Just because I love my mother doesn’t mean I have to become one myself

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/11/mother-childfree-happy

My choice to be child-free doesn’t threaten my own mother, so I don’t understand why some people insult her to explain me

theguardian.com, Sunday 11 May 2014

There are a lot of assumptions that people make about child-free women, and, as someone who’s been outspoken about my choices, I’ve heard all of them: we’re selfish, we’re lazy, we’re failing our fundamental role in life. But the one that stings the most – and makes me the angriest – is that we must have had terrible mothers, because nothing could be further from the truth.

Every step of my mostly idyllic childhood, my mom was around. A stay-at-home mother of two, she picked me up from school, took care of me when I was sick, made me eat a healthy breakfast, took me to the DMV for my first driver’s test, comforted me when I failed, and then took me back a week later for my second one (when I passed). She taught me.

My mother and my father also made sure that I saw the world and learned how many different kinds of people existed in it. Whether it was a tour of the Scottish countryside or just a weekend trip to the beach, my mom and my dad always instilled a lifelong love of travel and of learning about the experiences of others. It’s the greatest gift I have ever been given, and I cherish them both every day for it.

My mom always told me that when I grew up I could be anything that I wanted. And, to my own surprise, I did. I know that I owe a lot of it to the kind of parent she was, the kind of female role model she was (and is). My mom recognized my feminist tendencies from an early age and always made a point of mentioning successful women or noting a female role model she thought I could learn from. She never censored my reading material and always encouraged my writing ambitions. When my first book was published in 2010, she was the first person in line to buy copies.

After being raised by a devoted stay-at-home mother and seeing how much love and commitment my mother was capable of, I knew that I just didn’t have the same capacity myself – and that every child in the world deserves the amount of love I got growing up. There’s only one of my mom, and I’m not her.

It’s hard not to notice that people in the position opposite to me – those who had difficult childhoods but choose to be parents – are celebrated for their desire to have and raise children. It’s impossible to escape narratives of parents and would-be parents who want to give children what they never had, to correct the mistakes of their own youth, or to simply raise their kids better than they were raised. Nobody attributes any pathology to their choices, or assumes their parents were “bad” or “abusive”, or suggests that they need to get therapy to examine their real motivations.

I don’t know if the happy childhood I had is something I could replicate in this day and age. We’re a country that festishizes motherhood, but we’re not a country that wants to provide federally-mandated parental leave – let alone encourage men to take it. We’re a country that will spend billions of dollars on cards, flowers and brunches to celebrate our mothers one day a year, but will do nothing to help them pay for childcare in order to work or fulfill their own dreams for the other 364 days. We are a culture that shames women who get pregnant in any less-than-ideal circumstance, and one that often limits access to the education and contraception that would allow women to choose the right time and place for them. We shame mothers for breastfeeding and for not breastfeeding, for spanking and not spanking, for giving birth at home and for giving birth in a hospital. We tell women that choosing to have a child is the right choice, but it’ll be the last right choice that she’ll ever make.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/11/mother-childfree-happy

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