I’ve never been a huge fan of children, but I pretended that I was to score a job at a parenting magazine in 2007.
It was actually just an internship, at first. I assembled strollers and sent moms new products and looked at photo after photo of their children. As I hung around the editors, they started to give me more responsibility, until I found myself entrenched in the subject matter with a full-time job -- writing articles about toddler behavior and researching pregnancy.
As I started writing articles, I obviously had to do a lot of research. I knew absolutely nothing about pregnancy, childbirth, or kids. You’d probably like to think that people who write those articles are experienced mothers (as if there is any other kind), but surprise! It was often just me, Googling shit. And calling my mom.
When writing articles and manning the community boards, I actually made up children to write about, pretending that I was a mother, so I could write about parenting topics. I would call my mom and say, “Mom, do kids poop in the bathtub?”
“You did,” she’d say.
So I would write about how my fake son Leo or fake daughter Francis (Francis was “a pistol” and Leo was “a fish in the water at swim lessons”) pooped in the bathtub. It was totally fake, but it was the only way I could communicate with these mothers, with whom I had basically nothing in common.
I would listen to the mothers and compare their experiences with my mom’s. I would call her and say, “Mom, did you have time to go to the bathroom when I was a baby? These moms are saying they DON’T HAVE TIME TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.”
And, “Mom, did they CUT OPEN YOUR VAGINA WITH SCISSORS because I just had to Google episiotomy and LOST MY LUNCH.”
“Yeah, I had an episiotomy,” my mom said. “And moms who say they don’t have time to go to the bathroom are just whiners.”
Why had my mom not brought up this episiotomy thing before? If I snipped open my vagina for another human being, I would hold it over their heads for the rest of their lives. I would never let them forget what I did for them. Why wasn’t this common knowledge? Why weren’t moms bitching and rioting? I felt guilty for existing.
What I learned there not only scared me away from motherhood, it put me in awe of what my own mother had done for me, and what your mother has done for you, too. It also taught me that moms are insane.
I used to see motherhood as a beautiful, selfless thing. My mother gave away her body and soul to me, her life and her money. She still does. But as I continued to work with mothers, to talk with them, I realized that moms are actually the most selfish people in the universe.
A mother is like that annoying, over-achiever in your physics class who spent 80 hours on homework and is willing to protect her work to the death. She cares about her work because it is a piece of herself. When mothers care about their children, they are caring about themselves.
I also could not believe the bitter arguments mothers had on the parenting website. These women were the most judgmental people I have ever encountered, ripping each other to shreds because they felt their parenting methods were the best.
If you want to piss off a community of moms, just voice your opinion on breastfeeding or cosleeping. Whichever side you choose in any parenting argument, you will find fired up opponents who basically think you should go to hell for your choices. A mother who honestly wrote, “I choose to feed my baby formula,” would get comments saying, “You don’t deserve to have children,” and, “You are a horrible mother.” It was like parenting was bringing out the worst in these women.
I interviewed one of the most hated mothers ever -- Michelle Duggar. People hate her because they think that she should have used birth control and had fewer children -- that she raises a family like it’s a business. They think she can’t possibly be a good mother to twenty kids. But if you ever watch her show, "19 Kids & Counting," you’ll notice that her family is a well-oiled machine and her kids are polite and well-behaved. They’re more mature than most of the kids I see in public and at restaurants.
And why does anyone care what Michelle Duggar has done? All mothers are making life-altering decisions every minute of the day. Leave her alone.
I mean, I get it. It probably is hard to shoot an alien-like shitter out of your ass, have it clamp onto your nipple, and then never ever go away. That loss of identity and stress that someone is completely dependent on you is surely enough to unravel even the strongest woman.
So while we don’t always hear mothers complain about what they went through, we see and hear the effects of what they’ve sacrificed by how they treat others and how they raise their children.
Maybe that episiotomy snip doesn’t just open the vagina -- maybe, in a way, it turns mothers into insane, selfish beasts. I don’t want to turn into a monster, so I’m not sure I want to be a biological mother.
As I grow older, I've started thinking that I would actually be a better mother to someone else’s child.
Biological moms see their own kids as their physics projects. Their work. They think their kids are perfect. If I were raising someone else’s child, I think I would treat that child like a person, honestly, thinking of his welfare with the best, most objective intentions. I would know that this little person wasn’t perfect and I would do everything, to the best of my ability, to make them the happiest, most well-raised human being I could, without thinking that they were “just like me.”
Their struggles and flaws wouldn’t be struggles and flaws that I gave them, they wouldn’t be struggles and flaws that came from my genes -- they’d be universal issues that anyone could have. Addressing them with an open mind would make me tackle problems better.
Ultimately, biological mothers’ insane judgment comes from the insecurity that they aren’t doing a good job. And most of that insecurity is fueled by the bitchiness of other mothers. I hope that if I’m ever a mother, I can ignore that noise. That I can be confident in my work as a mom, unfazed by the unfound criticism I receive, and that I can keep my own parenting theories to myself, knowing that they are not the best theories for everyone. (Even if I think they are best for me.)
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