Wow. This site is truly scary. Scary Mommy gets a TON of traffic and the posts and complaints alone could be used to dramatically increase the frequency of vasectomies. There may not be a need for WNK or preach to the choir childfree sites after all. Maybe we should just provide a single link to these angry moms and let them take the heat? The cards are possibly the least depressing and most amusing part of the otherwise scary….
Moms don’t sleep, and on top of that they worry about not sleeping. Disturbed from restful nights by crying babes, and stressed by busy days they are turning to prescription meds to fight anxiety and insomnia.
“A 2007 study by the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly three in 10 U.S. women said they used a sleep aid a few nights a week. Experts said that stress and anxiety had made mothers dependent on sleep aids like Lunesta, melatonin, Ambien and even Xanax.” (ABC News)
No word on a study about dads. Maybe they slept through it.
“One of the cruel jokes of motherhood is that the sleeplessness of pregnancy, followed by the sleeplessness generated by an infant (a period in which a staggering — truly — 84 percent of women experience insomnia), is not followed by a makeup period of rest. It is merely the setup for what can become a permanent modus operandi.”
Is it another reason to not have kids? Or just part of the busy world we live in where we are over-scheduled, stressed out, and plugged in?
Hey WNKers do you have trouble sleeping? Do you reach for a “mother’s little helper” to get to sleep?
- Sleep Medication: Mother’s New Little Helper (nytimes.com)
- Modern mother’s new little helper: Sleep medication (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
In the spring of 2008, I sat down late one night to write the first installment for a newspaper column I called Planet Mom. While my youngest son slept on the couch next to me, I stared out at the night sky and tried to conjure my muse. By midnight, I had it–a relatively clear, concise, and honest introduction to the life I live as a mother to four. (Full installment is here.) In it, I wrote the following:
“This act of mothering is life in the raw. There are moments that threaten to unhinge me, followed closely by those that offer a glimpse of enlightenment.”
Nearly 3 years later, the truth in this statement still holds. Being a mother, especially to a brood the size of mine, is absolutely dichotomous. It’s unhinging and enlightening, sometimes all at once!
Choosing to become a mother was, for me, a no-brainer. I always knew I would have children…. Furthermore, I always knew I wanted to have children. This desire must have been hardwired or something–I can’t explain it much better than that. Having children gave me so very much–the opportunity to lose myself and find myself… the thrill of finding and dancing on the very edge of my every possibility. Being a mother has made me more human, more frazzled, more fully alive, more tired, more fully in love, and more humble than anything else I have ever done.
That said, motherhood doesn’t define me entirely, and it shouldn’t. I am also a photographer, a writer, a graphic designer, and a jeweler, though not necessarily in that order at any given time. I own my own business, set my own hours, and have been turning a profit for several years now. Today, Wednesday, I am a writer and a jewelry maker. I am both writing this and babysitting my jewelry kiln as it sinters tin and copper into bronze (making two sets of custom wine charms!). Next to me, dull gray pendants that will soon metamorphose into fine silver await their turn in the fire. I am an alchemist.
I am also a traveler. I returned from a whirlwind trip to New York several days ago, where I was photographing a friend’s wedding. I was blissfully childfree for this journey, and it was awesome. It was awesome as well to come home and see my family again. A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with my husband, kidfree, to Baja to shoot the Baja 1000 with and for a group of firefighters who ride for The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (the prelude to that story is here. I apparently never posted the actual story). In a nutshell, that adventure was awe-inspiring, remarkable, incredible…. fill in the blanks. But again, it was also awesome to come home and see my family again.
Family is the absolute ultimate for me, and of course that is defined in large part by my children. Because of this, I simply don’t see parenting as duty-driven more than I see it as motivated by a deep and abiding love. It is not a job, it is my heart.
I can’t and won’t sell it to anyone, however. It is not something to do unless you feel that undeniable drive within you to create a child. It is never something to take lightly. It should never be a should. It was absolutely never a should in my own life–in fact, quite the opposite, since I was very young when I got pregnant with my son. I chose to have my children when I did–Soren, who is now 17, was born three weeks after I turned 22. I birthed him at home, with a midwife, and when I looked into his little face for the very first time I saw God. This agnostic borderline-atheist truly and absolutely saw God. You see, God isn’t some big judgmental guy lurking about the heavens waiting to smite sinners or whatnot. No… God was the design of my son’s newborn face. God was his first cry.
And I can’t expect anybody else, not even my son’s father, to understand that moment like I did. That was my moment as a mother, and I was fortunate to have three more like it in the years that followed.
It was for moments like this that I became a mother. My decision to do so had very little to do with economics or leisure or opportunity for myself. It had everything to do with feeling and expressing a love that eludes definition. It wasn’t happy happy happy, but it wasn’t sad sad sad either. It ultimately isn’t any one thing. As I recently wrote in another post on my blog (full post here):
“…motherhood is the end-all-be-all of a woman’s existence…except when it isn’t. Motherhood will thresh your very soul and lift you to heights of joy you never thought possible… except when it doesn’t. Motherhood will sweep you up to the pinnacle of beauty…. except when it’s anything but beautiful. When you have shit on your hands because the baby decided to do gymnastics after you removed the stinky diaper and the phone is ringing and the dog is barking and the older kid is whining about cookies or some such… and the diaper pail is full and the room smells like digested green beans and you haven’t showered in two days and your breasts start leaking and then the baby pees all over the changing table and all the while you suspect, in a grim sort of way, that your mortgage check will bounce this month….
Nope, that’s not beautiful at all. Motherhood isn’t always anything except raw, demanding life. Base and beautiful humanity.”
And though it is a commitment, that sometimes makes you feel like you should be committed, it can be–should be?–one gleaming facet in a multifaceted life.
It should follow the sentiment I have tattooed on my upper left arm:
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)
No matter what we choose in this life–parenthood or not–there will forever be more to explore, more to learn, more to love. Or at least, there should be. And that is the only should that I, personally, understand.
Postscript: For anybody who is still unsure about having a child, ask yourself this: if you attempted to place your coffee mug in the cup holder of your car, one frenetic morning, and found that the space was already occupied by a large piece of dusty, hairy, dessicated bacon left therein by one of your children (one of your teens, in fact!), how would you feel? Your answer to this may help clarify your child-bearing decision…. at least a little bit. 🙂
- MOM Takes Manhattan: The First Museum of Motherhood Opens (pajamasmedia.com)
- Beyonce Speaks on Motherhood, Husband, Liberation (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Seeking Life Balance in Motherhood (joyofspa.com)
We can all summon up moments when our parents went too far, or at least we were 100% certain at the time that they’d gone to far, in their parenting routines. Ah, the injustice!
As it turns out, two Illinois kids kept their resentment alive long enough to sue Kimberly Garrity for being a bad mother.
Garrity’s children, Steven Miner II, 23, and Kathryn Miner, 20, originally filed their suit against her two years ago, asking for more than $50,000 for emotional distress suffered during childhood due to Garrity’s alleged parental offenses, infractions such as sending her son a birthday card sans check, not dispatching care packages to him in college and insisting on a midnight curfew for her daughter during her high school’s homecoming. (TIME Healthland)
An Illinois appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, but Ms. Garrity who raised her children in a $1.5 million home outside Chicago is left to ponder her decision to conceive and raise two ungrateful.
Court records from Garrity said she was devastated at being publicly accused of “being an inadequate mother.” … In court papers, Garrity said she still loves her children, but she warned the public nature of the lawsuit would hurt them going forward. (CNN.com)
I guess the lesson to be learned here is not to spoil your fabulously rich kids rotten, because they’ll just grow up and sue for not spoiling them rotten enough. Kids these days. (Above the Law)
But reflection and regret are only half of Garrity’s reward. She also has the pleasure of paying for her legal representation.
“It would be laughable that these children of privilege would sue their mother for emotional distress, if the consequences were not so deadly serious for (Garrity),” Garrity’s attorney, Shelley Smith, wrote in court documents. “There is no insurance for this claim, so (Garrity) must pay her legal fees, while (the children) have their father for free.” (Today People)
Gawker weighed in with a curious twist:
What the judges seem to have overlooked is how their ruling now opens the floodgates to parents who wish to say no to their children, which will be more corrosive to our society in the long-run. (Gawker.com)
Not sure I follow this concern. Aren’t parents supposed say no? Sometime? Maybe even often? Or was I terribly mistreated? I can feel the emotional distress bubbling up across the years… Lawyer!
- Mother wins lawsuit over allegations of lousy parenting (cnn.com)
- Judge dismisses kids’ suit against their own mom (today.msnbc.msn.com)
- Lawsuit of the Day: Next Time Mom Ticks You Off, Just Sue Her (abovethelaw.com)
- Kids Try to Sue Mom for ‘Bad Mothering’ [Lawsuits] (gawker.com)
- Grown A** Kids Sue Their Mom For $50K For Buying The Wrong Birthday Card And No Gifts (bossip.com)
- Bad Mothering Lawsuit Thrown Out (neatorama.com)
- The $50,000 Tantrum (thedaleygator.wordpress.com)
- Oh Come On! Kids Sue Parents? Beyond Dumb! (seriouslyrebecca.wordpress.com)
Unless you have a lot of time to geek out on Freakonomics, you can skip the radio show and just skip to the text below. Taken from a transcript of the show, this exchange serves as an appropriate follow-up to the Freakonomics on fatherhood post. According to these economists, the increase in parenting duties for college-educated mothers, and the cause, is even more freaky/intriguing:
RAMEY: So, in the 1980’s, the average, young, college-educated mother spent thirteen hours per week on childcare.
DUBNER: That’s Valerie Ramey again. She and her husband Gary, also an economist, analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey.
RAMEY: Now, it’s 22 hours a week. So, the amount of time has increased by nine hours a week.
DUBNER: Nine hours. So, that’s about a seventy percent increase, that’s a huge increase.
RAMEY: It’s a huge increase.
RAMEY: Now, what’s interesting is over this same time period, the wages of college-educated women have really increased. So, the opportunity cost of time has increased at the same time they’ve decided to spend more time taking care of their children.
DUBNER: So, to an economist, like you, that has to be a little bit baffling, yes?
RAMEY: Yes, it is a puzzle.
DUBNER: After declining for decades, the amount of time that parents spent on childcare started to rise in the 1990’s and then skyrocketed in the 2000’s, especially among college-educated moms. Why? The Rameys found a surprising answer: college. Specifically: the increased competition for kids to get into good colleges. These high-end parents weren’t simply babysitting; they were chauffeuring their kids to the kind of extracurricular activities that look good on a college application. The Rameys called it the rug-rat race. You want to know the strangest part? Valerie Ramey was a prime offender — until her family put a stop to it.
Despite my friend’s frequent reminders of “yet another woman over 40 who has successfully had a healthy baby” stories, I’m not the gambling type.
My friend thumbs through People magazine, identifying the aging celebrities touting their late-in-life offspring.“Look, 50 and a healthy baby,” she beams.
“That one had a surrogate,” I quip.
“Oh, right, she did. But she had twins at forty-two,” she’ll protest.
“And a staff of forty nannies and household servants, and tell me in ten years that she doesn’t get cancer from all those hormone injections,” I counter. She sighs and closes the magazine, failing to put me on the parent track.
The truth is, it isn’t really about my age. It’s a convenient excuse, but if I were in my twenties with all else being equal as it is now, I think I’d still make the same decision not to have children.
Early in my first marriage and in my twenties, before I got a dog I stopped every dog I passed on the streets of New York City.
“Oh, look at that one – soooo cute! And a yellow lab and a chocolate lab. I just looove labs. Can I pet your dog?” I would coo.
I finally got a yellow lab who became my pride and joy for fourteen years. She outlasted my first marriage. Everyone thought I was practicing to be a “real” mom with her. When she died she was succeeded not by a ‘real” baby but by an energetic male yellow lab instead. As it turns out, I was practicing all along only to be a dog mom. Sorry to disappoint, but I think I’ve done well with those skills. Does this mean I don’t get to celebrate mother’s day? Can I be a mom if my dependent happens to be canine?
The same impulse for babies, however, never emerged. Passing strollers never merited a second glance from me. That was a strong sign to me to avoid having a baby.
Okay, so not every happy parent started off ogling babies on the street. Nonetheless, the fact is there is just so much I still want to do with my life that I don’t think even if I were twenty years younger I’d be able to accomplish all that I hope to do.
I’m not just talking about my career. We’re busy people, busy seeing friends and family, busy doing volunteer work, busy working, busy traveling, skiing, biking, hiking, kayaking, waterskiing or windsurfing, in short busy being involved in our community, and in our world.
So, then, why do so many people think I’m selfish for not having kids? Is it selfish to forgo children when you could perhaps raise one successfully, when you have no obvious major impediments to parenthood? Is it selfish for me to want to work on myself, to be the best person, citizen, sibling, wife, daughter that I can be? Could I work on myself and achieve the same goals if I had kids? Knowing me, probably not.
Some people would say it is self-centered to reproduce yourself. The world is already overpopulated and there are already so many parent-less children who need a good home. It’s a good point. We’ll have more thoughts on this topic later. It’s in important one but since this piece is an introduction of one founder’s background and viewpoint, I will save that meaty conversation when I can interview multiple folks on the issue.
Frankly, the thought of disseminating my genes multiple times over just scares me. I like who I am and I’m proud of my family and heritage, but, boy, I think one person like me in the world is really enough. I’m a handful all my own.
The way I see it, I can have an influence on a greater number of kids if I don’t have my own.
My hope is to be the adult who doesn’t treat them like a parent would, to be the person they can ask embarrassing questions, the person they can call in the middle of the night and say, “I need help. Please don’t tell my mom.” I want to be the person who takes them on safaris in Africa, fashion shows in Paris and hang-gliding in Bora Bora. That doesn’t seem selfish to me.
As my cousin’s 8 year old child said of me in the car once while I was driving a heap of kids down a dirt road in the country: “You can talk about it in front of her. She’s not a mom.” That made me feel good. They all nodded in agreement and spoke of a subject that would have been just too embarrassing or dangerous in front of their moms. It was an enlightening moment.
I recently became a CFES high school mentor in our local public school. I help juniors with the process of choosing, applying and gaining acceptance at the colleges of their choice. It’s a great program and if I had children when the majority of my friends did, I’d likely only be thinking about college preparation only for my own kids instead.
Let me be the mentor, friend, aunt, water ski and windsurfing coach to a number of kids. Most children don’t have enough positive adult influence in their lives outside of their parents. That’s where I enter.
- Wednesday March 16: What I’ve learned From Hanging Out With Moms and Why are The Dads Having More Fun?
- Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
- Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel
Woman in Motion by andorpro, on Flickr
“My problem was not with my children,” author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explains, “but with how we think about motherhood.” Her poignant, smartly crafted essay, Why I left my children, is part of Salon.com‘s Real Families series. Her unflinching candor is especially powerful coming from the perspective of a woman, a mother, a wife. It’s an unfamiliar perspective, one that is easily and habitually vilified as she hastens to acknowledge. The redemptive arc of her essay softens the jagged edge of realizing — as a married mother of a three and a five year old — that she hadn’t wanted to be a mother in the first place.
I had no idea what to do with these bouncing balls of energy. Even feeding them, finding them a bathroom, was a challenge. It raised a little issue for me that I have neglected to mention: I never wanted to be a mother. I was afraid of being swallowed up, of being exhausted, of opening my eyes one day, 20 (or 30!) years after they were born, and realizing I had lost myself and my life was over.
She loses her marriage but regains her children and discovers her motherhood. It’s a tidy conclusion with a happily ever after vibe, but the essay concludes without returning to the mother-phobia hiccup. I suspect that I’ll need to read her novel, Why She Left Us, to learn more. Her fear that motherhood would/could exhaust her, swallow her up and erase her sense of self strike me as relevant and important (even critical) concerns.
I’m not a mother. Nor will I ever be a mother. I’m a happily married childfree husband. I’m a dog owner, storyteller, adventurer and unabashed flâneur. I’m a DINK. And yet Rizzuto’s perception that parenting has the potential to swallow up the self feels familiar, like it was conjured up out of my own twenty-something anxiety cauldron. A decade and change later, the ingredients are still there. How do I know? Because friends — parents, mothers, fathers — confirm and reaffirm the woes of parenting. They are exhausted. Swallowed up. Lost.
I know, that’s only part of the equation. “Having children is the best decision we ever made,” they always hasten to add. But it tends to come as an apologetic parenthetical after a laundry list of laments, regrets and frustrations. I don’t mean to diminish the splendors of parenting. They doubtless trump the petty concerns I’ve mentioned, and yet I’m not convinced. Frankly, I don’t want to be convinced. I’m okay with exhaustion, but swallowed up? No thanks!