Readers take the stage

Washington Post Writers GroupJune 29, 2009 

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On societal pressure to reproduce: What is wrong with our culture? I knew by the time I was 18 that I didn't want children, but I was 30 before I could convince my doctor to give me a tubal. His excuse was that I might break up with my partner and get involved with someone who wanted kids. I remember sitting and looking at him and thinking "But that would make us incompatible, wouldn't it?" And no, I didn't say it. That young, I was not very outspoken, especially to authority figures.

Not everyone is suited to be a parent. Unless a woman was the girl in charge of looking after her siblings as a child, she has little idea of how thoroughly that baby will take over her life. One of my friends admitted to me that while she was expecting her first child, "I thought it would be my life, with a baby in it." Then she stopped and looked at me. "But, the baby is my life. I'm OK with that, but it wasn't at all what I had expected."

She is adaptive enough to have gotten through the initial surprise well. But our culture's notion that you have to reproduce is appalling. And the tragedy plays out on the front pages of our papers, when children who should never have been conceived are beaten to death by people who should never have conceived them, or gotten involved with those who did conceive them. A parent's job is not for the faint of heart or the uncommitted.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been told that I am wrong for not having children, and it is often like talking to a cultist. I'm missing out on the most important thing in a woman's life. I'm unfulfilled as a woman. I'll regret it later, etc.

All I wish is that children, girls in particular, not be sold that particular bill of goods that we, every one of us, has to help (over)populate the earth, and that it will all come naturally when the baby arrives. If there were real education for every child about the obstacles and problems new parents face, we would have fewer front-page tragedies, fewer lives of quiet, or not-so-quiet, desperation. This notion that every human being is a natural parent is a horrible disservice.

And after painting women into this gotta-be-a-mom corner, we hear that working mothers neglect their children for their own success and stay-at-home mothers "don't work." Come again? I'm ranting again. Sorry. -- M.

On doing something wonderful, just because: There is a patient of mine at a rehab nursing clinic whose daughter owns a local shop.

On Mother's Day, the daughter brought in flowers for each patient. With a vase. And a hug. Let me tell you, we have a lot of mothers who have outlived their kids and are about ready to see them again, and those flowers reminded them of their kin.

I can only hope that daughter knows how important that gesture was.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com.

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