I’m on a roll (sorry about that). This morning a veteran blogger and “momrade” whom I admire as a writer and mother emailed me with some important wisdom:
“I read your post about regretting kids. Go back and re-read your first two paragraphs. Imagine you felt trapped by motherhood. Imagine that motherhood was a difficult and unpleasant experience for whatever reason. While you and I may feel that ‘untempered selfishness’ is the root cause, you have to agree that if someone wagged a finger in your face and called you selfish, you would get pretty mad, right? Now I agree that nobody made Anon read your post, and that she was out of line for her angry remarks.
But over the years I have had (and continue to have) people who go through my archives and take offense at my flippant comments. I have attempted (sometimes unsuccessfully) to reduce that attitude to one that is more charitable. If I wouldn’t say it to [someone’s] face, then perhaps I ought to re-phrase it?”
I do need to work on always, always being charitable. Likewise, I need to do my best to walk in others’ shoes, especially when broaching such sensitive subjects as how we feel about motherhood where passions run very, very high. I encourage all moms to do this as I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty hurtful comments that probably weren’t meant to come off as a personal attack such as someone commenting that attachment parenting is really selfish parenting for moms who can’t let go in response to something I’d written about AP and weaning. At any rate, this is important advice for bloggers everywhere: Choose your words wisely.
Now like a teenager who just has to get the last word in, I will say that my first two paragraphs were meant to denounce Maier’s selfishness for not only seeing her children as “vicious trolls” but also for exploiting them and her negative feelings about motherhood and having kids by publishing a book about them. (As an aside, some would probably argue anyone who writes/blogs about their children is selfish, even when it’s done in a positive light, and I know there will come a time when my kids will be older and will want to have a say in what I write about. Just as I respect my husband’s extreme privacy, I must be extra vigilant with my children as well – especially as they grow older.)
Maybe if the original article I’d read about Maier had discussed how she was in dire poverty or grappling with difficult health problems, I could understand her sense of remorse for having kids a little bit better. But all her quotes about suffering through the screaming of her children and how she said that “Every family is a nest of vipers – all the reason not to add to your own,” left me with the impression (perhaps unfair) of someone who was way too focused on the negative aspects of parenting and was taking her kids and the gift of motherhood for granted (but here I am personally attacking someone). Her tone, at times, was meant to be humorous, but it didn’t leave me laughing. And even though she made some good points (“I didn’t know [having children] would be this hard.” Neither did I.), they were lost in her plea to childless women to not make the same “mistake” she had by having kids.
Would I have said all this to Maier’s face? Honestly, I’m not so sure. I think I would have written a letter (perhaps I should have), but I’m not sure I would have used such a strong phrase as “untempered selfishness.” So my blogging friend had a very important point.
Nevertheless, Anon did what a lot of women tend to do (including myself; if I made one bad grade on a math test as a kid, that meant I was horrible at math – you know the drill): She took my comments targeted at one woman and globalized them to include any mom who has ever not felt like being a mom. That makes me selfish, too, then. And actually, I am prone to selfishness. That’s why having kids is so darn good for me, as is the vocation of marriage. There’s less room for selfishness when you’re married to another imperfect human being and you give birth to children who require a lot out of the both of you.
And I don’t make it a habit of deleting comments (this is the first one that got swallowed by the Blogger trashcan) that don’t share my worldview. I like to hear others’ views…really. Like I previously said, I don’t mind dissent (so please feel free to comment or email me if you take offense to something I’ve written), but I do have a problem with vitriol popping up on my blog or anywhere else.
Now my kids are going to start regret having me as a mom if I don’t step away from this computer.