I’m not ordinarily a fan of open letters but my panties were in such a huge bunch after reading this letter that I had to respond with one of my own.
I’m going to assume it’s okay to call you that even though we don’t know each other because you made so many assumptions about people you don’t know that we’ll start this by leveling the playing field.
With that out of the way, I want to say, from one mom to another, congrats on your baby. Motherhood is a wild ride and I wish you only the best.
Now let me say this–how fucking dare you pass judgement on anyone who doesn’t want to have kids. That is their business, not yours. How fucking dare you attempt, with your holier than thou attitude, invalidate all their reasons not to have kids. All of the reasons you sarcastically and condescendingly dismissed are legit, completely valid reasons to not have children. And you know what else is a completely valid reason? NOT FUCKING WANTING THEM. That’s it. That’s all that it is. If someone doesn’t want to have kids, that’s fine and it’s not for you to comment on. I’ve been a mom for 10 years now and if there’s one thing I learned it’s that someone else’s uterus is none of my fucking business.
Also, I’m concerned why you care. Are you looking for mom friends? We can be friends. I’ll talk to you about all things motherhood. Are you looking for kudos that you’re a mom? Well, that you’re not going to get from me. Are you looking for content pieces that stir up controversy? To that I say, well done! Mission accomplished!
But seriously, it really shouldn’t matter to you if someone has a child or not. It is a huge responsibility and if someone doesn’t want to make that choice, it’s really not your place to push it on them. If anything, it’ll just make people hate you. I’m pretty sure that’s the last thing you want or need right now. Being a mom is hard enough without you isolating your friends or getting hate mail from strangers on the internet. And let me be clear–I do not hate you. I don’t hate someone I don’t know (usually. There are some exceptions). I do, however, take issue with most of what you wrote and I feel compelled to address it not only on my behalf but on behalf of my friends who are childfree by choice and those who are without children for other circumstances (and, if there’s any doubt I stand in solidarity with my childfree friends, you should check out these promises I made to them a few years back).
You mention that people with children are less selfish and more aware of other children and more concerned with the future. I don’t even know where to start with that. Do you know many parents? Because I do. And I can tell you that I know parents who are 100 times more selfish and less concerned for the future than a good number of my childfree (childless is a rude word, by the way) friends. I have friends who volunteer and raise money and advocate and participate in activities that work to secure a better country, world, and yes, future, for OUR kids. They don’t have to do that. But they do. And I know parents who do absolutely nothing except rely on the actions of people like my friends to protect their kids.
Also, not having a biological child doesn’t mean you have no kids in your life. Those same friends I mentioned above? Almost all of them are aunts and uncles, and some are stepparents, to kids related by blood and by choice. They show up to birthday parties and recitals and babysit and do all the things parents do. Sometimes they even do them when the parents can’t (or won’t. But we won’t discuss that). They are role models and positive influences and affect the daily lives of these kids. They appreciate baby giggles and toddler cuddles and getting school pictures and all that jazz. And, believe it or not, they are aware of the plight of all children and want to see them live in a peaceful world as well.
Being a parent does not give you a monopoly or exclusive rights to awareness, empathy, and sympathy.
You mention leaving a legacy as part of that sympathy so let’s address it next. I agree with you that having a kid gives you an irreplaceable legacy. But why do you assume that nonparents can’t leave one? Look at Dolly Parton. She didn’t have kids and I can assure you that what she’s done for her industry and for her hometown and yes, kids, will live on way after she’s gone. We are all connected to the future and we all want to leave behind something better than what we were given. Not just parents.
Okay. Moving on to happiness. This topic is so broad that I could probably devote an entire website to it but rather than do that, I want to tell you this–being a parent doesn’t make you more or less happy than your friends who aren’t. It makes you differently happy. I don’t care what. “research” says. You cannot compare the two. There is a different joy that comes with seeing your kid walk for the first time than going to that amazing new restaurant. There is a different pleasure you derive from seeing your kid perform than seeing your favorite band. There is a different happiness you get from having your kid see Cinderella’s castle in person than hopping that last minute flight to London. I could go on but you seem smart so I won’t. But let me be clear–different does not mean less. It simply means different. And that is absolutely fine.
One final thing. I agree with you that parenting changes your perspective on the world. Being a parent means that you have to think about and focus on events and situations and make choices not only based on how they affect you but how they affect that tiny person you’re responsible for. It’s a lot of fucking pressure. It certainly isn’t fun most days, particularly those grueling newborn days. But it’s rewarding and wonderful and challenging and crazy and interesting and a choice I’m so glad I made. I believe you feel the same way. HOWEVER. It’s not for you to peer pressure someone else into doing it because parenthood is the best choice you made. It’s wrong. And offensive.
Before I sign off, I want to give you this pro parenting tip: Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you lose yourself. Being “mom” doesn’t mean you cease being “Jessica”. It’s important now, more than ever, to make sure you stay connected to your friends, family, and hobbies. Especially since your husband is overseas and you live far away from family, it’s crucial to do what you can to stay active and engaged with others. Bring your daughter along! Trust when I say that most people don’t mind if your daughter comes to lunch or to a Netflix binge. Yes, you might have to pause for a diaper change or a feeding but if it’s a true friend, they won’t care. And those are the people you’re going to need the most. But if your attitude towards them is the same one you portray in that letter, they’ll leave you. I guarantee it.
So, that’s it. I hope, if anything, you’ve learned that passing judgement on someone else’s reproductive choices is bullshit. Doing so deepens the divide and really, it accomplishes nothing. You need to be happy with your choice and let others be happy with theirs.