I've been irritable and emotional all week. Guess this explains it. :p
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I am way, way behind on my blog reading & commenting (again... :p) but I couldn't resist sharing this post that I just read today, from the ever-hilarious Julie at A Little Pregnant, about the infamous iPhone mom.
I will admit, I've been that judgmental observer. People and their love affair with their cellphones bug me in general :p and as someone who, at one time, would have cheerfully chopped off her left arm in exchange for a baby, it bothers me when I see parents ignoring or neglecting their kids.
But -- Julie has a good point. A couple of them, actually. "I reject the notion that I should always be available as an audience, that my kids should be entitled to endless applause, and that they should get positive reinforcement for expecting it," she says.
...during interludes of benign neglect we're simultaneously teaching our children something valuable: that other people's desires are important, too; that you're not always the focus of every eye, and you mustn't expect to be; that when you need us we'll be present, but not every second you merely want; that if Momma — shudder — looks away for a minute, you'll still be fine. You'll thrive.
As many of the commenters pointed out, our own mothers generally did not spend a lot of time "playing" with us. They shooed us into the backyard (or even -- gasp! -- out into the street and into the neighbourhood), away from the television set, and reminded us to be home in time for supper. (Even as a pre-schooler -- albeit in a very small town in the early 1960s -- I was roaming around the neighbourhood with my buddies. My boyfriend Brucie M. & I even attempted to ride our tricycles downtown once before someone noticed we weren't in the general vicinity. Once.) We learned to entertain ourselves and get along with each other without an adult constantly hovering over us. And despite perhaps a few bruises and bumps, most of us survived and turned out just fine.
What I really loved, though, when I started thinking about it, was when she continued:
The responses that disappointed me all boiled down to this premise: What if the trope on the bench with the phone were doing something important? She could be answering e-mail from work, so as to keep the job that puts food on the table. She could be scheduling therapy appointments for her child, who has, I don't remember, scrimshaw or something. She could be organizing a fundraiser to benefit cancer research. She could be reaching out for emotional support from her 60,000 Twitter followers. Don't judge her: she's righteously busy...As I mentioned in my comment, I can relate to this too. I've written about this before here, and I will say it again: why is it that the only way it is (kindasorta) OK with other people that I don't have kids -- is if I am doing something noble like working in the slums with Mother Teresa... or exciting like jetting off to Paris for the weekend (because I can!! -- no babysitters involved...)... or awesome like climbing the corporate ladder and sitting alongside Sheryl Sandberg in the boardroom.
The thing is, I'm usually not busy with something important when I'm ignoring my kids. I'm generally dicking around, and why is that not okay? Why do I need to justify doing something just because it's fun with phrases like "self-care" and "recharging my batteries"? Oh, wait. Huh: I don't! It is okay to just screw around, to put my own desires in front of my kids' now and again, and I wish more people would thrust a fist into the air and declare it. I'm fucking off and I don't care.
Why can't I just be an ordinary middle aged woman who goes to work every day at a normal job, bickers with her husband over folding socks, and spends too much time on the computer -- who also just doesn't happen to have kids? What is so wrong, or bad, about that?
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Jodi Day of the wonderful site Gateway Women recently gave a brief talk at a women's event on creating a meaningful and fulfilling life without children (in which she touches on the Mother Teresa thing I mentioned above). Watch the video here.
There was also a podcast of a panel discussion at the same event on the topic of "So You Don't Have Kids --Now What??" including Jodi among the panellists. I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but if you're interested, here's the link.
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I saw several articles in the past week about actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who came "out of the closet," so to speak, about the miscarriage of her third child (it's not clear exactly when it happened), including the fact that she nearly died (I assume perhaps she was hemorrhaging?), and is uncertain about trying to have another baby.
Most of the stories were a straight reporting job. However, Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon wrote an extremely thoughtful opinion piece on the subject that, I thought, put Paltrow's loss in context.
Sample (edited) passage:
Celebrity culture is obsessed with motherhood and babies. Every supermarket tabloid, every entertainment show, devotes lavish attention to any female between the age of 16 and 50 who might be “Finally!” knocked up, who’s showing off her baby bump, who’s rocking a post-baby hot bod, and of course, what an amaaaaaazing and fulfiiiiiilllling and perrrrrrfect experience motherhood is. The harder, darker aspects of bringing people into the world are kept quieter...
It’s not always easy to acknowledge miscarriage, and the complex feelings it stirs up. The world is too full of well-meaning friends who shrug that you should just try again, as well as callous individuals like the Daily Mail commenters who noted, “You are NOT a special martyr for having had a miscarriage” and “It happens to hundreds of thousands of women every day.” It’s true that it does. Up to a quarter of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage – and the figure is even higher for very early pregnancies.Read more here.
But just because you’ve got a lot of company doesn’t automatically negate the loss of one unique pregnancy, one hoped-for child...
It’s a leap of faith to decide to have a child, and it’s one that’s inevitably influenced by past experience. So if the 40-year-old Paltrow, who has everything else in life – including an Oscar and a 33-room home in London — isn’t jumping on the whole women’s magazine script of “40, Fabulous, and Pregnant!” who can blame her? In that regard, she doesn’t fit neatly into the smiling, sunny image we have of what motherhood – especially celebrity motherhood – is supposed to be. Instead she acknowledges the truth — that sometimes experience is punctuated with grief and disappointment, and ultimately, a whole lot of ambivalence about whether it’s worth the risk.