Former Judgmental “Non-Breeder”-Turned-Mom Is Still Just As Judgmental As Ever.
The criticism Melissa Jenna doesn’t want anyone to see.
The article that I am about to quote in full comes from the website MelissaJenna.com and is entitled: Confessions of a Former “Non-Breeder.” Before I even read the article, I noticed something odd in the comments section (I often read the comments first as the discussions on articles related to childfreedom are often more interesting than the article itself.)
What stuck out to me first is how overwhelmingly positive most of the comments were, in support of the author. Ok, that itself isn’t too odd. It’s true that most of the comments that I have received on this blog are positive and in general agreement with me. Mine is a blog that selects its audience and rarely attracts people likely to dissent.
The only criticism came in the form of a single comment which was mostly written in ALL CAPS and carried a few choice insults directed towards the author, but little real meritorious criticism. In an apparent act of graciousness, the author approved the comment (the comments were moderated. I moderate comments here too, but only because I receive a lot of spam,) and, in her response to the comment, made a point of saying that she was allowing it.
“I’m approving this comment, not because I agree with or condone anything it has to say, but because hiding this garbage, or pretending it doesn’t exist, doesn’t help anyone.”
Curiously, despite the response to that particular criticizing comment, Melissa Jenna did not approve and -yes- appears to be hiding the comment that I left after reading the article. When I read the article, I found Jenna to be as self-righteous and judgmental still as she, in her article, laments being prior to breeding. That comment has not yet appeared on her article, despite other comments having been approved in the days in between, of which I was automatically notified via E-mail as I selected “ Notify me of follow-up comments via email” when I submitted my comment (so I know she hasn’t just been away, unaware of comments.) I’m inclined to speculate that Jenna is very selective in what comments are shown on the post, allowing only those that are in agreement with her, or which are so angry in tone as to make her look good anyway. My comment, which fit into neither category, is not shown. So I will show it here.
I won’t get into it too much just yet, as I saved a copy of my comment to her which I will show later down in this post. First, I’d like to show everyone Jenna’s article, copied in full. My response follows below it.
Before I was a mother, pregnancy and childbirth gave me the heebie-jeebies. It just seemed so…gross. The idea of another living-thing living inside of me would literally make me nauseous if I thought for too long about it. I couldn’t help but likening pregnancy to those urban legends about earwigs laying eggs in people’s brains and stuff. (Don’t ask me what was wrong with me, because I haven’t a clue. Not a clue.) And childbirth just seemed so…animalistic. So below the innate dignity of human beings. And I know what many of you are thinking: pregnancy and childbirth are both natural and necessary for the survival of our species. Trust me, I get it now, but for many many years, simply the word “pregnant” made me shudder. (To be honest, I still avoid using the word “pregnant” whenever possible, mostly because we DO use it to describe both animals and people, and that bothers me. So I say “expecting a baby” whenever I can.)
And I already wrote a while ago about how I used to be a self-righteous, judgmental jerk, referring to parents as “breeders” and children as “spawn,” so when I began reading this series on Slate regarding people who are against having children, my interest was piqued. They’ve done a whole series on people who have decided, for a plethora or reasons, to remain childless. There’s one article about a man who was very concerned with his “career mobility,” one on a woman who had hertubes-tied at 26 years old because she was afraid she’d repeat the abuses of her parents, one where a woman called babies “alien parasites,” (me and that girl would have been BFFs back in the day), and one where the writer described a “baby-shower” she attended for a women who was not having a baby, but was releasing her first book. (Yeah, because those two things are SO similar. Does your book wake you up to breastfeed every hour and a half?) I hear so much of my former self in each of the women interviewed for the series: the self-righteousness, the judgement, the fear, the selfishness, the insistence that there “is no such thing as a biological clock,” and the unwillingness (or inability) to value motherhood equally to success in the marketplace. And it makes me so sad for them.
The series of articles makes it very clear that the child-free do not want to be pitied, and that they find my feeling sad for them to be offensive. But here’s the thing: I used to be one of “them,” a self-proclaimed non-breeder. A girl who used to go around proudly telling people that “I love my life too much to have kids.” And now that I’m on the other side, I realize not only how wrong I was, but how immature and completely bone-headed I was being. I was like so many young women, walking around with lower-back tattoos or breast implants: I made a decision that was right for me at the time, without fully understanding the longterm ramifications. Without leaving room for myself to change my mind in the future. I guess the good thing about being a self-righteous non-breeder is that it’s much easier to go back and change your mind than if you’re walking around with a tramp-stamp, or massive barbie-boobs.
The unifying tone that I hear, in each of the articles in the series, is a powerful aversion to wisdom from those who have “been there and done that.” None of the non-breeders interviewed wants to deign to hear anything a former non-breeder like myself would have to say. They effectively plug their ears and “lalalalala I can’t heaaar you” their way through the series, never once really hearing that there are so many women who used to feel just like them. They have the tone of a petulant twelve year old girl, being advised by her mother, that she will, in fact, find love again. (“No I won’t! He was SPECIAL! YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ME!” I can hear them sobbing, storming out of the room and slamming the door behind them.)
I want to tell the self-righteous non-breeders that I understand that feeling. I mean, honestly, no one wants to feel immature, or that their thoughts aren’t special. But listen: countless women have thought to themselves the very same thoughts you do regarding having children. Most of them, myself included, have found themselves on the other side of the situation, raising a child, and realizing just how wrong they were about the whole thing; motherhood has blessed us with an ability to understand ourselves, and life, in a deeper and more gratifying way than our careers ever could have (not to mention all the other blessings motherhood brings). We know this because we’ve been there, shouting from the rooftops that we’d remain childless forever, and we feel foolish about that whole thing now.
Notice that I am NOT saying that it’s everyone’s “destiny” to have children. If you hate children, I’d rather you don’t. What I am saying is that you need to leave yourself some wiggle-room. You need to keep your mind open to the possibility that you might change your mind one day. Try not to make being a non-breeder so much of your identity, that when your biological clock starts ticking, it ushers in with it an existential crisis. I used to be just like you, and here I am, twenty-eight years old, telling you that having a child was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Just consider that you might not know it all. And don’t go rushing to get any crazy tattoos, either.
(Edited to reflect that one of the articles I originally attributed to a woman was actually written by a man. Oddly enough, I remember telling myself to use gender-neutral language in describing the series, because men do weigh-in, but it look like I forgot that when writing about it. Thanks Laney for the heads-up!)
Should people who choose to be parents give themselves “wiggle room” in case they decide they want to dump their kids? Should they avoid making “parent” too much of their identity? As far as I know, hospitals and the like still accept abandoned children under certain ages. Do you think you might just drop yours off some day? Statistically, those who choose to have children are far more likely to regret it than those who do not, and I see new blogs, websites, and facebook groups every day for such regretful parents. Why don’t you consider that YOU don’t know it all? Having kids is the “tattoo” that you can’t undo. You’re the one leaving yourself no wiggle-room.
There is no such thing as a “biological clock” as you mean it. There is a set timeframe in which a woman is fertile, but there’s no evidence to suggest that biological urge to breed actually changes with it. No, people jump to breed on impulse because they see that they will soon no longer have the option. It’s sort of like when I see a sale on an item I don’t particularly need, but see that it will only be on sale for 24 hours so I jump on it. Those of who actually bother to give the prospect of breeding serious thought well beforehand, however, aren’t affected by an imaginary biological clock. Quit blaming biology myths and own your choices.
I think you’re still very much judgmental, as evidenced by your representation of the Slate articles, none of which I found to be self-righteousness, judgmental, fearful, or selfish in the least. I believe that those accusations are baseless and low. I do agree with what what you said the Slate articles suggest, motherhood is NOT as valuable as career. Not only that, but motherhood doesn’t give anyone some higher understanding of life that is not accessible to non-mothers. Has it occurred to you that you’re biased as a mother and now in a position where you find it advantageous to over-value and exaggerate motherhood (as it strokes your own ego,) and that’s why you lash out with these petty insults whenever other people do not play along with your self-aggrandizing natalsim-worship?
Really, you even attacked a “baby-shower” celebration for a book on the grounds that it doesn’t scream at night. The way I see it, that would make the book MORE deserving of celebration as it’s better on those grounds alone. I’d certainly be more inclined to congratulate someone on writing a book, as that’s a creation of the mind that took much thought an effort. Meanwhile, any rat can breed, it doesn’t take talent or thought (most times, it happens due to an absence of thought.) Writing a book is an accomplishment deserving of praise and attention, and is a gainful contribution to society (unless it’s Twilight.) Breeding is not an accomplishment, and it can be argued that it’s actually detrimental to society when we live in a world that is already dangerously overpopulated, had rapidly depleting resources, and is suffering wide-spread ecological decay. And yet, you don’t hear me criticizing strangers for having baby-showers (although I never attend or contribute myself) do you? No. Check your judgmental attitude.
The truth is, you haven’t changed a bit. You’re just as self-righteous and judgmental as ever. One more thing, you were NEVER childfree. You were only pre-childed. As someone who is actually childfree, I can tell you that those are NOT the same. You may as well pretend that you understand asexuality (look it up,) as there was likely a time in your life where you weren’t interested in sex. Changing your mind is OK, but DON’T pretend you were ever like us. Get off you high horse and don’t even pretend that you understand – you don’t. We actually know what we want with our lives and follow through.
I had a tubal ligation at 22. It was the BEST decision that I have ever made, hands down. I have more “wiggle room” than you. I can still adopt, if I want to (and I can tell you right now that I won’t.) My only effect from my chosen sterility is – NOTHING! Nothing changes. My life is at best, preserved, and at worst, completely unchanged. Can you return your kid if you change your mind about motherhood, just undo the birth and get your life and body back exactly as it was? You’re the one stuck with the long-term ramifications, not me. How would you like it if I told you that I pitied you for your non-undoable “tattoo” that apparently wakes you up more often than you’d like and has long-term ramifications? You might just consider that a tad bit judgemental, wouldn’t you?
Although I admit that my comment response is a tad bit ranty, I think I make some valid points (regardless of whether or not Melissa Jenna agrees.) If it is the case that Melissa Jenna considers my response to be garbage, then I wonder who she thinks is helped by her hiding it?