Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The moms v. the nonmoms, again and some more

There’s this stark, sharp division that I see online, and sometimes IRL, between what I’m going to term “moms” and “nonmoms.” With few exceptions, moms seem to think that nonmoms don’t know jack-shit. They don’t know anything about kids, they don’t know anything about prioritizing time, they don’t know anything about how oppressive the patriarchy is and how women are supposed to be a disposable commodity, valued only for their reproductive and nurturing capabilities.

With few exceptions, the nonmoms seems to think that the moms don’t care about anything other than babies and bodily functions. They don’t understand how important activism is, they don’t see how nonparents get the shaft on flex-time in jobs where “singles” are assumed not to have responsibilities and commitments in the same way parents are, they don’t know anything about how oppressive the patriarchy is and how women are supposed to be a disposable commodity, valued only for their reproductive and nurturing capabilities.

I want very badly to be a mom, but until I get there, I’m a nonmom. And I hear it from both sides that the other group just doesn’t get it, doesn’t care, doesn’t value and appreciate the work being done.

How do we talk about this? Where? To what end? Who’s benefiting from the divide? Who’s furthering it and why?

5 Comments:

Anonymous Candace said...

I don't think there needs to be an argument over this. Many people can understand and empathize with others despite being in different circumstances. Women are the best at empathizing in the world. What it takes is stepping back from your own world for a few minutes and really thinking about the other persons life. Do you know what it's like to be responsible for getting 3 kids to school, making sure the husband gets out the door on time to take the other two, working full time, trying to keep up with 15 loads of laundry a week (and that's only clothes not sheets and towels), volunteering in various community and national organizations, helping with homework and raising responsible citizens? Can I remember about what it was like to be single, trying to make it on what was very little income, wanting free time, but finding it hard to come by after the demands of a job (which, yes, assumed that because I was single I didn't WANT to have a life), volunteering my time and working with local groups, still having to cook (thank heavens my hubby does that!), clean up after myself (no one to blame but yourself if your place is a mess) and keep up with family who thinks that they should be the number one priority (funny how moms, dads and sisters are)!

And yes, I have 5 kids, and I am the sole provider right now. When I chose to have child #5 I was not planning on working at all, and hadn't for years. An on the job injury ended my husband's career and 2 years of fighting insurance companies for surgeries and payments has nearly exhausted us. So I ask people not to think that I just decided one day, yeah, I want to be a working mom of 5 kids, it just happened. Life's like that.

9:01 AM  
Blogger thistle said...

I actually think the mom v. non-mom fights I've seen online pale in comparison to the SAHM v. working mom fights. Of course, we non-moms participate in those, since a lot of us have plans to be one or the other of those things some day. But, really, that's where I see the most lines being drawn as a general matter.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Thea said...

I don't know what it means, but I do know that every mom used to be a non-mom. And I can remember some of the stances I took "before" and also why I changed them after changing into the new "category." There are some things where direct, physical experience adds a lot to one's understanding. Strangely enough, I'm not even primarily speaking of things like birth or breastfeeding. Rather, things like being responsible for someone who really and truly cannot lift her head. And being responsible for this person constantly, when you are at your physical and emotional absolute most miserable. That's something that could happen to a mom who didn't give birth, but not something that often happens to non-moms. It's a major way in which motherhood differs from babysitting or aunt-hood. That is, babysitters may be responsible for a helpless infant, but if they get the flu they can call in sick. Motherhood means maybe everyone in the house is equally as sick and you still have to get up and do hard work caring for someone who absolutely has no other options. And it really shaped my opinions on some things.

Maybe it's hard to understand why that would change someone's opinions on dozens of topics seemingly unrelated. Maybe it's just me who was affected that way. But it really does change your perspective.

What I would like to see is a society in which women in various phases of life are respected for where they are. And less meddling and criticising across the stages like, why don't old women do this, and why can't single women do that, and why don't mothers be more like young coupled women, etc.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this for a few days now. My problem with the "I've been a non-mom so I know what that's like but non-moms have never been moms so they don't get it" piece is this: No, you haven't. You might have been a "non-mom" in your tender 20s, but then probably married a man and had children according to The Plan handed to us by the patriarchy. That's fine. But it means that you don't understand what it's like to have rejected the dominant gameplan in favor of one a majority of people still consider completely abnormal and, honestly, WRONG.

You don't know what it's like to be 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60... and STILL without kids (or grandkids) and maybe STILL without a life partner. The experiences and attitudes that result from these life circumstances are JUST as unique and JUST as legitimate and authentic as those that arise from motherhood (or other patriarchy-approved paths). Not one bit less.

This isn't an attack on thea or her point of view by any means -- she just happened to articulate what I've heard a million times from a million moms.

Speaking of thea, I totally agree with this:

What I would like to see is a society in which women in various phases of life are respected for where they are. And less meddling and criticising across the stages like, why don't old women do this, and why can't single women do that, and why don't mothers be more like young coupled women, etc.

-Amazon

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazon, such an important distinction, between non-moms who may be pre-moms, and non-moms who are never gonna, because they've aged out of the category.

It's one of the things that has always bothered me about the child-free discussions, but there doesn't seem to be a way of saying that without someone hearing it as "You'll change your mind when that clock starts ticking, dearie!". I'm *not* saying that, but it sure is a whole different kettle of fish once the clock [b]stops[/b] ticking - and I think that difference needs to be acknowledged and respected.
~ Bleu

10:34 AM  

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