Is It Selfish to Want a Baby?

Is it selfish to want a baby
Does wanting a baby make you selfish?

Is it selfish to want a baby? I was recently asked this question and it surprised the heck out of me. As a childless woman by choice, my decision always had people judging me as selfish. I never understood the connection between wanting a baby and selfishness. However, I think I am alone on this one as it feels like a common judgment related to becoming a parent.

Whether you want a child or do not want a child, the judgment seems to be the same these days – you are selfish!

In regard to being selfish when one wants a baby, I hear this more and more around the issues of climate change and all the other “news” of the day that makes anyone want to pull out their hair. How can someone actively decide to bring a baby into this world when it is what it is today?

Biology — first and foremost. Humans are wired to reproduce. Although we are thinking mammals, we are mammals and we are here to leave our actual DNA behind. Although there are all of the modern dating apps and anguish over meeting the right mate, the whole point of it is as old as the hills. We are meant to find a mate and reproduce. Nothing selfish about our biological desire to have a baby.

Hopefulness — to desire to have a baby automatically makes you an optimist in my book. To have a child is to invest in the future and to believe it will be and can be good. There is faith that mankind will continue and in our evolution good will come to bear. I don’t see anything selfish in optimism.

Personal fulfillment — now this is where the decision to have a baby or not may be judged as selfish. I am not exactly sure when the judgment came about to call someone selfish when they are fulfilling their heart’s desire. Is it from the “other” who is not leading a life of personal fulfillment? I often think that those who are negative in their judgments of people are unhappy.

Regarding personal fulfillment, desiring a baby can be about fulfilling a deep well inside that seeks to procreate in order to experience not only wanting a baby, but having one and raising a child. The relationship between parent and child is one of the most significant that humans can experience. It is not selfish to want to be a parent to a child.

What can be said for the era we are living in? My guess is through all of the ages the world was in a challenging space in one way or another. That’s why it is not only important to hold on to one’s optimism, but also to think through how you will raise your child — aware of the climate change issues, modeling sustainable living practices, and being curious about the issues we are facing and helping our children to think about creative solutions — this is the next generation after all.

Wanting a baby and thinking you are selfish? Nah. Don’t take on such a judgment. Be aware of your intention and desire for a baby and move forward without such negativity.

Whether you choose to have a baby or not, selfishness is not the core of the issue. Never has been — if you are wondering why someone may or may not want a child, ask and listen. Be open. Be curious. Drop the judgment.

Creativity Burst: Lady With Baguette

Lady With Baguette

Continuing my mid-summer break, here is an interesting photo that I took in Spain last year. I was walking along — she was strolling as any good local would do. Only thing — she had a baguette in her hand.

I usually think of carrying a baguette home wrapped in long paper — not her! She strolled along, baguette in hand.

I see a person like this and immediately begin to build a story in my mind about her and her baguette. Was she headed home to make a tasty lunch for herself and/or her family? Was she taking the bare baguette to a sick friend to cheer her? Was she about to hit someone over the head with it?

My mind went wild with my various stories but around this woman — this complete stranger — and her baguette. A creative little game I sometimes play when I want my mind to wander to someone and a story outside of myself. How could I resist with a picture like this?

What are you seeing today that you could build a creative little story around?

AKA Jane Roe

AKA Jane Roe

FX has put out a new documentary regarding Norma McCorvey AKA Jane Roe. Yes, the JANE ROE whom the famous Supreme Court decision regarding a woman’s right to an abortion is upheld. Norma is the woman whom the lawyers used to base their case on. Given how important and tumultuous this court decision was and is for American women, I wanted to tune in and watch this show to learn more about her.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I am questioning, however, if I am disappointed in who she is as a person or the way she was portrayed in the documentary. My guess is more of the former and then disappointment in how this played out in the women’s movement somewhat.

Norma appears to have been a woman who was traumatized as a child by a series of events, most not of her own making until she was old enough for them to be of her own making. From childhood sexual trauma, to reform school, to an alcoholic parent, to socioeconomic poverty, Norma experienced many early events set her up for a life that would be hard.

However, choices were made. She does get pregnant several times out of wedlock. She never had an abortion herself. However, when she sought an abortion in the state of Texas, the Doctor asked if she had been raped. She lied and said she had been. Even with this reason behind her, she could not access an abortion, but she makes a great plaintiff for two young lawyers who are looking for an economically poor woman who could not access a legal abortion in Texas. When they found Norma, she fit what they were looking for perfectly, and the fact that this pregnant happened by rape did not hurt the case.

Apparently, there is no mention of rape in any of the legal briefs, but the story of the plaintiff was known and many felt it was this unstated, but known, reason that Roe v. Wade came to become the landmark court case that ensured women access to abortion in the first three months of pregnancy.

What am I disappointed in? That Norma lied and then told the truth. It feels like this threatens the decision on some societal level that has played out again and again between the two sides of this debate ever since 1973. Even more disappointing was how leaders in the feminist movement saw Norma. She was not to be trusted because of her lie, but it was also insinuated in the documentary that leaders, like Gloria Steinem, did not want her to speak because she was not an educated, beautiful woman with means. These are the types of women who were invited to speak.

Now, the whole case was able to be put together because Norma was poor, uneducated, and without any means to help herself. Yet, when it really comes time to amplify these women’s voices, the women’s movement preferred Valerie Harper and Morgan Fairchild. I still feel much of the women’s movement is really about white women privilege and not really about serving women. This was a great disappointment for me to see in action.

Norma continues to pay the center stage actress in the debate regarding Roe v. Wade. Later in her life, she was paid great sums of money to switch sides and work with the evangelicals to try and overturn the Court’s decision. Her “deathbed confession” that is the center of this documentary has Norma giving one more shocking piece of information. She simply did all of that pro-life stuff for the money — she really stands by her pro-choice stance.

It was not a huge revelation to me. Norma seems to be mentally unwell and her decision to tell truths, lies, make decisions that give her money at the expense of others, and flippantly turn on herself and the movements at whim all serve herself and not much more. To me, this was quite disappointing. I wanted Norma to have raised herself up to be a woman of substance that was honest, truthful, stood by and for women, and whom others important in the movement would see and recognize, and that I could turn off this program and feel good about her, her life, and who the whole Supreme Court decision rode on.

Instead, this woman was traumatized, opportunistic, a survivor, and one who had no idea what it all meant outside of herself and which side was buttering her up depending on which stage of life she was in. She was used by both sides, but willingly. At some point, I found myself fed up with Norma and who she is as a person.

Yet, she was real. She is the face of millions of women who seek reproductive medical care for themselves each and every day. She lives on for the original bravery to stand up for herself. We have a lot to say thank you to her for, but it’s good to know the entire picture and realize all people are complex, complicated, and even, for me with Norma, disappointing.

How can anything good come out of such a person? And yet her impact is great for those who agree with whatever side she was on when she was on it.

Book Review: Women Rowing North

Women Rowing North Book
Rowing North as We Age

Women Rowing North not only focuses on women over the age of 50, but actually targets women, in my opinion, who are over 70.

I have to admit I loved Mary Pipher’s book Reviving Ophelia that was published back in the 1990s and looked underneath the surface of what adolescent girls experience during this time in their lives. Back then, I was closer to adolescence and had barely settled into young adulthood and so it felt like a thunderbolt to have someone take interest and speak truths about what I and my friends had experienced. It was ground-breaking and revolutionary in many ways for me.

So, when Pipher followed up this book with her new book published at the beginning of 2019, Women Rowing North, I was interested as I was now firmly in middle age and rowing north toward old age myself, but not quite there yet. I also bought a copy for my Mother, who is in her late 70s. I was curious to hear her take on this book as she was living this time in her life and I was still gazing at what is to come for me from a distance.

Pipher, in all honesty, paints a rosy, upbeat picture for women over the age of 60 who are still looking to find joy and happiness in their lives. I am taken aback that the target audience for this book is women over 60, because as I read the book it felt more like women over the age of 75. For me, gazing down the path toward old age, I was struck by how small life becomes and where we must look to find our joy and pleasure.

I remember one passage from Women Rowing North encouraging women to take time during their days to look at their pictures and play music that takes them to happy times in their lives. For some reason this idea depressed the heck out of me. That as I row north, it will be more about recalling memories rather than creating new ones during this phase of my life. When I discussed it with my Mother she agreed that it is pretty bleak in that way — that life becomes smaller, especially with health considerations on board. Hmmm…the ideas Pipher came up with seemed to overwhelm me.

For my Mom, not so much. She found it interesting, truthful, held some solid ideas for how to manage one’s time, but all-in-all she felt that it was a little too pollyanna even for her. It can’t all be rosy days as you age. So, she felt, at her age, Pipher was painting somewhat of an optimistic look at this stage of life. For me, squarely in middle age, what Pipher speaks to scared me beyond belief.

Is this a book I would recommend given all of this? Well, I respect the author and what she is trying to provide to elderly women, but I am not at all sure she really hits the mark and speaks to their experience. For those of us not in this stage, I would just keep it on the bookshelf for a few decades and pull it out around the age of 65 to 70 for some hopeful anecdotes that surely will be tempered as we row north.

Book Review: In Our Prime

 In Our Prime Book

I like the idea of “In Our Prime” — that prime means aging and not youth.

Currently, I am watching a show on HULU called Mrs. America, which takes us to the era of the early 1970s when the ERA movement was active, strong, and fighting for equal rights for all women in America. Phyllis Schlafly is the nemesis who fights against the big names, like Gloria Steinem, who we all know fought for the ratification of the ERA across all states in America. It is an interesting look at the era and how women fought one another in a fight that seemingly should have united the sex rather than divide.

It is out of this context of thinking about this era and these great female leaders that I have picked up the book In Our Prime How Older Women are Reinventing the Road Ahead by Susan J. Douglas. The book focuses on women of the Baby Boomer generation and how they are perceived by society, politics, and media today. It has been close to 50 years since the fight to ratify equal rights for women played out. This book takes a look at where the movement is today for older women, i.e. post 50 years old.

As an aside, one thing that bothers me about this book is she groups everyone 50+ as a Baby Boomer. This is not accurate. It is about 56+ for women to be in this generation today. Perhaps this is because I am nearing the age of 50 and am proud to be a part of Generation X.

Douglas is looking at the perception of women from the different angles of society. American society has a “throw away” concept of older women, which is referred to as “gendered ageism” — that makes sense. It follows the old adage that men only get better with age like wine, unlike women. Douglas points to movies that perceive women in these ways. Old or older women really have no place.

The estrogen is dried up and gone, the woman’s baby factory is long since shut down — so now what is her use to society? I believe that this thinking hasn’t changed much even as the fearless women of the 70s fought to be seen as more than a choice to marry and have children. And, yet, as women age this is exactly the reason we are disregarded — the purpose of our sex is over. Men get better as they age especially if they can find a woman who is still alive with the potential for mating and reproduction.

This book argues for women to be seen equally in society as we age. Much like the women who fought in the 70s for women to have choice personally and professionally, now the fight is on for the older woman to be seen as one with dignity, purpose, and as an active, valuable part of society. The author provides some quick ideas for late age activists, like groups of women coming together to figure this out and then rallying around equity, particularly around healthcare.

It seems that we women will always have a fight on our hands with society and other women to try and establish a place in society that is fair and equitable throughout the lifespan. This book reminds us that the battle has never really been won, but is a continual one that needs attention, persistence, and activism throughout life.

It is worth a read — and there are a few more books that I want to highlight regarding aging woman, particularly one that focuses on elderly women and where we go when the end of life is near and the time is more for reflection and less about action. That time is also on its way.

Dear Therapist: Stuck in a Role

Happy woman cooking dinner

Dear Therapist,

I am married and living a traditional married life in many ways. Although I work outside the home, I also do most of the cooking and cleaning. My Mom did the same and it never looked that hard for her when I was a kid. Now, in the role, not only is it hard, I am not that interested. I am stuck in the role of “wife” and don’t know how to break out? Help!

Sincerely, Sick and Tired of Cooking & Cleaning

How easy it is to not only pick up on roles that society expects of us when we take on the role of wife, but also act on them without any thought whether or not you want the role. If you saw your Mother play this role in your family, it may be even more difficult to break out of something that just doesn’t suit you.

However, you are looking to break out and so you are recognizing that there is a choice other than being stuck in a prescribed role. There are two parts to making the change.

First, getting honest with yourself. What do you want your role of wife to look like in your marriage? Are there any chores you don’t mind doing? Or circumstances under which you don’t mind doing them? What are the things you absolutely never want to touch again? Becoming honest with what you do and do not want to take on as far as these responsibilities is the important first step.

Second step is to have a heart-to-heart with your partner. Perhaps he is just assuming that you don’t mind. Perhaps he saw his own Mother take care of all of this like you and thinks that’s the way it is supposed to be. Perhaps he has space to participate alongside you? This may not be the easiest conversation, but it may be one that leads you to a new role in your marriage.

Things won’t change overnight. You may give up the dishes to him and he may get it done in two days not in the next two hours. As your roles shift, stress points will arise. Being able to keep a sense of humor as well as a commitment to the new way of being and doing within your marriage are the keys to making change.

By all means, break out! We are told in a million ways each day from the start of life what we are expected to do, be, have in our relationships. Unwinding those ideas and finding the way forward that works for you is the key.

Book Review: Recipe For A Perfect Wife

A happy woman washes a dish amidst marital bliss

Given my thoughts earlier this week on the viral video, Be a Lady They Said, I thought it only appropriate to focus on this new little book, Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown. Although this is a fiction book and not a viral video, here too we find a story about women fitting into a role they have been taught to aspire to in society. In this case, marriage!

Recipe for a Perfect Wife Book

Basically, the modern-day story is one we know all too well. A woman marries, follows her husband to the suburbs, and sets up a life for him and for her that is less than appealing. After all, our character left an exciting job in the big city.

The story gets interesting when this modern woman finds an old cookbook that belonged to a wife from a gone-by era in this same home who cooks her way to happiness(?) — actually to a mystery — in order to be the perfect wife of her times. Between following her recipes, our modern-day gal begins to piece together the real life of this perfect wife and begins to take courage in crafting her own life in the times she is living in — maybe with a secret or two in the mix.

It’s another tale of trying to prescribe to women who they are to be in any given marriage in any given era. There are many quotes, recipes, and puns to lead the way and give guidance in this book, but in the end it’s ultimate lesson is that women must define this for themselves. Hard to do in a society where we are told to be a lady at every turn and what exactly that means.

It feels like in the end times haven’t changed that much. I devoured this book because of the movement back and forth between the old and new ways that women try to make married life work for them. Although we think it is so far removed from yesterday, but, in fact, women have been trying to carve out their lives in secret for generations — even right up until today.

With no answers given, it is still a pleasure to read the recipes, take in the quotes, see how one woman tries to guide another and then reflect on how we define ourselves in our own marriages. The reflection is strong I believe.

Be A Lady, They Said Video

Cynthia Nixon recites the impossible standards women and girls face in Be a Lady They Said video.

Be a Lady, They Said is a video that has gone viral. More than 4 million views and counting at the time I am writing this. Cynthia Nixon gives a brief recitation of the impossible standards that girls and women face in society each day of their lives. From food intake to emotional pain to wight gain and loss to sexual freedom that may lead to being a hoar. This little six-minute video says it all.

It is exactly how Nixon delivers the message that packed a punch in my gut. She lists all the messages – and they go on and on – and each is displayed with its own powerful image to match what people have said about being a lady. I will admit I have heard every one of these statements either in regard to myself or another whom I know.

The litany of ironic messages had my head swirling. Is it any wonder that any girl or woman can grow up in society feeling safe, secure, and knowledgable of herself in her own skin? Nah, too many mixed messages coming in from everywhere to distort truth.

As I watched the video, I wondered about all of the girls I know who are in middle or high school today. I was horrified to think they are receiving these same messaged and are trying to navigate them in an ever-changing, fast-paced world that holds little value for critical thinking and conversation.

However, Nixon has given us an opportunity for us to watch this video with our girls and discuss these messages and how they are seen, felt, and understood and how will they handle the pressure of ironic messages. How will we as adults put aside these messages — some we may even abide by – in order to help our girls sort out the implicit messages given on an explicit level.

Although difficult, the video packs a punch that should not be ignored by anyone.