June 13, 2012 | relationships

The Mother Vs Non-Mother Divide

Ahh ladies, we’re a complicated breed. We really are. I don’t know what it is or why we do it, but it seems we often have wars going on with each other. As if the every day trials and tribulations of this roller coaster estrogen-fest we’re on isn’t hard enough, apparently, we feel the need to throw a few spanners around and complicate it for each other. Nowhere has this been more evident to me of late than with the mother vs non-mother divide. There are weird vibes man and I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about, but I’m here to see if we can’t all align our chakras and calm the hell down.

I’m a non-mother. Don’t have kids, don’t plan to have kids. I’m not anti-children, it’s just not something I ever pictured really having in my life. I don’t believe it is a prerequisite of being a woman, I do not feel it should be expected of me, or demanded and most importantly, I do not feel I am missing out or that my life is somehow incomplete by not having children.

This, I have noticed, seems to be a problem for mothers. Mothers cannot understand this choice and are rather vocal about it. I can fully understand the love a mother has for a child (because I have a mother who loves me very much) and so I get the appeal of having that in your life, I just happen to have made a different choice. Oddly, I often feel that mothers take offense to that. When I say I don’t want children, mothers will usually reply ‘never say never’ or ‘you say that now…’ which is a rather patronising response – as though my choice isn’t a valid one, because we’re women and as a woman I should naturally want to have a child. It’s the equivalent of me saying ‘are you sure you don’t wanna give that thing back?’ while you’re cooing over your baby (which, for the record, I wouldn’t say, because that’s clearly very rude). Let’s hope you’re not dropping the ‘never say never’ line to a woman who is unable to have children.

I’ve spoken to other non-mothers around my age and whether they’ve chosen to not have children or haven’t conceived yet, pretty much all have said they’ve felt this vibe from mothers. A kind of superiority – as though their womanhood has been validated by giving birth. They are now part of a club that us non-mothers are not welcome to. Phrases like ‘such and such made no sense to me….until I became a mother’ are bandied around, as though we cannot fully understand the meaning of life until we’ve procreated.

It renders my life useless and invalid.

But equally, there’s seems to be this competition between mothers too. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about an insane amount of judging that goes on, mother-to-mother, that just boggles my mind. Who’s losing baby weight quicker? Which nursery does she take her kid to? How much did they spend on their kid’s birthday party? I’ve heard tales of mothers telling new mothers they’re not doing certain things right (I can’t imagine anything more out of line), they shouldn’t be feeding them that baby food (that the mother is putting in their child’s mouth at that exact moment), the list goes on.

It’s a sort of one-upmanship, a competition in which no one is actually the winner. We have all made choices. Very personal, individual choices. We’re all just living our lives in our own way. What the next person has chosen to do with theirs is really none of my business. It seems very obvious to simply state ‘live and let live’, yet often seems to be the hardest thing to do – to not (intentionally or otherwise) force your ideals and beliefs onto someone.

Ladies, this is life we’re talking about and major life decisions – there are no finish lines. You don’t get a special badge for hitting an imaginary marker first or for making someone else feel crappy. A lot of this seems like more advanced versions of what happens in the school playground. Let’s just leave all that where it belongs and get on with the business of supporting one another and celebrating womanhood, child or no child. We’re meant to all be in this together.

*dismounts soapbox*

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44 Comments

Midlife Singlemum

I agree with you to a point. I have many friends who, knowing there are options for even single women to have children through IVF or adoption, have decided that this is not what they want. I respect that. I don’t understand it on the same level that I don’t understand someone who chooses to be a mountain climber – simply and subjectively because that lifestyle would make me miserable. However, I am not offended when when a childless woman looks at my grubby child fresh from the smelly sand-pit and says, “that’s not for me.” By the same token I reserve the right to express how I felt I’d finally been let into the elusive (to me) club of motherhood and how my whole outlook on life has changed because of it. Of course I am careful not to preach or patronize – any advice along the lines of ‘just do it’ is only after the other woman has expressed a wistfulness for a child of her own.

Angel Dee

Am SO glad that this has been raised.

I am sick to DEATH of mothers voicing their opinions about non-mothers, or thinking as they have children everyone else should or forces the fact that they’re a parent on everyone else.

Let’s stop for a moment. I myself have a child.

Okay, go!!

With family working in Social Services it is very clear that not everyone should have kids, so those that choose not to should not be looked on as an alien, and there are so many kids that need homes that we do need to redress the balance and not pop out so many babies. We also have too many, our crippled public health and benefits services are examples of why we need to stop being selfish with this need to have so many.

I also don’t feel this sense if entitlement for EVERYTHING just because you pushed a child out is valid. Buggies on buses, expecting people to give you their seats like they haven’t paid their fare, expecting the state to pay for you .. Child Support. My list is endless!!

Anyway essay over. Mothers there were many before and no doubt many after you. No one of us is more special than the next. We aren’t more special than those who choose not to/can’t have kids so pull your necks in ..

Midlife Singlemum

I accidently submitted my comment before I’d finished. what I want to say is that my feelings of awe and wonderment about becoming a mother and how it has completely changed me, are just as valid as your feelings of not wanting children of your own. The only way I can explain it is that if I met a nun and she described her life to me, she may detect on my face something like smugness because I have chosen a far less restrictive life. I would try to hide it but doesn’t everybody who has made choices and is happy with the way things are going have an innate smugness about them? Sorry to go on but it irritates me that happy mothers are not allowed to show how happy they are around women who have made different choices. (With obvious sensitivity to women who would like to have chil,dren but cannot).

Scarie

Great post. I want to have children but I have not yet the man that I can have children with together. I wish I had but sadly my. I’m 29, almost 30. I am getting @ you would want to hurry on” comments from mothers. Don’t they know I envy them, their happiness!!! But then when I see certain mummy bloggers I think ” there’s no way I want to have to compete with the likes of that, il forever feel a failure @

Meemaw

I completely get this, and so glad someone raised it. It’s like that advert “if you’re a parent, you’ll understand” – excuse me! A friend and I were discussing exactly this a few weeks ago, and this whole “martyr” status mothers are given (of course mothers are great, but not to the exclusion of other women). I agree that people’s decisions should be respected,and the whole having a child debate is also such a personal and sensitive issue, no one has the right to dictate or judge anyone. But yet sadly people do. Bibi Lynch wrote about it perfectly in the guardian a few months ago. I do have to say I’m still “undecided” about children, and have a 4 yr old niece that I absolutely adore, but I do worry how I would feel at 60 with no children or grandchildr and so while I can make that decision now there will of course be consequences of that too, and of course I realise nothing in life is ever a given anyway…..and completely agree with previous comment, there’s too many damn people in the world already!
anyway. And canyway..

Gemma

Great post Bangs. I was discussing this very topic with my best friend this weekend. She’s super happy with life the way it is, and admits she doesn’t feel ready, but she’s choosing to have children, not because she has an especially desperate urge to procreate, but because she feels the pressure to and she’s scared she’ll get to 45 and regret not having taken the step. I also fall into the ‘I’m not sure’ camp, but since I’m not in a relationship I’m fortunate not to be the subject of the pressure my friend is feeling.

Bizarrely, though, another friend who does have kids regularly phones me up to ask my advice about family matters (presumably because I’m reasonably sensible), and then rubbishes my response because I don’t have children so what could I possibly know?! It baffles me. Why ask?!

Eliza_Do_Lots

I’m a mother. Most of the time I love being one. Sometimes it’s a bit pants. It’s a huge part of who I am – but not all. I’m a whole lot of other stuff which also defines me.
I don’t care if you, or others, want children or not. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t change your mind. What you do now influences so many I couldn’t for a nano second say your life was invalid without sprouting womb fruit.

I can say though that criticising people showing their scan photos or newborn photos is a little unkind – not wanting it doesn’t mean others should never scream “LOOK – INSIDE MY UTERUS – A TINY HUMAN!” because want it or not it is a pretty big deal.

You also – and I say this desperately trying not to sound patronising – absolutely do not and cannot comprehend the love a mother (at least most) feels for their child. You have a mother who loves you in that fiery, painful, bone deep way so you have an abstract understanding but until the day I held mine I didn’t really get it. You can’t. In the same way they you can’t really understand colourblindness or being deaf unless it’s you. I don’t mean that as a criticism just an observation.

But that whole competitive thing, that’s women. Kids or not, that’s us. We’re horrible. Amazing and all that – but man we’re rough.

Emma

Hey Bangs long time no speakie!

For the most part I totally agree with the overall sentiment of your piece, which is for god’s sake ‘let’s just give each other a break!’ Whatever the choices we women & girls make in life the negatively that is explicit or passive abounds all around us. Mostly because we are a complex breed who transfer our own insecurities onto others.

At the heart of all this is a reactive response to each other. Rather than taking a step back and trying good old fashioned respect and empathy, we’re rather quick to hear stuff that reinforces our world view, rather than think ‘what would it be like to walk in your shoes’ whether they are stilletos or trainers, or in my case grubby plimsolls.

Yes I have kids now, and I thought for a long time they were not part of the game plan. Not because I couldn’t but because like you I didn’t see them featuring in my life. Of course now I have crossed the Rubicon I wouldn’t send em back, and dearly love them, but I do miss so many things of my life pre kids. Like lie ins, reading the papers, going to the toilet in peace, working on a project til it got finished, being dependable to clients, chatting about stuff other people were watching on TV, not Peppa Pig, having my husband all to myself. All sorts of stuff really. Does that make me a bad person? Well here lies the rub of motherhood, for me at least. You are filled with all sorts of conflicted feelings. You may look at people who can leave the house without a second thought with something approaching mad envy depending on the day you’ve had. But in many cases you subliminate these feelings. One of the most difficult things about being a parent, is that what you say behind closed doors isn’t likely to be what you say to a person who isn’t ‘feeling the pain’ too. (It’s not constant pain, but it does exist from time to time).

So how can we be honest without causing offence, we all surely yearn for mutual understanding, and that’s why those trite ‘all those things they say about motherhood are true’ statements are trotted out, and are intensely irritating if you are not a mother. It’s the reason I’ve deleted what I really want to say, because it makes me sound like a moaning martyr. You don’t dare complain. We’ve made our choice, now get on with it, and try and smile whilst you are at it.

The caveat all mothers have which each other, after a good old whinge is ‘but I wouldn’t change it for a moment’ You have to, or the social services would be after us in a shot

So what is missing in life, for me at least, is that chance to have open honest chats with people about all sorts of stuff, which helps us to understand each other better. We’ve got a bigger struggle as women, and yet it seems we revert to division rather than unity.

So thanks for the post, it’s good to talk!

Nikki Thomas

I completely agree with you. I am a mum and I have four children but I have friends who have chosen not to have children and I have the utmost respect for it. We are all individual and have the freedom to choose the way we live our lives. Personally I respect your decision as I expect you respect mine. Men certainly aren’t judged by whether or not they have had children, so why should women?

Sally

Ah, I don’t know that there’s a special divide. I think *girds loins for Bangs-style backlash* you’re maybe being a bit over-sensitive about it.

Humans like to segment themselves. Humans are competitive. If it’s not segmentation based on childbirth, it’s based on education, class, appearance, race, the car you drive, the shops you buy your baked beans at. And even within those segments, there’s segmentation – are you a ‘natural’ parent, a ‘competitive’ parent, new money, old money, blah blah.

Sure, some people will say, “Oh, you say that now”. For two reasons. Reason one – people say a lot of dumb stuff to fill up empty space in conversations. And second – lots of them probably said the same until they woke up one day and realised they quite fancied having a small person. I certainly was adamant no babies for me, until I woke up one day and realised I’d changed my mind, causing my poor Mother to almost faint from shock.

Do I think I’m special for having a functioning uterus? No, not especially. Do I think everyone should know how much fun having a kid is, if they’re given the option? Sure. But you can ignore that opinion. Be confident in your choices, and be pleased for those who are happy with theirs, I reckon.

AndDryer

There is a world of difference between being a proud mum and a patronising mum. There is nothing I like hearing more than my friends talking about their kids. Knowing what they’ve each gone through in their lives to get to this point and them being so happy about it is wonderful to see. But I don’t think that this behaviour is what offends women who have chosen to be childless. It’s the attitude that we couldn’t possibly know our own minds and that all it would take is ‘the right man’ to ‘sort us out’. It’s unbelievably arrogant. If someone told you they were vegetarian you wouldn’t dismiss them and say it was just because they hadn’t eaten a good enough steak. I often have to humour the women who say this because I just don’t have the energy to argue with them (and maybe because I don;t think they have the intelligence to try to see it from another perspective) They don’t seem to realise that what they’ve said is just their opinion and not a universally acknowledged truth.

Becci

Yes we are of that age now my dear where so many of our friends have popped sprogs or are expecting! I have friends who have had 3 or 4 now & some are younger than me!
I’m almost the opposite, where I’m scared to have them yet in case that’s the end of ‘me’ as an individual…not because all I will talk about is my child, but because I think that when I have kids I will change because they will become the most important thing in my life, & I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet…what about my career…travel…my body! etc etc.
In today’s world women want it all & feel the pressure’s of this. At 31 I feel my clock is ticking, I don’t want to be an ‘old mum’ & I want my parents to be able to enjoy their grandchildren. I do want a person who is half of me & half of my partner…this is an amazing part of natural life to me. So why do I have these thoughts that it will almost ‘stop’ my life? Far from that, it will enhance it I know 🙂 I think I just feel that there was so much I hoped to achieve before having kids & maybe that’s just my ‘guilt’ of not having worked hard enough, & that kids are almost an excuse or way out of it all…?! Then there’s the reasons not to have them yet…finances, living situations etc. Is there ever a right time? Apparently when you’re married & have a mortgage. Pah!
We’ve discussed this all before though & if you don’t want children then that is totally your choice. As a mother who loves their children it must be hard to understand, because they want you to also experience this strong unconditional love. And don’t get mad but I also feel that if you did happen to have them that you would be glad you did (don’t hit me!).I know that you would be a good mother 🙂
I suppose if you don’t have them we’ll never know!
We have mutual friends who we would never have considered to be maternal & who surprised us, & we all know those women who were career minded & had kids unexpectedly & then said it’s the best thing they ever did…are we just as guilty as childless women of looking at them & thinking ‘ahh but you had so much potential!’? Just being honest. Then there’s the working parent struggle. I know I benefited from my mum only working part time while my dad slogged away as I was growing up. Will I be able to afford to do that? But isn’t having a child all about raising them yourself & spending as much time with them as possible, especially in their formative years? I think so.
This is what goes on in my head. But I am going to relax about it all, stay healthy & have children in my own sweet time. In the meantime enjoy my life, but also look forward to creating a new human life…sounds fun to me! x

Cathy

I don’t know how to say this without sounding patronising so I’ll just dive straight in. This is the exact sort of post I would have heartily agreed with, and probably actually written myself.

Until I became a mother.

Yeah, I know how that sounds. But it’s true. The thing is, becoming a mother isn’t just a lifestyle choice. It’s a physical act, it changes you physically, it changes your hormonal structures, it even changes your emotions. It’s pure, raw, biology.

Given that, it’s no surprise many become completely wrapped up in it and totally overwhelmed by it, and engage in the behaviours you identify here.

Some of us, and I like to include myself in this, do work hard to keep it down to a dull roar. But it’s always inside of us, just like that child we have produced was, at one point, inside of us. It’s an irrevocable change, you cannot be the same person again. And with the best will in the world, you really cannot understand it unless you have experienced it yourself. Not if your own mother tries to explain it, not if friends try to explain it, not if you have pets. It’s like saying you can understand how it feels to be a man because you date one or married one or your father is a man. You can try, and you can understand it on a rational level, but you can’t FEEL it. You don’t have the same mixture of hormones, you don’t have as much testosterone, you don’t have a penis.

The reason it’s always ‘mothers’ as opposed to ‘parents’ that these conversations involve, is because for men, having children IS a lifestyle choice. It’s not a physical, emotional and hormonal event.

I do get the frustration with the constant stream of photos of scans and bumps on FB, and that’s a product of our age more than anything else. At this age, many of our friends and acquaintances are having children and they all want to shout about it. To them, each photo is individual, unique. To us, of course, they all blur into one gigantic bore.

But I also do agree that perhaps you are being a tiny bit over-sensitive in feeling judged and that mothers are being smug. Many are smug, we all agree upon that, but actually not all of us are. Not all of us pity child-free women, not all of us think everybody should do what we do. And in lumping all mothers together as this one, united, force of smug, you’re kind of doing exactly the same thing to us, as you are complaining that we do to you!

I’ll stop now because I’ve probably offended just about everybody on this thread, but just one more thing – if any of you, mothers or non-mothers, ever want to know where ‘the line’ is between being a person with a child and descending into Mummyland , just check out STFU, Parents. Google it. You’re welcome!

HMMM

I have to say i really agree with the response above.
As i think having children and committing to raising them well is a big sacrifice! I mean really big- you lose a lot of your life, your social time, your money etc etc. So apart from all the very personal self satisfying reward you get if the only public reward you get over your friends with out kids is the smugness of now knowing the meaning of life or the occasional seat on bus then i would say to non parents deal with it!

spirit sixtyseven

Spirit Sixtyseven absolutely brilliant – i’m in total agreement with everything you say….& i’m a mother.
my reaction to the news that i was pregnant was to sign up to college. i spent 2 years doing loads of ‘A’ levels at night school, a full time foundation course & then a degree, finishing when my son was 6. it may not surprise you that i am not the most ‘motherly’ mother. among my friends i famously ‘don’t do babies’! – when offered one to hold i always decline.
the gay ex-husband & i have always said that the boy wasn’t planned, nor was he an ‘accident’, he was more of an inevitability!
if i hadn’t had a child then, i’m not at all sure i ever would have. i have a brother 13 years younger than me & not long after he was born my mum took up childminding – our house was knee deep in small people throughout my teens, it can put a girl off!
i totally respect people who decide not to have children & like muireann i find it really very offensive when people say ‘never say never’ about motherhood & all that crap about how you suddenly understand things more – it really isn’t for everyone!
& despite being a mother myself, there is nothing that bores me more than a whole load of baby talk – there is a breed that seem to forget there are any other topics of conversation but their offspring as soon as they’ve given birth!
i was quite the opposite – as are all my friends who have small children now – when i’ve spent the day changing nappies, mashing up various food stuffs & wiping sticky fingerprints off everything i own, i’d rather talk about ANYTHING but that!
but none of this means that i’m not glad to be a mum & am incredibly proud of my son, he is my greatest source of happiness. i just don’t feel the need broadcast his every move (unless he does something incredibly stupid & then it’s ALL over facebook!!!!) nor would i seek to convince any non-mother that she’s missing out on something – that would be awfully presumptios of me……& rather rude!

samcentric

Phew, where to start… Talk about a can of worms. As someone firmly in the non mother category, I don’t know if I want kids and I’m not in place to need to make that decision, I definitely recognise a lot of what you say here Bangs.

I’m in my mid, ok, ok, getting on to late 20s and the amount of people who’ve made hints about when I might be popping one out and medical professionals who, when I’ve went for them for help have suggested having a couple of kids should solve the problem is enough to make my blood boil. I’ve even have friends report it’s been suggested as a way to cure them of mild depression in what I can only describe as the stupidest piece of advice bar follow that guy jumping off that cliff over there.

Anyway, I digress. I don’t think it’s being over sensitive. The number of times any achievements in life have been sidelined by, oh but when are you planning on using your uterus is beyond a joke. I get that if you want it, it’s a phenomenal life changing event. But I also know that I’m not alone in feeling that if I don’t use my reproductive powers I’m somehow less of a woman. And sure people like defining themselves but surely a mother is not the beginning and the end of that definition. Life can be fulfilling with or without children, and we shouldn’t assume that just because you have the correct parts it’s inevitable. It’s still a choice.

And please, please, PLEASE for the love of all that is holy can we stop asking single ladies in their mid *cough* twenties when they plan on having a baby? It’s enough to give a girl a complex

Ramble done, over and out.

mama bangs

I probably never really chose to have children. It wasn’t something I felt I had to do. Friends had children and, frankly,the more I saw the less it appealed! But I had two. They grew in to two of the most fabulous people I know. They are the justification of my existance.

sarahsscribble

well done Bangs! This is a post that is close to my heart. Being aged 29 and with most/all of my friends all being either pregnant or having kids, I am finding it increasingly difficult to not be made to feel like I am a lesser human being because I dont have kids and I chose not to have them. Being in a relationship with someone for over 10 years me and my partner are put under immense pressure by everyone about ‘when are you two going to have kids then’ so much so, it puts our relationship under pressure. I have found that many of my ‘friends’ will no include me in events etc because I dont have children, and have even been told that the only thing that makes a life complete is by having children. This is not the case, when explaining to these people that hey, I might actually want to concentrate on my career/health/fitness etc instead of having kids is equally as important to me as bringing a new life into this world. Why cant be dreams and aspirations be as important and equal as those who have children. I am not anti kids, I rather like some of my friends kiddies but for me, personally, they are not in my life’s dreams. I also would like to say that obviously being pregnant and having children is an incredibly amazing thing, something so amazing there probably isnt enough words to describe it, but even though I dont have kids myself I CAN STILL SAY THIS – I am often told that I cant quite possibly comprehend some feelings because I’m sans child… no…. I can, cos I’m a loving human. Every day I struggle with those same words ‘never say never’ well, never is never and there are so many more amazing things in this world I want to experience that CAN be, in my opinion, as good as having children.

Phew…..

Kylie Memoir Mode

As a mother I can promise you I couldn’t give two hoots whether the next woman has a child or not, nor do I feel more womanly or superior to her!

EmsieB

Why can’t we all snuggle merrily and sing kumbaya indeed?! I have 3 children, love them to bits but equally love the time off I make sure I have with husband without said kids. Life is all about balance and compromise and I don’t judge anyone who decides its not for them, its THEIR choice. It does not make you less of a woman, it actually makes you a much better partner/GF/wife as you can give all your time and energy to the lucky man or lady in your life.

My problem isn’t people asking me when I’ll be having children, its my (African) mother in law asking me when I’ll be having some more! Er, never?

Roisin

Loving the comments! The following quote springs to mind:

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ~Elizabeth Stone

I also think, to be really, really honest, some mothers are pissed off with either having to do loads of housework as a housewife, or struggling as a single parent, and they realise motherhood does not get the respect it deserves and that there isn’t some award or recognition at the end of the road. Just your kids growing up and moving out and rarely calling. Especially for mums who sacrifice everything, there’s a resentment there that comes out!

MrsGibson

Not all mothers think like that, I am a mother and I don’t care what choices other women make (although I respect them all). Not all of us live through our kids or feel defined by them. I am lucky in that I have a wide range of female friends, some younger some, older some with kids and loads without. For the most part it’s not the first thing we talk about.
I love my kids with the heat of a nova but they are not the very essence of me and I don’t expect the thought or longing or even the choice not to have them to be the essence of other women.
I agree lets just park it, lets not define each other by it.

Rachael

Bangs! I am ALL over this post!! I’m a non mother, I don’t particularly want kids but then maybe that’s because I’ve not found someone I want to settle down with enough yet. However…totally know what you’re saying BUT

It’s not just mothers – it’s parents in general.

Get this…my mother is a nurse, she worked EVERY SINGLE CHRISTMAS. And I mean every Christmas. We used to open our gifts at 6pm Christmas day because she would work. That’s fine, I understood, I grew to enjoy it, it meant that my Christmas day lasted longer than anyone else.

Fast forward 28 years. She had Christmas day off. I know, shocker. Someone walked right up to her and said “it’s not fair I have to work Christmas, I have kids.” Excuse me! How rude. But because she had a child she thought that she had the right to have Christmas off because you know childless and those with grown up children clearly have no life of their own.
I thought this was a one off until I noticed a comment left my my cousins friend (also a nurse) saying “it should be against the law to make people who have kids work Christmas” again…WTF?!

I am SO sick of being treated as a second class citizen because I’ve not produced off spring. It’s everywhere even down to travel, parents and kids get to board the plane first – excuse me whilst I just sit by with my full priced ticket.

I’ve no problem with children or parents BUT when they as you say claim that my life will be so much better with them or that my life has no meaning until I start to populate this earth THEN I have a problem.

The Jaded NYer

Listen- us mothers are superior for the simple fact that nature selected us to PRODUCE LIFE! Do you know who else can do that? GOD. We’re like freakin’ GODS!

Now, stop hating and make me a blog-Auntie already, dammit O_o

Dilemmom

Most of the time I wish I could be a mom (which I am) and a non-mom at the same time…

Alice

I don’t actually know how much this post is helping the debate. It feels like an attack on mothers, like myself. I just read a tweet of yours that said something along the lines of, “It goes without saying that this does not refer to a whole group of people.” When in fact you have not made that clear AT ALL. You say, “mothers” not “some mothers” or mothers that I have experienced”. You simply cannot tar everyone with the same brush. If you have had conversations with mothers that have clearly patronised and judged you, then they are probably patronising and judgemental in other areas of their life and it is unfortunate for you, being so sensitive to the subject, that you have had to experience that.

You talk about a ‘superiority vibe’ that you and your non-mother friends feel. Has anyone ever TOLD you that they are a better person than you, for having a child. No? Well it would seem that the ‘vibe’ you feel is your problem and based on a preconceived notion that women who are mothers think that they are more worthy than you.

Also, I’m sorry but you will NEVER understand motherhood unless you have children yourself. Just because you are someones child, does not mean you ‘get it’. You can appreciate it, and respect it but not truly understand. I’m sure your own mother would tell you that. This is a totally valid point because mothers are women who have been without and with children. They have experienced the before and after. They KNOW the difference. They live it every day.

I must also note the comment by Rachel, who said she was sick of being treated like a “second class citizen” because she doesn’t have children. What?! I doubt this happens. What about women with children who miss out on job opportunities because of parental responsibility? This is a whole other debate but hostile attitudes like this, towards mothers, does not help one bit.

Really, mothers are raising the next generation. Our government, our doctors, our teachers. Do they warrant a few ‘perks’ (if thats what you want to call them) like having space to get a buggy on the bus if it means someone having to move. Errr yeh?!

I know this comment is quite forward and argumentative but I feel so strongly about this. I can’t imagine a mother writing a post about “those women who don’t want to have kids, they’re so smug aren’t they with their money and free time, where do they get off”. It’s not fair and this post has not made me feel like you want solidarity, but just a bitch about something you don’t understand.

Sorry.

Nell

Okay, I have never commented on a comments section before but feel obliged to on this topic and I hope I don’t go off on a tangent here cos its an emotive issue. I am a non mother. I know, or can guess, how fabulous it can be to be a mother from sisters and best friends and fabulous godchildren, nephews and nieces. Never mind being from just a human being. I do fully appreciate that. Just as I fully appreciate people who make a choice to forego that option.

Yesterday I was at a work dinner with two men who both have children. They asked me if I had any and when I said no I could see the “left it to late\doesn’t know arse from elbow\weird\bit long in the tooth” thoughts wash over their faces. Or I thought I did. No matter, it was a conversation stopper. We had a long discussion about their children but I still felt everything that goes along with the stuff above in quotes. And even though they probably did not have those thoughts and maybe even came close to the truth and somehow guessed I cannot have children, I still felt the thought process. And that still kind of hurts. And no, I do not want pity. I don’t think people should have to explain their situation and I don’t think we should make any judgement on each other at all.

My childlessness was not a choice; I have even been asked by a mother of four when I was going to breed (her words, lovely….).I think this is such a thoughtless thing to ask when you know nothing of someone’s history, whether there has been miscarriage, IVF whatever. My point is that sometimes a decision has not been made. And even if it has, you will not know the process that was made to get there.

e should just be kinder to each other!

Oh lord; first ever post on anything – hope I have offended nobody. I truly did not mean to!

Roisin

Rachel parents don’t get to board the plane first on any flights I’ve been on recently, last time I witnessed that I was a child myself! I think they should get priority boarding, as well as their own stuff they have pushchairs and their kids’ stuff to carry, it adds massively to the already stressful experience of flying. Nell when I was a stay at home mum I found that also to be a conversation stopper, I guess it depends who you are talking to.

Bangs and a Bun

MIDLIFE SINGLE MUM – I agree with your stance up to a point. Using the nun metaphor there, I guess the difference is, I would not automatically assume my life is better than the nun’s. She made a choice she is happy with, so I wouldn’t feel smug about my life in comparison to her necessarily, but I do understand your point. And I agree that you should feel able to express your happiness at being a mother. I have no problem with that – I encourage it!

ANGEL – I agree with the over population thing. People really should be thinking more carefully before having kids!

SCARIE – You should never feel like a failure – whether you have kids or not, I’m sure you have achieved many great things in your life and will go on to achieve more.

MEEMAW – I agree with you about being older and not having kids. This is definitely something I think about too, but I guess my focus is just on living as full a life as possible and being thankful for the things I do have rather than what I don’t, but yes, it definitely is a concern.

GEMMA – Ahh, that pressure is an awful thing isn’t it? I don’t think people even do it on purpose – it’s just one of those things people say and maybe don’t understand or think of the gravity of. And that’s odd about your friend asking for the advice then poo-pooing it every time!

ELIZA DO LOTS – Ahh the whole putting-a-scan-on-Facebook thing is a whole other issue, but I don’t think I’m necessarily being unkind in saying I find it a bit odd. It’s an intensely personal thing and my point is that I find it really quite bizarre that people think it’s appropriate to share something like that in such a way. It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just my viewpoint and really, who cares? People are going to do it anyway! That’s the age we live in. As for not ‘understanding’ the love of a mother – guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one and I know you didn’t want to sound patronising, but that’s exactly the kind of comment that is to non-mothers.

EMMA – Hey Emma! Great to hear from you. I agree with everything in your comment and think it raises some really important issues. All this stuff is getting in the way of people just being able to say how they feel and that’s really important. I think especially so among mothers – I think it’s really important that mothers are able to talk about the shitty bits of it without judgement. I refuse to believe that everyone is some sort of Martha Stewart character getting everything absolutely right. I’d be ballsing it up all over the shop if I had a little person!

NIKKI – Hear hear! And yes, why aren’t men judged in the same way on this children issue? Grrr.

SALLY – Ahh no backlash here m’dear. Great points. And I do agree with you. Live and let live eh?

ANDDRYER – That steak line is golden!

BECCI – Ahh I hear you on all that. I think that’s a major reason for me too – basically, I just like my life. I don’t want it to change all that much! And, as we’ve discussed before, I genuinely don’t think I’d be a good mum – I have neither the patience nor temperament required! I think it’s only natural that people ask all the questions that you’re asking yourself and it’s good you’re asking them (some should’ve spent more time doing that before doing the business if you ask me!)And you’re right, I am totally guilty of thinking ‘ahh but she had such potential!’ sometimes when a career woman gets pregnant. Lots of food for thought here.

CATHY – Hey there! I agree with certain points here but again the ol’ ‘you can’t possibly understand’ is one that I don’t really agree with. I don’t think I need to FEEL it to understand the basic gist of what a mother’s love must feel like and equally, I don’t think not having that experience means something’s lacking in my life. I hear you on the oversensitivity part, but I’m not just speaking of my own experiences here, but those of other childless women who have related to me that they’ve felt the same thing. I’m not lumping all mothers into this category – I think it goes without saying that not all mothers behave in this way – but some do, and those are the ones I’m referring to here.

HMM – So now non-parents don’t understand the meaning of life? I’d argue that no one does really.

SPIRIT SIXTYSEVEN – I think I love you.

SAMCENTRIC – Girl, you know I feel you on all this. And seriously, I really wish that kind of silly pressuring would stop.

MAMA BANGS – Ahhh you maka me cry. You are just the best. Love you so much. xxx

SARAH SCRIBBLE – Excellently put – particularly the bit about being able to understand as you are a loving human. I completely agree.

KYLIE – I hear ya sister!

EMSIEB – Very good points and I can’t even imagine the mother-in-law pressure!

ROISIN – I’d never thought about it that way – would be interesting to hear what some of the mothers on this thread think about that resentment element. I think that’d be perfectly understandable and a natural thing to feel probably.

MRS GIBSON – Absolutely – yes to all of this.

RACHAEL – Whoa! That thing about Christmas is utterly ridiculous and insanely offensive. Big ups to your mum for keeping her cool!

JADED – You crack me the hell up! The last thing the world needs is a mini-Bangs!

DILEMMOM – I imagine that’s exactly how I’d feel!

ALICE – Well I’m sorry you feel it’s an attack. It certainly isn’t how it’s intended. I’m not tarring all mothers with the same brush and I stand by my point that it goes without saying that I’m not referring to all mothers. Sure I didn’t say ‘some mothers’ or ‘mothers I have experienced’ but equally I didn’t say ‘ALL’ mothers, so that’s kind of a moot point there. I’m not really sure how to address the rest of your comment as it just seems angry and perhaps you just wanted to vent so I’ll just leave it. But I ‘just wanted to bitch about something you don’t understand’? – I think if you re-read the post, you’ll see it’s well thought out. I’m not ‘bitching’ about mothers. I’m merely relating something I’ve experienced and I know others have too and wanted to provide a platform for discussion, but I’m not attacking anyone (which it states pretty clearly in the second paragraph), but thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

NELL – Yes, this is an aspect that I think really needs more thought from people who are constantly asking ‘when are you going to have kids?’ etc. It’s such a delicate and emotive issue and people really need to think about that more. And don’t worry, that was a very well thought out comment – I doubt you’ve offended anybody, you raise a really good point!

Thanks everyone for commenting – this is a really great comment thread. Fantastic to see so many opinions.

Fleur

Enjoyed this post and the comments! I’ve never felt like having children will complete me as a person (or that I’m less without) like my very own best friend does, but as I’ve got older, I’ve found myself softening from my ‘dislike children, don’t want them’ stance to my current ‘well it would be nice to find someone to settle down with and have kids’ one. But it’s probably the first bit of that that I want even more. I’d rather be in a position to choose rather than not have them because I’m single. My comments on your blog always end up being me waffling about myself, sorry! But I am enjoying the debate.

The Jaded NYer

On a serious note, I’ll just say this after reading some of the comments on both sides of the heated, electrified fence: no one can make you feel anything; only you can give them that power. So if a simple “when are you having kids already” or “OMG you’re having ANOTHER baby” bunches up your panties, look inward. That’s on you.

Just some food for thought.

Sam

I am a mother. I never thought I would be, but here I am, mother-ing it up. I could never see myself wanting a child or being able to love one – when I became pregnant it was literally the last thing on my mind. I quipped about kids being ‘okay, as long as you can hand them back’ while secretly despising other people’s (frankly rude) offspring. Now that I am a mother, I do not expect other people to follow suit – quite the opposite; I understand where you’re coming from and would never expect you to have a baby because you feel it is your duty as a woman – I would hope that people recognise that society has moved past this – quite a long frickin’ way past it.
Sadly, though it is true about competitiveness between mothers. I take my baby to weigh-in once in a while and the way in which mothers react to one another is quite astounding. There’s no recognition of personal choice, merely their way or the highway. I find it offensive, but also find myself giggling about it on my way home. My baby is happy, loved and cherished – she doesn’t give a shit that I stopped breastfeeding at six months or that she has organic milk instead of Aptimil. The only hang-ups these women have are with themselves – they use this ‘well meaning advice’ as a smokescreen, because all they are really looking for is reassurance that they are doing it right.
Anyway, that is my rant over – loving your work, Ms Bangs x

Cate

How people think this post is an attack at them for being mothers I don’t know! Women get offended when men belittle them and make them feel lesser for being female, so why wouldn’t those of us without children feel offended when we’re judged by people WITH children?

And as for feeling like a you’re The Boss/ Don/ God… Too right you should– I see the amount of work my own mum puts into running a family despite being disabled.. Maybe because of the fact that I’m 1 of 5 children, and the difficulties my mum has to deal with, I understand… When something goes wrong or if there’s something my mum cannot do then I automatically do it and it is HARD!!! So yeah, feel like a total boss, you work hard and deserve to… But it doesn’t make you any better or any more god like than the woman who has a hysterectomy and carries on with life despite desperately wanting children… It doesn’t make you better than the woman who dedicates her life to charity work instead of starting a family… Nor the woman who has poly-cystic ovaries… Nor the teenager who chooses university and a career and most certainly not the woman who thinks that actually Kids aren’t right for them and there are other factors in life that they want to pursue with 100% dedication… Just like you do with your children!

I think the point Bangs was making here is that most mothers (no not all but most) ASSUME all other women are planning to have children, when in fact there’s plenty of reasons we may not want/have or be able to have children and to openly voice that assumption time and time again is not only a sensitive issue that can stir up delicate emotions, but it also becomes quite offensive!! You’d hate it if we turned round and asked; “When are you planning on starting your career then..?”

You make your choices, we make ours, so let’s just stick to those shall we? I read a quote somewhere once that “women could rule the world, if only we could get along”… Let’s start getting along and show this world what we can all really do!

Elizabeth Holdsworth

Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many interesting comments as I have just read here. So, I’ll add my two pennorth, for what it is worth. I’m a mum. And a blogger. But definitely not a mummy blogger. Which is a pretty good reflection of my life. I love my kids. I do. Fiercely and to the absolute ends of the Earth. But being a mum is really hard, often really boring, costs a fortune and stops any potential of spontaneous activity, like a quick drink after work or a weekend away. Although I’d never want to be without them (there are plenty of upsides to the whole mum thing) I often think about what life would be like if I’d made other decisions. The lives of my friends I envy are the childless ones. So, I definitely don’t fall into the category of a mother who thinks all women should procreate. Far from it. I’m more likely to ask you what you like to do with your life than when you’re going to breed. Lots more exciting. Then I get to have vicarious adventures through other people! I think my over riding concern is that, instead of uniting as women, to fight the good fight on behalf of our gender, considering all the crap we have thrown in our direction, we fight amongst ourselves. I’m not saying that we should all be one big happy sisterhood, we all have our personalities, but we will never deal with the big stuff if we can’t agree that our choices to have or not have kids (by whatever means) are all legitimate ones. And on behalf of my beloved sister in law, who is unable to have kids, and is currently adopting, can the whole world stop assuming that we’re childless by choice? One final thing. To keep my life interesting, I make time to spend on projects, challenges and adventures that are just about me. As a person in my own right, not as a mother. I’m really determined not to disappear into a land of ‘Mummying’ where I don’t exist as an individual. So, you’ll never see updates about my kid’s potty training on Facebook. You might see pictures of me training for a half-marathon though…

Emz

Post illness I cant have children (its alright I didnt want them anyway, never did) I was more hurt by the teary eyes and arm squeezing and you poor thing, how dreadful, oh its a joy you will never know, do you feel like less of a woman now ( btw no I dont feel like less of a woman I rejoice in the savings on tampons and not having to take the pill) etc etc than I was by being hacked open and having it all carved out, ffs I am alive becasue of it, last time I checked having a pulse and a vagina made me enough of a woman.

The key is without doubt sensitivity given its the 21st century we are all free to make the life choices that suit us best, for some having a child is the missing puzzle piece and for others it would be the worst thing imaginable. I have a friend who would dearly love children, she has never met the right man and for her the donor route is not one she wants to take she is regularly reduced to tears by being asked when she will have a baby, the comment “oh you are so good with children, you should have one” reduces her to sobbing hysterics – I know I get the phone calls. Personally I think the issue is that for so long motherhood has been denigrated that mothers feel that they have to justify motherhood – my sister who married at 18 and has 3 children and is a happy housewife often gets withering comments ” Oh you are just a housewife” at dinner parties so I do see the flipside of the argument.

Lets face it my taxes help subsidise education and healthcare for the children of those who want children and your children grow up to look after my barren spinster self when I’m elderly, its all good we all win so lets stop with teh one upsmanship and competing.

Clover

As someone who never wanted kids, I always find these conversations interesting.

I think the turnoff for me isn’t necessarily women who are enthusiastic about mothering; it’s the women who want to EVANGELIZE mothering.

Some of them are like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who knocks on my door to hand me tracts and want to convert me to their faith. Except that I don’t want to, because I’ve been a Presbyterian my whole life and I like it and it fulfills my spiritual needs. I’m not interested in reading the tracts or hearing the testimonies. I’ve made my choice. I stand by it and like it. I’m glad other faiths exist for those with different spiritual needs than mine. I am not a candidate for conversion, though. That’s a decision that’s an affirmation of my faith and choices, not a judgment on anyone else’s. If I visit someone else’s church or talk to them about their religion, it’s because I have an intellectual interest in the topic or a personal interest in the person to whom I’m talking.

I don’t want to be anyone’s mother. My reasons may be intellectual, purely visceral, selfish, shallow, or any number of other adjectives I or other people would like to apply. But they’re mine, and I’ve made them, and I’m not interested in being subject to conversion attempts. “Yeah, but you could change your mind–” “Maybe, but it’s different when they’re yours–” “You could get your tubal reversed, you know–” “You’re so good with kids–” No. Just no.

(For the record, I have two lovely stepkids. They’re enough. When people ask me if we’re having more, I tell them either “Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full” or “Well, that would be a medical miracle, and not the good kind!” I don’t tend to get asked again.)

MrsB

Just a thought – you seem to have a very lovely relationship with your parents, don’t you think it’d be nice to have that with your kid(s) when you’re their age?

Christina

Hi Bangs,
I have never experienced what you have written about. Not to that extend.
I am a working mom, and the minority among my friends (who are often childless). We try to support each other. With my mom friends – it is the same. Not every family is the same, and not all moms are competitive. Actually, many of them are helpful. Whenever I need advice, I ask three or so, and then see which answer suits best my life and my conditions. It is easy as that.
And honestly, if you do not want children – well, then do not have any. It is fine. I never assume that all women want children, never have. And I have not met one women who assumed this. Perhaps our parents’ generation thought like that? Certainly not my generation any more, and I think I am a few years older than you. At the same time, I had to justify a few times my decision to have children. So it seems my experiences are very different from yours.
And no, I do not live in Lala-Land. I know very few competitive moms, but so far I was able to shrug it off and laugh. I hope it stays like that. 🙂 Btw, these Super-moms (and Dads!) are great for asking for advice. They are often proud to share their knowledge. Yay to that. 😀

Link Love (23/06/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope

[…] “I’ve spoken to other non-mothers around my age and whether they’ve chosen to not have children or haven’t conceived yet, pretty much all have said they’ve felt this vibe from mothers. A kind of superiority – as though their womanhood has been validated by giving birth. They are now part of a club that us non-mothers are not welcome to. Phrases like ‘such and such made no sense to me….until I became a mother’ are bandied around, as though we cannot fully understand the meaning of life until we’ve procreated.” The Mother Vs Non-Mother Divide – Bangs and a Bun […]

Kathleen

I have a number of women in my family who have chosen through one circumstance or another not to have children. No one in my family questions it. It’s just fact. They travelled a slightly different path. When I had my first child my mother could not contain her disbelief as she had prepared herself for me not having children, being the career driven person she had seen me grow into. I did not plan it, it was not my life’s ambition for me to have a baby (or two) but it did. I cannot say would my life be better for not having children as that is something I will never know.
I have friends who have children and I have friends without. Some have made it clear they will not have kids, some are not sure yet. If they want to talk about it to me then that’s fine. What I will not do is judge women in terms of whether they have children or not. It’s not something men do and I do feel our society has become a tad mumcentric. It makes me sad to think that women without children will automatically think I’m going to judge them for not having kids. Really sad in fact.
I am going through an awful time in my life right now and one of the people who has been a rock to me is a lifelong friend who doesn’t have children. I have no idea what this means in terms of this essay of a comment I am writing. I would hate to think my friend thought I thought less of her because she has chosen not to have kids. I don’t, I think she’s wonderful.

catherine

I’m not a mother or a non mother, I’m a 20 year old women who as always wanted children and hopes to have them one day or if not adpot, yet as I work with children everyone thinks I should hate children because I work with them! If I’m talking to a mother and they need advice, if I give advice they never want to take it because I don’t have kids, even though I work with children etc, I understand its not the same but the looks and comments I get from mothers because I do have a mothering streak in me yet don’t have children. It drives me mad we are all human isn’t that enough?

Joan

What about the complete opposite. I’m a new mom who does not want to be defined as a mom. I’m a woman first.

Bella

The comments about the inequality hit home with me: those who’ve had children seem to feel entitled to pass comment on the child free, often implying our lives are aimless, irresponsible and wild (seriously…memes on Facebook about how before kids they could sit in the bathtub at 3pm with a gin and tonic….because child free women don’t have jobs, clearly!). If a non-mother passed a similar comment about mothers we’d be inundated with “how dare you…” Etc. The latest trend Is to share an article which speaks about how everyone should revere parents and thank them for procreating or order to prevent our extinction….because having a child is the only way anyone can contribute to society as a whole, isn’t it?!

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