Saturday 14 April 2012

Parenting Pride and Feminist Philosophising

I'm a proud parent. I am also proud of being a parent. It seems that a vast section of society would prefer to think that children happen to other people, and don't want to be bothered in their adult world by little people. Fair enough, I guess. Although I have to question the values held by a society that doesn't place any distinction upon children, or the people who choose to have them. 

A lot of people seem to forget that children and parents shape the future of our society. Without people willing to sacrifice their earning potential or do without luxuries, there wouldn't be a new generation. Maybe childless people need to give people who have kids a bit of a break. Kids throw tantrums in inconvenient places, ask embarrassing questions, and talk too loudly. They also learn by doing things, so they need to go to places like shopping centres and learn what goes on and how to behave, just like anyone else. 

I get sick of hearing that "parenting is a choice". Of course it is, most things in life are. That doesn't stop parenting from being one of the most difficult and rewarding things most people do with their lives. I am often asked if Indigo was an "accident" when people find out I'm 24, because fewer people in their twenties are having kids. Being a parent at an age when most of your friends are partying and getting into the swing of their careers can be tough - people can be very critical of the choice to be a parent, without having ever considering that it was a choice I wanted to make, and so do many others. Fewer of these same friends can understand why, after a child which must surely have been an accident, Dave and I want another child. 

I think the use of the word "accident" leads people to dismiss someone's choice to have a child - as if somehow unexpected parents are less worthy, because they had parenthood thrust on them and chose to embrace it. I don't know if you can call it an accident to knowingly keep your child, and love and care for them from the time you know they exist. I don't know if you can call a child an accident when a couple has been dreaming about and planning for children, at sometime in the near future. It's just a matter of perspective. I never tell nosy people a clear-cut answer when they ask if Indigo was an accident. I feel to do so would betray her and all other babies - like somehow, planned babies are "better" than unplanned, and to say either way is meaningless for her and all children.

On another note, since when has 24 been young to have a baby? 24 is pretty much the ideal time to fall pregnant, according to this study, and it was definitely perfect for me. I don't like being judged by a society that forces women to work before having children, supposedly to liberate them, only to find in their thirties that they have trouble conceiving when they want to because they were waiting for things to be perfect, or want to own a house first, have such a busy schedule they don't even have time for a partner, or a myriad of othereasons. 

Who said that we have to work before having children? We humans live an awfully long time now, so we have the luxury to think about whether we want to have a career or study, and think about children when we're ready, but also to have children at a younger age, and think about a career when we're ready. Society understands and accepts the former, but often views the latter with contempt. I don't understand why people can understand the personal goals of wanting a rewarding and interesting career, disposable income, the possibilities of travel, but cannot understand the goals of wanting to be the best person you can be to grow a family. They are both valid life goals, and are not mutually exclusive!

This all revolves around the feminist issue of choice. Apparently women are identifying less with being feminists - we're seen as hairy-legged, angry manhaters - and although women give lip service to equality on occasion, we are constantly expected to somehow be better than equal. If we choose to have children, to choose to stay home with them is oppressing us, even though some of us would far prefer the single full-time job of parent than to play the juggling game with paid employment and kid-wrangling, and working is supposedly oppressing the women who choose to work by denying them the choice to stay home. Again - valid choices, but society far prefers the idea of employed parents, so to be a stay-at-home parent is somehow slothful or unproductive to society, regardless of the woman's choice, or the child's happiness.

It seems we're all being groomed to be perfect little worker bees, consuming and working to pay off debt and being constantly stressed. People see this as normal. As someone who all but dropped out of society for almost two years a few years ago due to chronic anxiety and extremely high levels of stress,  I can tell you that for me and a very large majority of people, this is not healthy, and we can choose not to live this way. The issue of choice is seriously important, but we treat it very lightly, and most of us "ladies" don't like getting into feminist or political discussions in case we upset or offend someone, or worse - bore them.

So,  I just try to remind people that we have choices in life, and we are free to enjoy our long lives in any way that does no harm. In the end, it's all a matter of perspective.

What works for you?


  1. I got pregnant on purpose in 1998. I was 23.

    I was working at a job that was worried about hiring me. They thought I'd be leaving the job position for something "more exciting".

    "Oh no." I said. "I want a JOB, not a career. I want to have children. I want to be flexible in raising them." I worked there for 15 months after giving birth to my son. I have been at home with my kids since then and now homeschool. My life has changed so many times in 13 years of parenting...

    I had a point. What was it? I can't remember. My daughter is playing with our dog practically on top of my lap...

    Indigo is adorable. Makes me miss my own "babies"...

  2. Thanks Tracey! I don't understand why as women free to make choices, we are criticised for our choice to have children when it makes sense to us. Apparently we're only "free" to work - the irony!