over the last several years, i have become increasingly more aware of the social phenomenon known as the ‘mommy wars.’ after all, i am at that age now. you know, the age in which most of the couples around me are procreating. but truthfully, it’s hard for anyone at any age to miss this war. it rages on via every social media outlet. there are articles, books, and blogs about it. the arguments seem to go on and on…breastfeeding versus formula, working moms versus stay at home moms, sleep schedules, nutrition, vaccinations, etc. i believe this phenomenon to be disconcerting for many reasons, but being that i am a childless woman, it has never before applied to me. i keep my head down and my opinions to myself. recently, however, there are times in which i find myself thrust into these so-called mommy wars…without actually being a mommy.
while i have come to the realization that mothers have probably judged one another for centuries, it seems like a new thing to be judged for not being a mother. or maybe i just happen to notice it more now because, again, that age. *ahem* whatever the reason, i constantly feel the need to defend my lifestyle of childlessness. i keep thinking that the expectation society places on women will shift in a direction that no longer pressures us to choose between career and children, because i hope to have both someday. isn’t that the american dream? to have it all? however, society continues to send mixed messages to women. sometimes they are subliminal, but oftentimes, they are downright blatant. we have all been indoctrinated with the idea that women should be independent, yet selfless. tough, yet nurturing. powerful, yet tender. is your head spinning yet? mine is.
as i began to ponder the societal implications of mommy wars 2.0: moms vs non-moms, a few specific phrases came to mind and thus this list was born. (no pun intended. okay, you got me…it was intended. i love a good pun.) moving on. this is what made my
unofficial list of…
3 things NOT to say to a childless woman:
1) “you will never know/understand how much you can love someone until you have a child.”
ugh. where do i even start with this one? i do believe that the love you have for your child is a unique kind of love. i really do. but what this says to me is, “you are missing out” or “i know something you don’t know” or even worse, “unless you have a child you will go to your grave with a big empty hole in your heart.” okay, so that last one was a little dramatic, but i am trying to make a point here. i know about love now. i understand love now. the fact that i am childless does not mean that i am emotionally stunted.
i realize that parenthood sets people apart. it’s healthy and necessary to connect with those in the same stage of life, but sometimes it feels like moms have created an exclusive, members-only club that i have been deemed unworthy to join because i couldn’t possibly ‘understand.’ that’s not nice.
2) “when are you going to have a baby?”
now before you get to thinking that i’m just defensive, i honestly don’t mind discussing this with family or close friends. i prefer that it at least falls within the context of the conversation and i can volunteer the information. however, when put on the spot by someone i don’t know very well, it feels little intrusive. right? we are talking about my reproductive plans, after all. but being the polite southern gal that i am, i always answer kindly, though vaguely. but please know that the entire time, i am squirming in my skinny jeans because i fear your reaction. will you disapprove? will you think i am a horrible, selfish, loveless person? this seemingly meaningless question can sometimes make a childless woman feel like, “you are not enough” or “the life you currently have is not enough.” i have worked hard to create this life for myself. it is a privilege to love the life you live, and i do. i am proud of that. it is a strange emotion to be made to feel inadequate because of something i have yet to do, but probably will. rest assured, i am a fulfilled person right now. please continue to take an interest in me. i just might surprise you.
one final thought on this one…what if i was trying (which i’m not- you have realized this by now, but i have to say it anyway), but what if i wanted a baby and was having trouble conceiving? it would be deeply painful trying to find the words to answer this question every. single. time. so in order to avoid additional agony for those struggling with infertility, let’s not even ask the question in the first place.
3) “just don’t wait too long.”
generally the follow-up statement to question number two. are you suggesting that at any moment, my lady parts needed to bear a child are going to shrivel up and die? so cruel! this warning seeks to instill fear, and in my experience, fear-based decisions are rarely good decisions. i am doing the best that i can to keep this body of mine healthy in hopes that it is up to the task someday. we will see.
turns out, i also don’t believe in the concept of ‘waiting too long.’ it is never too late to do anything you want to do. and i’m not just quoting that from an inspirational pinterest board. i genuinely live that way. i am also well aware of the fact that i don’t have to actually birth a baby to have a baby. there is more than one way to create a family.
since i consider myself a feminist, this idea of warring women baffles me. i cannot wrap my mind around the idea of making each other feel so inadequate over choices that we have earned the right to make- regarding children or otherwise. no one is holding us back, gals. except for us. we are our own worst enemy. let’s stop worrying about whether or not we are enough, and just accept that we are. kids or no kids. career or no career. those things don’t define us, only we can do that.
i really fretted about whether or not to write on this subject, but i felt it was a conversation worth having. this also gives you so much ammunition to launch at me when i am a mom someday. you’re welcome. ;) in a few years i might feel differently, but for now, i plan to enjoy this special time in my life and do my best to be a d*mn good auntie. living in the present is a beautiful thing and my desire is to be at peace in this very moment, yet open to whatever the future may hold. in the meantime, i owe it to myself (and you) to be authentic, genuine and honestly searching.
to all my mom friends who are reading this: i want you to know that i admire you. i know what you do is hard. so hard. why do you think i haven’t done it yet? ha! but seriously, no matter what everyone decides to shout about in the next round of the mommy wars, i need you to know that i am on your side. yes, this non-mommy is on your side. i know that you are giving your child(ren) your very best. i’ve got your back. i hope you have mine too.
happiness is…calling a truce.