The discussion last night of The War on Moms by Sharon Lerner at Kris Waldherr's Art and Words Gallery was lively and invigorating. And yet ... I returned home in a foul mood. What brought on the bad mood? Was it the news that of more than 170 nations on this planet, only four provide no paid leave for new mothers: Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia, and the good ol' U.S.A.? Was it Lerner's description of the day care center she visited in Florida, where two caregivers looked after 38 toddlers while in another room a sole caregiver looked after 8 infants — all of them reaching their arms toward Lerner, wanting to be held? Was it hearing about the not-atypical response to the book (coming, I imagine, most frequently from folks who haven't actually read it), that having children is a choice, and so if you can't afford one or aren't willing to put up with the resulting difficulties, maybe you shouldn't have one?
To take on that response ... First, in a long-ago post that has stuck with me since I first read it, Bitch Ph.D. posits that not having children is the choice, not the other way around. Her argument is hardly airtight — for one thing, not everyone "fuck[s] someone of the opposite sex," as she puts it. However, it is certainly true that what we'd like to think of as our "choices," even major life decisions, are often hardly solely determined by our personal wishes. Fate, serendipity, luck (good and bad), karma, or whatever you want to call it usually has a hand. Besides, we live in a country where access to affordable birth control is not guaranteed (though Planned Parenthood is going to fight for it) and many teens lack access to real sex ed.
Second, read the story of Devorah Gartner. Does she really deserve to suffer her "difficulties" (or, I'd say, tragedy) simply because she chose to have a child? Shouldn't we have better laws and policies so that no-one risks poverty and overwhelming debt simply because of the need to take care of another person?
Finally, this theme kept coming up last night: it is in our collective interest that children be raised well. Katrina Alcorn writes beautifully on the theme in a recent post at MomsRising.org.