I had to delete my first comment from my blog today*. It was written in response to a post I wrote last year called Regret Having Kids? Never! I’ve debated whether I should devote precious energy to responding to bitter Anonymous vitriol. I have no right to rant about viciousness even when it’s targeted at me. Ranting is wasteful. As St. Paul reminds us in today’s reading: “Do everything without grumbling or questioning…” (Philippians 2:14).
But this commenter seemed to think I was saying I was some kind of “holier than thou” saint who didn’t have a grasp on reality, so maybe I need to grumble just so she (I’m assuming Anon is a she) can see just how human I am. (I recognize that’s faulty logic, but cut the post-stomach-bug and tired preggo some slack.)
I used to be a pretty sensitive kid. I can remember fighting back the tears when a sibling jokingly called me Mrs. Piggy (I’d dressed up as the prim pig for Halloween) and on the school bus when a bully pointed at my dog book bag and yelled, “Hey, no pets allowed on the bus.”
These days, it takes a lot more to rattle me. However, if you start undermining motherhood or accuse me of being a “simpleton breeder” and having had a “low level of personal identity before children,” I start to get a teensy-weensy bit defensive. (Thankfully, I never was tempted to cry over her comments, although they did elicit a “Huh?” as well as a chuckle or two. You can’t take yourself or rancorous blog comments too seriously.)
Now I’m not going to rant (for too long by rambling Kate standards) or embrace the role of victim of blogging bullying, but at the risk of giving Anon more time and attention than she deserves and of preaching to the choir, I’m compelled to share a few thoughts, many of which are still in the embryonic stage (too tired to fully develop them) here:
• Avoid blatantly and personally attacking another blogger. I expected some negative comments to my few posts that dealt with politics or more controversial issues, but honestly I had no idea that me writing about not regretting having children would spur such hate. I admit I’ve stumbled across blogs that I’ve personally found offensive, but I don’t leave vicious comments. I just don’t read those particular blogs anymore. No one’s forcing me to read anything I don’t want to, although I do think it’s valuable to read things I don’t necessarily agree with. It’s also valuable to discuss disagreements without hurling insults. One of my dearest friends I’ve had since childhood and I don’t see eye-to-eye on politics or religion, but somehow we’re able to talk about these things in a kind manner without personally attacking one another. I also know that some of my Blogger “followers” don’t share all of my political, religious, mothering and other beliefs ( and I’m thankful for that diversity) and while I always welcome discourse, I don’t have any tolerance for hate mail.
• Now if you’re going to blatantly and personally attack someone, at least have the guts to do it in-person. Okay, so not really “in-person” (please don’t come to my house), but please don’t leave an anonymous comment. That makes it so much easier to be cruel. Send me an email. Point me in the direction of your own blog. Take some personal accountability for your words and your insults.
• In response to this: “Being a mother does not make you closer to being a saint. You are simply doing what most people would do in taking care of a life. You seem to be a very basic person, consumed with a regular existence and overly thrilled with normalcy.” I never intended to suggest I’m a saint. I’m far from it. I snap at my kids. I worry too much. I don’t pray enough. I waste my time writing posts like this when I should be doing a lot of other things. I have a foot odor problem.
Nonetheless, I do believe that striving to be an unselfish mother can make us more saintly. “Striving” is key. I, in no way, meant to imply that being a mom is easy-peasy for me all of the time. It’s downright tough; that’s what makes it sanctifying. But I’m not going to regret my motherhood or my children when the going gets tough, when I feel like I’m destined to wear bulky nursing bras for the rest of my life, when I’d rather be sleeping than cutting breakfast fruit up into minuscule pieces, when I have to forgo television (even basic cable), so we can afford necessities like food and health care. Having kids can be tough, but motherhood is also an opportunity for personal growth and a whole lot of happiness. I find all the good stuff kids bring into my life is much easier to spot if I’m not complaining or wallowing in self-pity for all that I’ve “lost” since becoming a mom.
Now Anon is right about one thing: I am simply doing “what most people do in taking care of a life.” Yet, I also aim to do it with love, without grumbling, and without seeing my children as an imposition or an inconvenience. I like to think that this kind of giving without complaining might help to make me a better person (whether you believe in saints or not). And if it does, then how can I regret my children – the very ones who help me to grow as a person and to look outside of myself?
As for me being a “basic person consumed with a regular existence and overly thrilled with normalcy,” Anon has me all wrong. My husband would definitely disagree on the “basic” part. I’ve been called complex and complicated on more than one occasion. Now I am very lucky to live a relatively “normal” life (we have no big health problems, that kind of thing), but sometimes I crave something outside of the regular existence and normalcy that practical family life demands. I’d love to be in Europe researching my next novel or sleep in until 8 a.m. or train for a triathlon, but right now these things aren’t feasible. And I try to accept that without deploring my children.
• And this: “[Your remarks] lead me to believe you had a low level of personal identity before children, so alas, they are your claim to fame and attention now.” Again, Anon’s got the wrong lady. In fact, it was much easier to feel “accomplished” and to have a “personal identity” when I had a monetary value placed on my work (AKA a paycheck), a job title other than “Mom,” or was writing for national glossies or wasn’t constantly losing my waistline to another pregnancy. But what is easier isn’t necessarily right or better for me as a person.
However, Anon hit the nail on the head when she wrote that my children are my “claim to fame and my attention now,” as they should be. Our kids are our most important “works in progress.” That’s where I got the title for my blog. I “will work for my children” even if it means motherhood monopolizes my life in many ways. When I’m tempted (and I am frequently tempted!) to feel like I need do more than the “menial” tasks of motherhood to feel “worthy” and like I have an identity, I have to remind myself of how selfish I’m being.
Now, please, don’t misunderstand me: I’m not saying I’m a “better” mom because I don’t work outside of the home anymore. I understand some family’s financial situations require them to work and I know this presents its share of challenges. When my first was born, my husband was still a student and I had to do a lot of freelance work to supplement our income. I still had bylines to give me an identity outside of Mom, but it came with a lot of stress. I just take an issue with someone suggesting that I had no life before I had kids. I had a great life, but I have a great life now, too. It’s just different.
• And to this: “True motherhood means letting [your children] be whatever they will be.” Really? Well, no wonder this commenter regrets having children. I might regret having children, too, if they were allowed be whatever they wanted to be, to run free with no limits, no rules, and no sense that the whole dang world doesn’t revolve around them. Perhaps Anon thought I was suggesting that if my children didn’t grow up sharing my faith (or any other way I want them to), I won’t love them. Wrong. I’ll love my children no matter “what they will be.” But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to work very, very hard at shaping them to be the kind of kids this world needs – kind, empathetic, unselfish kids who won’t regret having their own children someday. For me, raising my kids in the Catholic faith is very important, but whether we’re Catholic or not, shouldn’t we all want to raise unselfish, altruistic children rather than letting our kids be whatever and whomever they want?
• Don’t accuse someone who is religious as having an “embarrassing level of intellect.” This is a big pet peeve of mine. Just because someone believes in God and believes motherhood is a way to become closer to Him doesn’t mean they’re dumb or trite or foolish. It might be called having proof, not faith, if loving God was merely an intellectual process. (This point warrants its own post; maybe I’ll get to it one of these days.)
• Please don’t cite statistics like “70% of women admitted they wouldn’t have children again” with no source. I’m not a big fan of statistics anyway (they can be so easily misinterpreted), but I really hate ones that don’t come with reliable sources.
• Now I’m definitely going to come off as simpleton here, but Anon’s comments bring to mind some words of wisdom my sixth grade teacher used to pass along to my class quite frequently: “Don’t blow out someone else’s candle to make yours brighter.” I am truly sorry Anon and the “millions of other females [who have been feeling regrets] about having kids for decades” she referred to – regret having kids and, I suspect, feel a tad guilty about that very regret. I realize it might be difficult for Anon to possibly understand a woman – who isn’t one-dimensional, delusional and/or intellectually lazy – who does not share her feelings, but I wrote that post in all sincerity, and I think there are a lot of moms out there – Catholic or not – who would agree that they don’t regret having kids even when being a mom demand a heck of a lot out of them. (Although in my original post, I was quick to point out that motherhood has certainly conjured up less than rosy feelings at times.)
• Finally, I can’t say this with 100 percent certainty, but regardless of my religious beliefs, I don’t think I’d ever wish I hadn’t had my children. My husband who doesn’t happen to share my faith and has considered himself an agnostic, Episcopalian, atheist, and almost Catholic at different points in his life (these are not listed in chronological order, and my husband gave me permission to disclose this info) has said before that having kids was the greatest thing we’ve ever done. We’ve also both talked about how one day we may surely regret not having more kids.
But regret the kids we already have? Never.
Is being a parent tough? Definitely. Does it require a lot of sacrifice? Absolutely. But is it worth it? No doubt about it. As parents, we have to put our kids first and to do that without regret. Do I sometimes not feel like being a mom? Again, absolutely. There are many days when I’d rather be doing something other than changing an atomic diaper, throwing up because of pregnancy-induced nausea, or getting glue all over my hands and my kitchen table while doing another preschool craft. But I don’t ever regret having children. And I. Never. Will. (Even if my kids bring much greater hardships my way.) That’s too strong of a word to use for such an incredible gift. And I do see children as gifts, not burdens. If all these ramblings make me a simpleton breeder, then so be it.
Way more than enough said… Now it’s time for the “move on” part.
Except that I made a few more comments here.
*Another wise blog visitor said it would have perhaps been more fair to keep Anon’s comments intact, so they’re back up under the original post. (I had the original in my email inbox and have posted it in its entirety.) I do think I’ll end up deleting it down the road simply because I don’t want that kind of hate directed at anyone (me or otherwise) on my corner of cyberspace and because I can. :)