Welcome back to Parental Advisory, where I answer all of your social media and IRL parenting etiquette questions. This week, let’s talk about moms who relentlessly badger their childless friends about why they should have kids.
My best friend had a baby. Which was fine — I don’t hate children, I’ve worked with them and they’re okay. My problem is that every single time I see her (not very often) or speak to her, she’s constantly telling me that “one day I’ll change my mind and want kids! They change your life!! They’re just so excellent!!! They smile and the world is suddenly the best!!!!”
Let me clarify some things here.
Firstly, I’m going to college next year and I plan to be the disorganized, creative type for pretty much the rest of my life.
Secondly, I did want kids — when I was five years old and thought that that was a requirement. I had a doll that peed and I LOVED IT. (Until my twin siblings shoved raisins in every dent and hole there was, but that’s a story for another day.)
Thirdly, I’m currently facing infertility, and she knows. She fucking knows. She’s the only person I’ve told and we’ve talked about it so many times, so it’s not forgetfulness. She says it in front of a group of our friends and I have to play along. “Haha, yeah, maybe I’ll change my mind one day (and maybe I’ll grow a new, healthy uterus too)”
How do I get her to just stop asking me to push a watermelon out of my vagina? And more importantly, why is her OWN “little princess” not enough?
Whether it’s overt or slightly subversive, women are often told through media, schooling, our jobs, our families and our friends that being a mother is every woman’s supreme destiny, and to deny herself of the joy of motherhood would be a sad, desperate, lonely mistake. It sucks, because men aren’t fed this bullshit nearly as much as women are, and what we need in this world are more female CEOs, not men who manage to avoid certain trappings and are rewarded for it. When a woman chooses to be the “disorganized, creative type” (a description I love, by the way), she’s choosing to put herself and her interests and passions ahead of everything else. To some people, like me, that’s inspiring and pragmatic. To others, like your best friend, it sounds somehow “incomplete.”
Women should be praised, as men regularly are, for pursuing academic and career goals, but instead they’re met with frequent societal urges to have a baby, because babies are “just so excellent!!!” Think about all the 40-something actresses who do press junkets and still get asked dozens of times for hours on end if they want to have kids. It’s exhausting. Just being a woman and answering this question however many times throughout a lifetime must add up to at least a few months’ worth of explaining, which is why it’s especially frustrating when the one doing the prodding is a trusted friend. Women should never have to outline their stance on motherhood as it applies to them (or their bodies), and they certainly don’t need any added stress brought on by confidants.
It’s possible that your best friend just likes the idea of you being a mother and thinks you’d make a great mom. She might think she’s being playful or cute. She might also be living in a bubble. But the fact that she’s ignoring your health complications and ignoring your “playing along with her” approach in group settings tells me that her head is firmly lodged up her ass on this subject and she’s not reading whatever signs you may be putting out.
What you need to do is dispel her ignorance, privately, and explain that just because she’s having a great experience as a first-time mom doesn’t mean you want to have kids any time soon. Remind her that you’re facing infertility and you don’t know if she realizes how hurtful her casual references are. Tell her that you’re happy for her to love being a mom, but your plan is to discover who you are in college and then pursue unpredictable creative work before even thinking about starting a family. With any luck, she’ll find your aspirations as compelling a topic of conversation as the topic of motherhood. If she doesn’t, she’s probably not your best friend, and you might want to focus on other friendships for a while. Nothing helps you achieve your creative goals faster than surrounding yourself with other people who are pursuing their dreams. You already said you don’t see her that often, so maybe now is a time for you guys to do your own thing while still remaining friends. It happens to the best of us, and it doesn’t mean your friendship has to end.
Women who insist that other women become mothers because it’s “THE BEST!1!!!” don’t always realize how insensitive they sound. At the mercy of their hormones and with an awareness that they just made, carried and birthed a tiny human who brings them so much happiness, they become sheltered from certain realities. They disregard that friends might be going through a difficult time. They don’t accept that some women just don’t have the “mommy gene” and are fine with that. Women could literally shout from the rooftops that they’re happy just as they are, and will be forever, and they’d still encounter an assembly line of baby-diapering mommies telling them they’ll change their minds one day — and if they think they won’t, they really should.
It doesn’t help that articles circulate online with headlines like “America’s birth rate is now a national emergency” and “U.S. Birth Rate Falls Slightly While Death Rate Rises,” which play up this idea that women and their uteruses aren’t fulfilling their “job.” God forbid women opt out of motherhood and find other ways to “have it all.” The economy is counting on us!! It’s also worth mentioning that even when women do manage to balance impressive careers with motherhood, they’re sometimes revered more for the latter than the former — a fact we were all reminded of when The New York Times published a cringe-worthy obit about Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist who “made a mean beef stroganoff” and was declared “The world’s best mom” in the leading paragraph.
Or what about this headline about Rona Fairhead before she took over as the chair of the BBC:
The truth is, telling someone to have a baby is no different (other than the fact that it’s way more of a commitment) than telling someone to go paleo or join a Crossfit or watch all seven seasons of Shameless. It’s actually kind of funny, because wanting to have a baby is mostly a biological impulse, and if a person plans to have children (assuming she’s able to do so), she already knows. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her why or when or how many. She can make up her own damn mind in her own due time. If only more mothers acknowledged and respected that about their childless friends. In conclusion, J., your friend needs to focus on her own happiness and let you focus on yours.
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