The Truth About Choices

Let me preface this post by saying that I do believe and I’m trying to live the belief that we, as women, should try to support each other more and not waste so much time competing with each other and cutting each other down for our life choices.

Okay, prefacing done.

Now, I read another blog today, totally at random thanks to Freshly Pressed – The Truth About Maternity Leave.

In general it was a great piece, very encouraging and non-judgemental and likely very realistic.  Having never had biological children, I don’t know what a maternity leave is like but as an intelligent person I can imagine that it has some pretty wild swings between unbelievably awesome and unbelievably mind-numbingly boring.  Like many other things in life.

At one point in this post, the author suggested that new mothers watch their budgets, as maternity leave benefits will be stretched thin by all the classes and devices and books that women are pressured into purchasing at such a monumental life stage to ensure ‘success’ at mothering.  Keeping to a budget, that’s great advice for all us ladies, no?  Whether it’s the Mercedes Benz of prams or the hottest pair of shoes on the shelf, we’ve all realized by now that we can’t always have everything we want (we’ve realized this, right ladies?).

Again, this is great advice and the entire post in general really emphasizes the point that women should trust their instincts and not succumb to the pressure and guilt imposed by the mommy-industry – we don’t need self-help books and baby massage classes and special scientifically designed toys to make children feel loved and secure.  You can do that with your loving arms, a sock puppet and basically just giving your attention and love to your child.

However, in the spirit of fiscal prudence, the author then suggested that If you’re meeting work pals in town during their lunch break they should really offer to pay as they’re on a full-time salary.

Um….. how’s that again?  Now don’t get me wrong, if I invited a close girlfriend to lunch who I hadn’t seen in a while because she was on mat leave (or for any reason), there is a very good chance that I would pay for lunch just because I was really pleased to see her and because I love her as a friend.

But the idea that I should pay for her because I’m on a full-time salary because I chose not to have children… well something about this idea just rubbed me the wrong way.

It reminded me of one of my favourite Sex and the City episodes (thanks to Kim over at Quiet Desperation for putting Carrie and friends back on my mind!).  It’s an episode where Carrie (single, no kids) gets invited to a baby shower of an old girlfriend.  When she arrives, her friend asks Carrie to remove her shoes – to Carrie’s great dismay because she’s wearing very expensive Manalo Blahniks (uber-fancy pricey shoes).

Anyway!  At the end of the party, Carrie finds that one of the other guests has stolen her shoes. Her friend dismisses her concerns and rather than replace the shoes, as Carrie suggests, the friend informs her that now that she has children, she has real priorities that Carrie just can’t possibly understand.  In other words, she can’t afford to “waste” money on such nonsensical things as expensive shoes anymore.

Carrie’s AHA moment comes when she realizes that she has spent hundreds of dollars celebrating the life choices of her girlfriends – bridal showers, bachelorette parties, wedding gifts, baby showers, baby gifts, etc etc etc.  She ends up, very creatively, ‘registering’ at Manalo Blahnik for one pair of new shoes, and sends her friend an invitation to her “Celebration of singledom” party along with a note about her Shoe Registry.  The episode ends happily when Carrie’s friend replaces her stolen shoes.

Yes ladies, we can.
Yes ladies, we can.

So back to the Parenting blog that got me worked up in the first place.  The author of this blog seems like a realistic, warm and accepting person.  I’m sure she didn’t realize what her comment was implying.  I’m sure she didn’t mean to suggest that women who work full-time are doing it not because of financial necessity or to fulfill their own dreams and responsibilities (home purchase, vacation, elder care, shopping bonanza), but rather that their income is frivolous and “should” be spent on the woman who has “real” responsibilities – the mother on maternity leave.

Perhaps I am making way too much out of one sentence.  I’m exposing the fact that this is a sensitive subject for me.  As a child-free woman going through the child-bearing years, I’ve gone to my fair share of baby showers and first birthday parties.  I’ve gritted my teeth and smiled when friends assume we will arrange plans around their pregnancy or child-rearing schedules without so much as a question about what’s going on in my life at the time.

I’m not a terrible person, of course I want to make things easier on a friend who has a lot going on at home – whether that be children or spousal issues or family care or whatever.  But it does become a little tiresome to read comments such as the one on this Parenting blog.

As women, supporting each others’ choices means all of our choices.  None is better than the other.  Having children is no better or worse than not having children.  Ditto with getting married, buying a house, holding a full-time job, or living on ramen noodles and randomly sold pieces of artwork and love, baby.  These are all worthwhile things if they make you happy and fulfilled and a better member of society (happy and fulfilled people are almost always better members of society, no matter here the happiness and fulfillment comes from).

So, as a woman with no (biological) children and a fulfilling and well-paying job, if I have a friend who is struggling financially for whatever reason – yes, I will probably take her for lunch.  I might give her some money to help make ends meet if she needs it.  I might just offer a sympathetic ear and an evening sharing a ten-dollar bottle of wine.  But it will all be my personal choice out of love for my friend.  NOT because her life choices are more worthwhile than mine and therefore compel me to fork out cash to support her situation.

In the months after I purchased a condo as a single woman, if I agreed to go out for lunch with a friend I didn’t expect her to pay because I have financial responsibility for a house now.  When much of my income was tied up in my wedding, I didn’t expect friends to foot the bill for me to have a night out on the town.  What is it about motherhood that makes some of us use it as a trump card?

I don’t believe that the author of the post in question was suggesting any of this.  But it’s worth reminding ourselves that, no matter where we’re at in life or where we choose to go, we all have value; and we all should choose to support each other in whatever path we follow.  There’s enough pressure and guilt imposed on women by society as a whole without us heaping it on each other.



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