Before I begin what is essentially a rant I wrote several months ago after an incident with a mother… a little background on my childhood.
I grew up in a wealthy suburb outside of New York City. Although my father was a doctor, I was considered one of the “poor kids” because my mother actually worked. In fact, my parents work together. Dad is the stoic professional. Mom is the “everything else” – the first one to rise, the one that handles all the bookwork, all the appointments, and on and on.
While most of the kids in my small, private grammar school had their mothers breezing into the cafeteria in their pristine white tennis skirts to drop off McDonald’s for lunch, I rummaged through my sad, brown bag lunch of Wonder Bread and a slice of American cheese.
The worst were the “egg sandwiches”, which were literally sliced, hard-boiled eggs, slapped onto some bread. Trust me – you don’t want to be the kid that brings “egg sandwiches” to school! It’s like that co-worker, who constantly microwaves their fish from last night’s dinner, stinking up your entire office for hours. Yeah – THAT person.
I was always the first child at school. Some mornings, the building was still locked when my father dropped me off in a rush to get to the office. I’d simply wait outside until the janitor or principal let me in.
At the end of the day, I’d watch my schoolmates get into their mothers’ Mercedes, BMWs and Jaguars, who had all lined-up in the parking lot well before the last bell rang. Some families even took limos to and from school everyday. My mother didn’t even drive.
More often than not, I’d be the last one in the parking lot, not knowing if my father or one of his assistants would be picking me up. I always felt so deeply ashamed when an assistant showed up in one of their beat-up, old cars. Thankfully, at least in my adolescent eyes, they were usually late. So, no one would have to see me getting into “that” type of car.
My mother was literally told I would not be able to join the Girl Scouts, with all my other friends, because she worked. She could not “help out” like the other mothers. See, I had made the mistake of catching a stomach virus on an overnight trip while still a Brownie. Since my own mother hadn’t chaperoned, another mother had to deal with me. So, the class mothers all agreed I was “too much work”. Unless my mother could commit to come with me on overnights, I would never become a full-fledged Girl Scout. Ironic how a slutty Girl Scout is now such a popular Halloween costume, because that experience was definitely a nightmare during my childhood.
You see, these Mommy Dearests didn’t have to work, or chose not to. They weren’t immigrants like we were. They weren’t working night and day like my mother and father, building a successful medical practice. My mother grew up on a farm. She could care less about what brand-name clothes she wore, or her style of purse. While the other mothers came to our Christmas shows in full-length fur coats, my mother barely had time to change out of her scrubs.
I’ll be honest. I resented my mother because she worked so much. There’s probably still some deep-seated resentment lingering there. Yet, now as an adult watching my friends and family become mothers, I realize how utterly selfish and entitled those Mommy Dearests were and how it still affects me to this day.
My mother did everything in her power to ensure I was cared for, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I am so thankful for the sacrifices she made because it could not have been easy. She made me who I am today – a strong-willed, independent, intelligent woman.
I am not a mother. I likely never will be. I am happily married to the love of my life. We travel. We go out to expensive dinners and treat ourselves to spa days. We do what we want, when we want.
However, a year and a half into our marriage I was struck by the “Big C”. Typically, that’s supposed to be the time you start discussing children. You’re supposed to consider whether your one-bedroom apartment is enough. Do you stay in the City, or should you buy a house and move to the burbs? How many children are you going to have, or can afford? Could I really go back to work six weeks after having our first child? Because of course, in the States, that’s all the maternity leave my firm offered. Would it even be worthwhile going back to work given the cost of childcare? These are the questions you’re supposed to be asking yourselves.
Well, we never even got the chance to consider those things. We had to manage my illness, my multiple surgeries, my inability to return to work, my mounting medical bills, my medications and their side-effects, the never-ending doctors’ appointments, and frankly – whether I was going to live or die.
***DISCLAIMER: This does NOT apply to every stay-at-home Mom, or to all mothers in general***
So, to all the Mommy Dearests out there, I have a few lessons. If you prefer the term “suggestions” that’s fine too.
· You are not better than me, or special because you are a mother. Unless there is some complication, any woman anywhere can have a child. Women have been doing this since the dawn of time!
· You also didn’t earn some virtual Ph.D. on how to love and care for others because you popped out a kid or two. You didn’t win an Olympic Gold Medal because you have a child.
· If I choose to tell you I don’t have children, it’s not okay to ask, “But why not?” It’s none of your business.
· It’s also not okay to pity me because I don’t have children. There’s a chance, even with my illness, I’m happier than many of you.
· It’s definitely not okay to tell me, “Maybe you’ll be able to still have children one day”, as if you’re bestowing some kind of hope upon me. I’m not some pathetic soul simply because I do not have a child.
· Your child should be your world, but he or she does not have to be mine. Just because your life may revolve around your child, mine doesn’t. So, if your kid is riding along 200 ft. in front of you on his scooter, I shouldn’t have to step aside with my cane so Little Timmy can rule the sidewalk. Also, you can say, “Thank you” when I hold the door for you and your double-stroller. Or, you could even move that double-stroller out of my way as I struggle to walk through the maze you and your Mommy Dearest group have created with those strollers in our tiny, local coffee shop.
· STOP with the “Mommy Brain”! Guess what? I literally have damage to my brain. So, sorry to tell you, “No, you just forgot shit.”
· STOP saying raising your child is harder than going to work! If you forget to do the laundry, you’re not risking losing your job, an income and/or health benefits. ***DISCLAIMER: Again, this is not directed to all stay-at-home Moms. It is very, very hard to raise children. This only applies to those select entitled mothers, who think they’re God’s gift to the world having had a baby, and who look down upon those of us who don’t have children, or mothers who work***
· STOP complaining about how tired and stressed you are because you had to help Little Sally complete her science project! Yet, your day was spent going to a spin class or tennis lessons at the country club, followed by lunch with your girlfriends, then picking-up your kids in your Range Rover to return to “the Club” for their tennis lessons, only to pick-up dinner and then start working on Sally’s science project. You know who is tired and stressed out? That other Mom who woke up at 5:00 a.m., went for a run because it’s the only time she has for herself, cooked breakfast, got the kids dressed, fed them, got their backpacks together, made sure they had their lunch with them, drove them to school, then went to work for 7 hours, got yelled at by her boss and a client, then left work because the babysitter will only stay until 6:00 p.m., got home and cooked dinner, sat down with the kids to do their homework, bathed them, finally put them to bed, only to hop on her laptop to finish the project due tomorrow morning. Now that woman is tired!
A mother is not neglecting her child by working. If you choose to work, or have to work, you are not a bad mother. In fact, you’re superwoman. By the same token, if you have the ability to stay at home to raise your children, more power to you!
Thus, not every mother is a Mommy Dearest. I know that. Yet, some months ago I was told that I “didn’t understand” a situation involving a grown adult and his mother because I “didn’t have a child” and “never created that special bond” by having a child.
So to all those darling, Mommy Dearests of the world, I don’t need to touch a flame to know that fire is hot. I don’t need to stick my tongue against a frozen flagpole to know it’s cold. (If you don’t get the reference, you weren’t a child of the 80’s). And I certainly don’t need to have a child to have a beautiful, happy, love-filled life.
Yes, having a child was certainly a decision taken out of my hands because of cancer. Yet, I’m not sure I would’ve ever decided to have one. There could even be a day I write a post about getting pregnant. Who knows? Regardless, just don’t judge a woman if she doesn’t have children. You haven’t walked a day in her shoes.