ‘But what about the others?’ from the voice of balance that reminds me of everyone who does not share my experience.
The Mother/Daughter dynamic is an important connection between women, but it is not the only type of connection, and nor is it fair to focus exclusively on one that not all can share. What about non-hetero families who have trouble adopting, what about women who are struggling with infertility, what about women who have no interest in children or babies at all, what about trans-women, what about women who choose to abort? What about anyone who has not yet or may never experience birth?
I think the beauty of being a woman is that we bring such a variety of experience to the table. It’s comparable to the six friends and I who met at the conference and started this blog: we were very different people, from many different backgrounds, with ideas, interests and values that were unique to us, shared by some or shared by all. The point wasn’t to find a universal experience that we all could relate to, it was to come together regardless and relate to each other on an individual level. The women’s movement doesn’t need a universal driving factor, it just needs to build a community that encourages relations among its members.
However, I will also say that in response to the part of me that said ‘ew’, we need to have more open dialogue between older and younger generations of women. Screw taboos, let’s talk about sex, birth and motherhood. Tell us about the joyful moments, tell us about bliss. Tell us about the troubles, trials and tribulations. Don’t sugar coat it, we’re strong. Let us hear your stories.
The other way in which I’ve been thinking about motherhood is also tangentially related to abortion, in that one of the things you encounter a lot when working for pro-choice causes is this dedication to pregnancy and carrying the baby to term on the pro-life side. Beyond the fact that it’s evident these people don’t give a shit about babies once they’re actually born, I also find it appalling in the culture at large just how ridiculously awful the experience of giving birth in America can be. I think that sometimes when you’re thinking of giving birth as one of several choices, it seems like it’s the easiest one, that if you want to have a child and choose to do so, well, piece of cake! Not so much. The kind of crap that hospitals practice, from forced C-sections to giving women drugs they don’t want to nixing home births and not allowing the woman to have whomever she wants in the delivery room, is sickening. I think that the feminist movement is starting to, and should continue to, really focus on all sides of the “choice” issue. All women who become pregnant should have a choice between a safe, legal, and affordable abortion and a birth that allows the woman the maximum number of options for her own health and well-being as well as the baby’s.
For years I counted myself among the childless-by-choice ranks. Granted, I was in college and motherhood wasn’t exactly a relevant issue at that time in my life, but I could simply never picture myself with a family. Girlfriends would coo over babies and wistfully talk about the desire to be pregnant, and I stood outside of their reverie, separated by a wall of apathy. Truth be told, children annoyed me. Screaming toddlers in line at target, drooling, sticky babies, obnoxious eight year-olds. The idea of relinquishing my life in order to create and serve this other person who would drain everything from me . . . clearly, this was not something I romanticized.
I do think that this kind of parental love can be found without experiencing pregnancy or birth. And perhaps that is the true common denominator here. When I first read Judith’s thoughts on the issue, I was truly thrown, because I had never really considered young women who face the barrier of infertility. But when I think about wanting to be a mother, it is about wanting that bond, that complete intoxication with and protection of another human being. And while I do want the experience of pregnancy and birth (a nd believe you me, I’ll be a home-birthing-midwive-tub-using hippy), it isn’t truly necessary to achieve that kind of bond. Yes, there is always adoption in the common sense, but there is also the adoption that happens when an older person attaches to a younger person. In this way, motherhood and parenthood are universally available, regardless of gender, sexuality, or fertility.
Oh, motherhood. I come from a big family (9 kids!) and I know I want a pretty big family (3-5 kids, probably). When I think about what motherhood means to me as a feminist, I get kind of selfish. My issues are going to totally be around working children with a career.
I love working hard and challenging my brain. Though I’m still in university, I’ve got my career choices narrowed down to law, consulting, or research. Following any of these paths makes me feel like I need to get settled and establish a name for myself in my profession before taking time off for maternity leave. Like research? You can’t just take 6 months off of your research! I’ve been going to some job fairs recently, and one question I like to ask is about maternity leave. Then paternity leave. I think the number of males that take paternity leave is a good benchmark for the way that a company treats parents.
I’m only 22, but I’m nervous of running out of time to start having kids, and not being able to find the time once all other systems are go. When I think about it too much, I start freaking out about even finding the person that I would like to parent with, and then I want to punch myself. But that’s legit how I’m feeling.
I’ve never really thought about what my birth choices will be like, but I’d like to recommend you read this post from dooce. I’ve read it dozens of times, and it always makes me tear up. I recognize that not all women can or will or want to give birth, but there is something about this post that really puts a lot of woman-power in my heart.