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So. When Are You Having a Baby? November 5, 2012

Posted by J. in Domesticity.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s the first question a newly married couple is asked, I think. Maybe even before “Where are you going on your honeymoon?” or “Who made this delicious cake?”

It also makes most brides a bit prickly. At least from what I’m told. We wanted a honeymoon baby. Or, at least I did. Hindsight being 20/20, I suspect Larry was going along with the plan, but if I’d pressed a bit harder, I wouldn’t be surprised if I could have got him to admit that he was nervous and unsure about becoming a father at that point. Particularly so soon after becoming a husband.

So when I was asked as a newlywed, “When are you having a baby?” it didn’t bother me. I wanted one, and now! But as the months dragged on with no baby in sight, and no clear reason as to why there was no baby in sight, the question started to make me prickly, too.

“I don’t know when we’re having a baby. We’re trying.”

And then a year and a miscarriage later, I was finally up the duff with Miss Mary Catherine and all was well. I had leveled up and reached the sanctified status of “Mother.” I went on and did it a couple more times for good measure–I’m mother three times over now.

The topic before me is to write about the deification of mothers and how those who remain childless are perceived in contrast. It’s hard for me to say, mostly because I went from unmarried and no one expecting me to have children, to married and trying, to married with children. I’ve never been in the position to be considered “childless.” I imagine you hear different things in a different way depending on your maternal status.

As a mother, I’ve never thought of myself as particularly deified. In fact, some days it seems very much like when you’re a mother, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. No matter what you do for your kids, or don’t do, you open yourself up for attack. In fact, of all the jobs I’ve had and in all the things I’ve done or currently do, my ability to parent my own children is the thing that garners the most attention, and draws the most criticism.

I wrote a piece about the Mommy Wars and how as soon as you drop a crotchfruit, you’re in the War. It’s mother against mother, parenting philosophy against parenting philosophy, and even if you want to stay neutral, you can’t. And it’s not just other mothers. No one knows more about raising your kids than someone without them.

But I’ve also written about how little I like being a parent. Maybe that’s part of why I don’t feel particularly deified, or at the very least, that I deserve deification. Between feeling criticized a lot of the time, knuckled under by the demands of being a parent, and generally coming up short every time I turn around, it’s hard for me to feel like anyone’s putting me on a pedestal for my maternal abilities.

From where I sit, waiting for the youngest to get off the bus and thus end the short amount of quiet, thinking time I get to myself these days, I look at childless people with great envy. I think that if you are childless because you realized that you don’t want kids, you should be put on a pedestal. For some reason, there’s this inherent belief that if you have reproductive organs, you have to use them. If you don’t squeeze out a human, there’s something wrong with you. If you can breed you should. You MUST. To me, I think knowing what you want–or even what you think you want–and acting accordingly is enough.

I image our perceptions are colored by which side of the motherhood fence we’re on, and how we feel about our decisions. I wonder if women who love being mothers feel more goddess-like than I do. I wonder if how childless women look at mothers depends a lot on how much of the decision to remain childless was actually up to them.

At the end of the day, I can’t really change how the world portrays me. Perception is a tricky thing, and all I can do most of the time is put my head down and just keep swimming.




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