The following blog post came up in my facebook feed today and those reply boxes just don’t have enough space, so here is a critque of An open letter to my non mother friends.
This seems to be a well-intentioned blog post from a new mother of twins to her non-mum friends, but veers off into the patronising and self-involved in a number of places (not to mention the passive aggressive posting of an open letter on a blog rather than having a conversation with the individuals involved).
Let’s break it down:
Dear Friend who has not yet had babies,
Erm, ‘not yet’? The only type of friends this person has is those who have ‘not yet’ had babies? Way to alienate those who are childfree, whether it is by their own choice or not. Not a good start (and what’s up with the capital for ‘Friend’ while we are at it?).
As you know I recently went travelling. I voyaged into the world of Motherdom. My life as I knew it was simultaneously destroyed and completed by this adventure. I have willingly submitted to the cultures and ways of the land and will be staying here. I wanted to write and tell you about it.
I’m going to be generous and go with this cutesy ‘travelling’ analogy, but already I’m starting to feel a little queasy about ‘the world of Motherdom’ and I may strain something rolling my eyes this hard.
I am the same person. But I am also a completely different person. It’s like when I got here someone put me in a jar and shook it… my passions and interests are still the same, but in Motherdom, my responsibility’s and priorities have more hold. This is probably frustrating for you, it is for me too.
First, it’s ‘responsibilities’ and not ‘responsibility’s’, second are you really going to persist with this magical land of Motherdom anaology? OK then, but it’s getting less cute each time you use it. Third, please don’t project emotions onto me, your hypothetical ‘Friend’. ‘This is probably frustrating for you’, um no. People’s responsibilities and priorities change all of the time, for lots of different reasons, there’s no point in getting frustrated when they do it is just a fact of life.
I still want to talk to you about my passions. Say the gym. They have gyms here too!
Great, you want to talk to me, not with me note, but to me. I forsee conversations in which you talk to me about the gym, cool. Maybe I also want to talk about the gym, maybe not.
But I will have to rain check if a child has chicken pox. I will want to talk to you about the likelihood of wetting myself. I want you appreciate the fact that I am here with you despite the weeks of 2hrs sleep a night. My passions are harder fought for but they are still there.
Sure, chicken pox seems like a good reason to rain check our awesome gym-based conversation. Not sure I necessarily want to talk about your likelihood of wetting yourself (it’s not one of my top 10 favourite topics of conversation), but again that is something you want to talk to me about and not with me, so I guess my wants don’t matter and being a good friend I’ll probably talk with you about it anyway. So long as you appreciate the fact that I am here with you right alongside me appreciating you being here with me I don’t know why we have to bring up who has had more sleep. I can commiserate with you that you feel like you have to fight harder for your passions now, that must be tough, how about we talk about that instead of the wetting yourself thing.
Please don’t cut me out because I am slow to keep up or late to turn up. Likewise if I go without you it’s not personal… it’s just that I had time!
How about I hold you to the same standard as all of my other friends. Habitually late? That’s going to be a problem regardless of the reason, my time is worth something too. Went to the gym when you had time, great, did you think about inviting me too?
I am in love. The natives are akin to drunken schizophrenic despots who are genetically designed to reduce me to a quivering mess should that be there desire. They are physically inept, they don’t speak my language, and they steal sleep as a form of torture. They test me to my limits. They are at times violent, merciless and relentlessly deafening.
Oh good, we’re back to the mystical land of Motherdom (and it is ‘their’ not ‘there’). You’re really not selling the natives though, this sounds like an extremely abusive relationship.
I have fallen in love with them. I have dedicated my life in there service. I do not expect you to also lose your mind and fall in love with them but I do expect you respect it.
It’s still ‘their’ and not ‘there’ by the way. Now let’s talk about the choice of the word ‘respect’. What exactly am I being expected to respect here? The fact that you have lost your mind? This seems clear from the persistent Motherdom-as-country analogy. The fact that you have fallen in love with them? This is to be expected. Still not sure where the respect comes in. Acceptance, sure, this is the way things are and should therefore be accepted (there’s no point fighting against how another person feels). The word ‘respect’ has undertones of admiration, however, should I be admiring your choice to have children, falling in love with them and dedicating your life in their service? Meh. Your life, your choice.
I am sorry…but also not sorry for the baby chat. Imagine for a single moment that after a night of great sex and laughter your body got up and unasked and without conscious effort –and built two humans inside of you. David Attenbourgh’s Blue Planet is one thing but watching a world of your own creation… well it’s fucking interesting.
Yup, that does sound interesting. To you. This may or may not interest me but you appear to have made your decisions about what you are going to talk about regardless of my interests, so I guess rock on with your bad self.
This is Motherdom.
Did you just suggest that David Attenborough should be narrating the minutiae of your life? Or maybe Channel 4.
The natives here, their behaviours, sleep patterns, the way they feed, the way they interact. It’s amazing. I know it looks mundane to you but it is not just clearing up sick, getting up in the middle of the nights and sadly glancing at flabby tummy in changing room mirrors. I have laughed the most honest of laughs at dancing toddlers, wept with relief in the arms of my husband. I have exploded with pride at legs I built being used to walk and literally shook with fear at the prospect of them not walking any more. You see a mundane monotony but this is a roller coaster when you see it from the hills of Motherdom. I want to talk about your world too but I also want to talk about mine.
Aha, we’ve finally spotted a ‘their’ in the wild, marvellous I will note it down in my spotter’s notebook. Again with the assumption of what I am thinking or seeing, though. How about you leave it up to me as to whether I see something as a mundane monotony or not, instead of telling me that I do, yes? You might find that conversations go a lot more smoothly without all of these assumptions about how I feel or how I see things. Nice to see that you do want to talk about my world, a shame you couldn’t let that be a full sentence and instead tack on how you want to talk about yours (which I don’t think anyone would be in any doubt about at this point).
I envy you and pity you simultaneously. Your figure, your ease of travel, your career, you cleanliness, your independence, your ability to do what you want, when you want, in a way you want to do it. I envy all of it but I pity you the lack of awareness of these things. Through all the pity you probably feel for me as I trudge through the tantrums and ‘can’t find a babysitter’ dramas I reflect it right back at you… even if you don’t want or need it in your adventures you are missing out, for not knowing the joy of having tiny hands hold yours or seeing your partner in a light that wants to make you weep in the face of our human capacity for compassion. No these are not the daily experience of Motherdom and if you are think of joining me don’t be sold on them… but they do make it worth the trip!
You pity me? You pity my lack of awareness? Are you fucking kidding me?! Again with the telling me how I feel (apparently I’m pitying you, news to me, but do keep telling others what they are feeling, that always goes so well). Oh and I’m missing out, am I? I could never know ‘the joy of having tiny hands hold yours’ because that only happens to mothers apparently. Ditto ‘seeing your partner in a light that wants to make you weep in the face of our human capacity for compassion’. Nope, that’s something that only happens in the realm of parenting (I wonder if Fatherdom is the same place as Motherdom or whether you need a visitor permit). I’d like to discount this bullshit as being related to the afore-mentioned sleep deprivation but I fear it may rather be full on narcissism at this stage.
I want to be open about your travels. I don’t mind if you don’t want to join me here – the climate is pretty changeable, I’ve already mentioned the natives and there isn’t much of a culture of going out, but I do want to talk to you about it. Don’t worry, we are different I don’t expect you to want the same things as me- it’s literally ok if your travel plans are not the same as mine.
Well, I’m so pleased that you recognise that I may have different plans to you, shame you don’t want to talk with me about that but rather to me. Is this why you have written this passive aggressive blog post so that you can talk to me rather than with me?
You are my lifeline. I genuinely mean everything I have said. Motherdom is no different from anywhere you love. You commit to living there, to its ways, its people and its pace but not at the expense of hankering for some of the familiarity you left behind. You in your Non-mom-dom keep me real. You anchor me. You provide perspective and contrast, balance and sanity. I literally need you. The other here get me in a way you can’t, but too much looking inwards never got any one anywhere.
Ugh, a ‘literally’. I spotted it in the previous paragraph but it looks like they’re breeding now. Nice to know that whilst being your lifeline and anchor I also cannot ‘get’ you in the same way as the people on Fantasy Island. I’m honoured, no really. Remind me again why we were friends in the first place?
Please write from Non-mom-dom!
OK, here you go!
From different sides of the same Ocean let’s keep talking, I miss you.
Do you? It sure sounds like you miss having someone to talk at, sorry, to. You don’t seem that interested in me or my needs or wants, though.
Love Me. x
So I get that you want to stay in touch with your (only female?) friends since you became a mother, but this open letter makes you seem interested only if this happens on your terms, to your schedule, so that you can have someone to listen to what you want to say. That is shitty friend behaviour. As someone in Non-mom-dom please understand that I get it. I get that you have different demands on your time. I get that you might have to cancel at short notice. I get that you have new interests that you will want to talk about. My response to you is to ask that you please remember and abide by the friend ‘rules’. Please respect my time as being as valuable as yours, please remember that I might have interests that I want to talk about (conversation should be two-way), please don’t tell me how I feel or what I think.
Now I don’t know the person who wrote the original blog post, and I’m sure that some of my friends with children are going to be worried that some of the things I have expressed in response to it are directed at them. Please be assured that they are not. If I wanted to direct something at you, I’ll direct it at you (and not post a passive aggressive blog post open letter about it). I am, however, fed up of some of the bullshit that people (particularly women) are fed regarding parenthood and how it’s some magical mystical thing that no-one else could ever understand. I have deliberately not posted this as a response to the original writer. I am sure that they meant well, but I did want to use their post to highlight how pervasive the ‘parenthood is everything’ trope can be.