Mothers

Kimberly's picture

I have a thousand reasons why I chose not to be a mother and hating children is not one of them. One of the biggies is the profound dysfunction with which our culture views mothers. On one hand, motherhood is deified not only by Christian legacy but by secular folk at large -- we are constantly bombarded by images of idealized motherhood in stories, television, and magazines. One of my earliest memories is having a lot of baby dolls thrust in my general direction. Even at age four, I was creeped out by the idea of being groomed to pretend I was nursing my own infant with a bottle. I wasn't sarcastic or jaded enough to ask "With what breasts am I supposed to nurse?" though that's the thought I have now: why would any little girl be taught to perform the function of mature, sexual woman in a culture that loves sex but hates females? Other little girls seemed to gravitate towards games where they would play "mother" -- I hated the game of mother and preferred the game of "roommates who go on hot dates with boys" at a preternaturally young age. In this preference I was often utterly alone. My chosen otherness would become a defining trait that made me into an easy target: Kimberly doesn't want to play dolls with the other children. Kimberly is a freak and needs to be shunned and mocked! Yay!

From childhood, I sensed the hatred pulsating underneath the supposed love our culture holds for its mothers. As the product of maternal abandonment by my own natural mother, I was always forced to wonder what was so bad about being a mommy in this world that could cause somebody to give up her genetic offspring, forever relinquishing the supposedly coveted role to another woman. By the time I went through puberty at twelve, I was old enough to start reading between the lines.

For one, upon getting pregnant, women apparently gave up all hope of femininity and allure, often for the rest of their lives. Back then, I blamed the victim. My pre-teen anger caused me to believe that getting pregnant (that dreaded, feared event that ruined the life of many a high-school baddie who in the past would have been sent to a home for unwed mothers but by the eighties had no place to stay except in the disgraced family home) was synonymous with becoming a gender-neutral caretaking drone. Growing up in the Midwest, I could count the suburban moms on two fingers who were youthful, slim, and good-looking. Everyone else's mom was significantly out of shape or a bit sloppy about her appearance -- this was in an era before soccer moms congregated in spas and turned salon and gym visits into part-time jobs. Everywhere I looked, I saw frazzled women who appeared to have no life outside of their brood. I was both terrified and repulsed by the prospect of losing my femininity before I ever laid claim to it -- I was no vixen at twelve and had to wait until sixteen for my first real kiss. Sex-ed was a frightening foray into the lurid world of STDs. I learned to be extremely afraid of my body's fertility. I was not taught about what a clitoris is or what it can do, which would have helped immeasurably. Instead of being taught to relieve my urges solo, I was taught to be in awe of the power of sperm to ruin and control my life. My views were so warped at the time, I'm glad that I was not attractive to boys until years later as I don't know if my poorly-informed brain could have handled sexual dealings with a male without the result being even more utterly disastrous than it was four years later.

By the time I was eighteen, I was vehemently anti-natalist. My fear of getting pregnant metastasized into self-righteous, anti-depressant-assisted outrage at any woman who would choose such a ridiculous fate for herself. At the same time, I still had extreme cognitive dissonance as I envisioned the possibility of myself having kids one day. Luckily, I married a man who shared my views on children which were settled (as against childbearing) by the time I was thirty.

Why is becoming a mother synonymous with losing one's femininity? Isn't motherhood the ultimate proof of the fact you're technically a woman? There is a very beautiful model/actress/singer who looks like what I wished I was born looking like. Unlike me, she has a perfectly symmetrical face. She's more than a decade my junior, tall, naturally very slim, and has an Golden Mean-worthy hourglass figure. Where I'm a modest B cup only at certain times of my menstrual cycle, she's a C or possibly a D. She could probably be photographed taking a dump and still look beautiful and perfect. She was known for sexy photos and has entire books of them that still sell very well even though they are ten years old by now. Though I've always been cute, there are no photo collections of me that will inspire teenage male wanking thirty years from now.

She had a promising career and a record deal until she made the blunder of getting pregnant and having a lovely, healthy child at age twenty-one, which by the way is one year younger than the age of my birthmother when she had me in the Booth Home for unwed mothers. The pregnancy was an immediate fall from grace. No more photobooks, music videos, or modeling spreads: her career lapsed into radio silence. She was lampooned by internet trolls who created new and cruel ways of shaming her. Generally, her star quality was immediately tarnished because she dared use her womanhood for a purpose other than modeling. How odd of people. The qualities she was devoutly worshipped for: her shapely curves, her thick hair, and thin waist, are all nothing more and nothing less than physical markers of fertility. As soon as the fertility goddess gave birth, her reign was declared as permanently over by her former subjects.

Though I don't buy speculations of certain anthropologists that women once ruled a primitive Edenic, cooperative utopia where animals were not commoditized for food and people worked in harmony with the natural cycles of the Earth's graceful rhythms, there is one thing that stands out when I try to dismiss the idea of women once having true respect in society: goddess statues. The Fertile Crescent just wouldn't be fertile without those squat, weird, bug-eyed clay depictions of big-breasted pregnant women. If indeed ancient times represented the same old, same old and men were just as misogynistic and ignorant as they are now, then why are the goddesses depicted as fat with child instead of the modern day balloon chested, baboon-assed, thirteen-inch waisted Barbie dolls with long, flowing hair? Why are the ancient goddess statues so downright attainable and realistic as far as what a pregnant woman actually looks like a few days before she pops out a kid?

Greek sculptures reflect a much different aesthetic. Suddenly, goddesses are slim, including svelte fertility goddesses like Artemis, later Athena. It all points to women being valued for different reasons at the advent of capitalism. Once animals were seen as property and controlled through the manipulation of female breeding cycles, it was all over for women's empowerment in the ancient world. The cow, once a gentle friend allowed to roam free and co-exist with her vegetarian human pals in the nearby co-op of goddess-worshipping plant eaters, was now a source of derision. Exploitation of animals has always been based on the fertility of their females: animals are controlled, mated, and bred, whereupon non-friendly humans steal their milk and their eggs or just slaughter them wholesale. Human women are also fertile. Like cows, they can be exploited, forcibly mated, and controlled via their bloodlines.

"Cow" is a hateful epithet hurled at women to slur them as fat. Yet cows don't become obese like humans are unless they are pumped full of unnatural feed laden with growth hormones and antibiotics by humans themselves. Our culture hates cows and pigs and also sees them as cute and sweet... sound familiar? There is a special sickness in hating that which you profess to love and loving that which you profess to hate.

I was expected to become a mother. I remember the extremely awkward moment where a woman pitied me because she assumed I was barren at age 33. Little did she know I had a tubal ligation at the age of 31. When a woman who does not want to be the mother of biological children, there is a whole set of people who will shudder in horror at her choice. Yet the same people have the saddest wake up calls once they realize what they have given up in order to have children. This is not a world that likes mothers. It worships them, it applauds them, it advises them, but it does not support them. Case in point: there is no poorer or more miserable segment of the population than the single mom. The goddess cannot get knocked up. It is clear that motherhood is synonymous with loss of feminine magic, otherwise the covers of Playboy would be populated by giant, pregnant women in string bikinis. Yeah, that will be the day.