Baby, baby, please let me hold him

6 12 2012

I’m too broke to be decadent—but if I had the money. . . ?

Well, I’m probably too boring to be decadent: couldn’t be trendy if I tried.

I’ll leave the Douthat-slaps (similar to a dope-slap, but administered with sacred sorrow) to Katha Pollitt (among the many, many, others), and be glad that others have waded through his muck so that I don’t have to.

Do allow me, however, this one obvious point: The reason some of us don’t have children is that some of us don’t want children. At all.

Not: don’t-want-children-because-want-something-else-more, but: don’t want.

The usual disclaimers: I like kids. I’m glad other people want to have kids, and I think our environmental problems have more to do with too much consumption than with too many people (although consumption and people are not, of course, unrelated).

So, yeah: Babies!

Just not for me.

That I can choose not to have babies for the mere reason that I don’t want them is, for any number of fertility-mongerers the real decadence. That is, it’s not that I want to live the Euro-trash life, but that I can choose, and because I can choose, I can choose wrongly.

In other words, it’s a mere hop, skip, & jump from choice to civilizational collapse.

There’s nothing particularly new about this equation—this is a standard reactionary-conservatism trope—but just because it’s old doesn’t make it any more correct or less irritating. I’ll skip the rant on why it’s irritating (it’s late and I’m erasing 10 words for every 5 I write, so, y’know), and, oh hell, I’m just going to bring this back around to me.

I chose not to have kids, but to focus on the choice is to miss the real point, which is that I never wanted kids. The choice depends on the desire, and it was never my desire to have children. I didn’t choose not to have children I wanted; in some sense, I didn’t choose at all, but merely recognized that I lacked what it took to be a good mother—namely, the desire to be a mother at all.

Taking away my choice on that matter would not have changed the desire, nor would incentives have made a difference. Sure, some women forced into motherhood may come to love it, and more social support might make a difference in the number of children one might have, but that still leaves some of us to say Nope, no thanks.

I take motherhood—parenthood—very seriously, and believe that if you’re going to have kids, you oughtta do it right.

Tough to see how you can do it right if you don’t want to do it at all.

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I may not be able to think. . .

20 04 2012

. . . but I can link.

Or steal, as it were, this time from Katha Pollitt:

But the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself. When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants. But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself.

. . .

So there it is: the difference between a stay-home mother and a welfare mother is money and a wedding ring. Unlike any other kind of labor I can think of, domestic labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it. For a college-educated married woman, it is the most valuable thing she could possibly do, totally off the scale of human endeavor. What is curing malaria compared with raising a couple of Ivy Leaguers? For these women, being supported by a man is good—the one exception to our American creed of self-reliance. Taking paid work, after all, poses all sorts of risks to the kids. (Watch out, though, ladies: if you expect the father of your children to underwrite your homemaking after divorce, you go straight from saint to gold-digger.) But for a low-income single woman, forgoing a job to raise children is an evasion of responsibility, which is to marry and/or support herself. For her children, staying home sets a bad example, breeding the next generation of criminals and layabouts.

. . .

The extraordinary hostility aimed at low-income and single mothers shows that what’s at issue is not children—who can thrive under many different arrangements as long as they have love, safety, respect, a reasonable standard of living. It’s women. Rich ones like Ann Romney are lauded for staying home. Poor ones need the “dignity of work”—ideally “from day one.”





‘a woman who gives birth to a child is a woman first and a mother second’

23 03 2010

“Today, we’re told we’re not allowed to smoke, to eat unpasteurised cheese or seafood or even to a drink a glass of wine when we are pregnant. It’s time to stop all that.”—Elisabeth Badinter

This French philosopher and old-school feminist has plenty to say between drags on her cigarette.

“We’ve always been mediocre mothers here,” Badinter said (pointing out that in the 18th century French women farmed their children out to nurses “so that they could continue to have social lives and sex with their husbands”). “But we’ve tended to have happier lives.”

This is what all those so-called ‘Bad Mommies’ miss: they chastise themselves for not being perfect and miss the fun of such imperfection.

And, frankly, it wasn’t all being the kid of a mom who had better things to do than chase after you every goddamned minute of every goddamned day.

Freedom all around.

(h/t Slate)