By Rebecca Hawkes
Dear Women Without Children:
We need to talk.
You may be childless by circumstance or childfree by choice. Maybe you wanted to have children but life had other plans for you; maybe you never envisioned children as part of the plan at all; or maybe it was never clear-cut, and choice and circumstance have both played a role, to a lesser or greater degree, in creating the life you now lead.
In any case, I am parenting and you are not. And this is the reason we need to talk. Because lately I've been reading things, here and there, on the Internet and in print, that seem to imply that we are on opposing sides. Just as working and non-working mothers were once pitted against each other in a trumped-up Mommy War, these days it seems to be the moms and the non-moms who are assumed to be taking up arms against one another.
So what I want to say is this: let's not fall for that.
For one thing, let's start with the illusion that our "teams" are separate. Who are the childless women? You are the sisters, co-workers, best friends, etc., of the child set -- and vice versa. Some of you are the teachers and coaches of our children. Some of you write the books they read, or will read, or are working your way up the ladder at companies at which they may someday work. Our lives are intertwined in countless ways, yours and mine. I may be your boss or your employee. I am your neighbor. I am your old college friend.
Oh, I know. It is assumed that I judge you for failing to fulfill some prescribed societal role -- mother with a capital M -- and that you resent me for assuming an air of superiority for merely procreating. But really? Do we really?
Okay, yes, I'll admit, there are moments when I experience jealousy, and possibly that cuts both ways. I assume you are more rested than I am. I assume you are having all the fun. And perhaps that's when I let slip some comment about the JOYS of parenthood. It's okay to be a little jealous and even a tiny bit petty sometimes, because we're human. But let's not get sucked under in a riptide.
Does any of it mean that one of us is more than or less than the other, that we have chosen or lived better? Do we really believe that? No, I don't believe either of us does. Not in our heart of hearts.
I will not be convinced that we are enemies when I know that we are allies.
Because here's the thing: I am not just a mother; I am a mother of daughters. And they will grow up to be women. And they will either have children, or they won't. Do you think for one minute that I want them to be judged as less than for ending up on one path or the other? No. They deserve better. And so do we.
MotherWoman, a Western Massachusetts-based organization, supports and empowers mothers to create personal and social change by building community safety nets, impacting family policy, and promoting the leadership and resilience of mothers. MotherWoman's philosphy is that whether a woman chooses to be a mother or not, it takes a village to raise the next generation. When mothers are valued and supported, we are more successful in all areas of our lives, benefiting our children, families and communities. Creating communities of genuine respect and non-judgment for all mothers increases our collective power. Laws and policies that support families benefit everyone.