Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Okay, there's this little bee in my bonnet, and if I don't let it out it's going to keep repeatedly stinging me...

A month or so ago I noticed an article floating about on Facebook that women were posting to their profiles by the dozens. Nosy - and always happy to procrastinate - I of course clicked on the article's thumbprint to see what it was all about.

In a nutshell, it was a "Dear Abby" style column. A reader had written in asking why her girlfriends with children always claimed to be so busy and were generally unavailable after having kids. She couldn't figure out why someone who works full time (as she does) who shares many of the same responsibilities as people with children (cooking, cleaning, errands, etc.) could manage to make time for friends, when those home caring for children couldn't.

Yes, it's ignorant (in the, "she has no idea what she's talking about", sense of the word).

But I think it is possible that someone young and childless might have absolutely no idea what motherhood entails - or that it is a 24/7 job, particularly when children are tiny - especially if she hasn't been around children all that much.

Before I started trying to get pregnant (and reading all the books and magazines that you read when you're preparing to raise a child), I really didn't know the full scope of the whole motherhood thing - the mechanics and details of it all, I mean. I didn't know how many times a newborn poops, or how often they feed, or how little they sometimes sleep during the night, or how often they need to be held, or how hard breastfeeding can be - or how much sleep is lost by new parents because of all this.

I just didn't know.

Some might argue this sort of stuff is common knowledge, and that all women should have absorbed most of it by the time they're in their 20s - but I would argue that it's not. Certainly not for someone like me who was the baby in my family until a cousin was born when I was 20, finally bumping me out of last spot.

The reader's fatal mistake, I think, was implying that mothers are somehow lying about how much time it actually takes to raise a child. She suggested they are simply fudging the facts in an effort to outdo childless working women on the, "my life is harder than your life", scale.

Because yeah, that's just stupid. I absolutely have more "me" time than every single mother I know, and I would never try to suggest otherwise. Someone with a live-in nanny (who also does light housework and cooking) might have more me time than I do. But that's it.

I suppose the reason the article popped up all over Facebook profiles was because of the artful smackdown delivered by the columnist. She wasn't especially kind, and opted not to presume the reader was simply woefully ignorant.

Apparently it all struck a chord with mothers who, I can only assume, have been challenged in the same way the reader obviously challenged her friends with children.

And they got to postin' it on Facebook with a vengeance.

I have no particular problem with the article, nor do I think it was wrong of the columnist to point out the challenges of raising small children. I'm all for educating the masses. But I do have a problem with the way it spread like wildfire all over FB, and the gleeful way in which women were posting it, complete with, "AMEN!" and "YOU SAID IT, SISTER!" descriptors.

It was awkward for me - uncomfortable and alienating. And I just think it was unnecessary. Not the article, but the repeated (and sometimes smug) re-posting of it - meant, one can only assume, as a passive aggressive way to make a point to every childless FB friend. And in a way that rendered us completely unable to respond, lest we look like a collective pack of whiny, defensive assholes.

Each time I saw it on someone's profile it made me cringe. I wanted, but resisted the urge, to write "duly noted" in the comment section.

There's more than enough "us vs. them" dynamic out there in the big wide world. To ignite a battle between those with and those without children in a social forum like FB just seems pointless at best, dangerous at worst.

Ahhhhhh. That's better. Bee's gone now.


Beruriah said...

Are you kidding me? I'm glad that one didn't seem to circulate among my FB friends, many of whom are just that annoying. So one woman wrote a hasty letter.

Honestly. In my experience, my friends without children actually overestimate how busy I am and are overly apologetic about complaining about how busy they are.

I just don't feel the oppression. I think they're bragging.

Mrs. Spit said...

@ my blog (when I ventured into this dangerous territory) Julie called them the mini van mafia. I am still smiling at that.

Illanare said...

Thank you for your supportive comments on my blog.

I haven't had that article circulate around my FB friends either but I'm not sure that I would have been polite enough not to comment "duly noted" !

Michele said...

I dont think any of us knew how much time motherhood was, even those of us planning to be SAHMs. Bobby and Maya are moving towards a year old (next month) and still, when I look at my house (a wreck most days), my lack of time with friends (sans a baby in tow), etc, I think "I stay at home! I should have time for this!" But the kids... They are only small once, and would I rather miss it to have a clean house? Miss a first step because of a coffee date? Miss putting them to bed or hearing them say "mama" and reach for me to cuddle? Not in a heartbeat.

My childless friends are understanding that babies are babies only for so long. We either go place with them, or they endure texts back and forth with me running Mom interference from the coffeeshop down the way. It is what it is. In 20 years, we'll be missing how small they were.

Megan said...

I have a small kid and if pregnancy #5 pans out a second on the way but I just don't buy that mothers have a free pass to completely bail on their friends.
Do these kids not have fathers?
After the very early days, surely you can drag yourself away from you darlings for a dinner out?