Friday, January 12, 2007

Cult of Baby

After reading this article in Glamour recently, I started thinking a lot about the "shoulds" in our lives--what we SHOULD want, what we are SUPPOSED to want.

I was having a discussion with a friend last night about the perception the world has of single women or women who are childless by choice. I had not spent a lot of time thinking about it in the past, maybe because I am someone for whom having children was never a question. I have always known I wanted to be a mother, not because I "should" but genuinely because I want to have a family, I want to take care of another human being and I want all the challenges and rewards that come with that.

I made the decision to have a child the way most women I know did, consciously with my eyes open, weighing out the good and the bad (to the best of my ability). And it still made perfect sense to have a baby. I want to be a mother. But do we really want women who are not up for the challenge or who are ambivalent about parenthood having babies? It seems odd to me that having a baby is now seen as a grand achievement in life, like winning a pulitzer or publishing a novel. Being a good mother is an amazing thing to be, but that is the accomplishment. The getting knocked up part? Not quite so much.

A main focus of the Glamour article is the way the "bump watches" and high end baby gear and stores focused on motherhood and babies do a disservice to people struggling with infertility. There is no doubt that is true. But it also touches upon the way it does a disservice to all women, those who stuggle and those who do not. If some young woman gets pregnant before she has the opportunity to consider what else she might like to do with her life, is that really an accomplishment? Is she really a hero for our times because her ovaries work?

It is a dangerous precedent for women that seems to have been set in motion by the trend of women in cities having children older. These women have had careers and jet set lives before they make the choice to become parents. Maybe parenthood was something they always wanted but put on the back burner. When it finally happens for them, they have the means to spend a lot of money and the desire and excitement that has been building up for years. This trend has turned baby making into the wedding industry. Everyday I am bombarded with emails and junk mail about what I NEED for my baby, subtly implying that I am a bad mother if my baby does not have a soft surface to sleep on in every room in our house (which she does thanks to our bassinett, pack and play, moses basket and crib).

Becoming a parent has become a status symbol, hard to believe when one is covered in spit up and there is pea soup in their hair. Nonetheless, it has. I want the range rover, the latte and the baby in her bugaboo, stat. That is what all the magazines tell us we should want, as though we are half women if we choose careers or long term companionship over babies and marriage. But as I enter into this extremely complicated and chaotic world called motherhood, I salute the women who have decided it is not for them and I hope that my own accomplishments will be more about the way I mothered my child and not the jeans she wore or the carriage she rode in. I certainly do not feel like I have really accomplished anything yet. That was biology. The rest is the real test.


Kristi said...

Awesome post. I so agree. I think it's completely laudable for women to choose not to have children (and then take the necessary precautions to prevent it from happening), because they've recognized that motherhood isn't for them. Think about how many children there are out there who are born to mothers who never wanted them in the first place.

And you're so right: getting pregnant is no grand achievement. Whoo-hoo, your "ovaries work," (as you put it). Big deal. The true accomplishment comes in how you raise your child.

Michelle said...

Great post. I agree with you. ALMOST anyone can get pregnant (some of us not so easily)-- heck look at Brittney Spears. But, she lacks some serious judgement when it comes to her kids...and her choice of mate.

I have to admit though I have got caught up in all the baby gear, and nice things. My attitude was that I tried so long and hard for this, that I should at least celebrate it with some nice stuff. And, that I did. I don't think I went too overboard though.