Nobody’s Mother and Somebody’s Wife

On her charming blog, A Farmwife With a Twist, Amber wrote a bit about her views of right and wrong specific to the BDSM scene in this entry.  It's interesting to read her points of view — sometimes it's easy to forget in a scene world of tolerance, of "your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay" that there are those that find our life not okay.  I've got a few acts of my own I feel that way about –for instance, I won't play with people whose partners don't know that they're playing with someone else –but that's as much an unwillingness to risk being dragged into their relationship drama.  Also, I've been cheated on and it sucks.

Anyway, as I said, Amber spells out clearly some things that bother her, writing:

I find that there's a lot room for utterly appalling moral behavior in BDSM realm, or at least from what I've learned from kinky blogs […]

Those things that steadily continue to appall me are:

-adultery

-unwillingness to have children and selfish hedonism

-polygamy/swapping partners/offering your partner to others "to use"

All of the above to me are a fundamental assault on basic human dignity and are certainly not pleasing to God […]

And there is one more thing I literally have 0 tolerance for – a weekness of character as expressed in fear of commitment to one partner for life with the purpose of starting a family.

[The dots in brackets mark places where I snipped information out just for focus (hopefully without changing the meaning.  You can go check her blog and read the whole article if you like.)]

From what I wrote above, you can probably guess I kind of agree with her about adultery.  But to me, it isn't "adultery*" when both people are honest and agree — that is, there's nothing wrong with me playing with whomever so long as P doesn't have any problem with it and vice versa.  What would be wrong (imo) would be if I did this either without regard for objections he had or somehow sneaking behind his back. 

As to the rest…

… I don't even know what would actually be an example of "selfish hedonism" in my marriage.  Staying in bed with P on a Saturday morning rather than getting up and helping my friends move?  Using all the hot water for an extra long bubble bath?  Taking all the whipped cream for my strawberries and leaving none for his? I'm not quite sure. 

Polygamy / polyamory?  I don't have a problem with that at all.  It's not my thing –I'm introverted enough that maintaining a relationship with P is about all the "primary" I can handle.  While we play with other people, they're friends (beloved friends in many cases).  But while I think poly relationships can be complicated, I don't think the idea that one can love and be committed to multiple people or that three or more adults can be a family is anything but beautiful.  From what I've seen, poly relationships can be remarkably unselfish and passionate.  In my opinion, any relationship that's honest and helps each person involved in it to be happy and grow is an honorable and a blessed one.

What I found oddest, however, on Amber's list were her statements about being appalled by people who are "unwilling" (she does make exceptions for those who are "unable") to have children and the notion that a lacking a desire to "start a family" somehow reflects an "assault on human dignity."

My first answer to that would be that P and I committed to each other and became a family years before we were married.  By then we had re-arranged our lives to be together, changed countries (in his case), lived together as much as the law allowed for several years and shared as much about ourselves as we could find to share.  In fact, I know I found things I didn't know about myself in the course of getting to know him.  While I think our relationship has deepened in the two and a bit years since we married, I think that probably would have happen anyway.  When do I think P and I started to become a family?  The first time he wrote in a whisper that he loved me.  And then 9 years ago when he came to see me for the first time.

There's nothing incomplete about our relationship now — nothing waiting for a child to somehow make it more real.

Why don't we have children?  There are a lot of reasons, but they boil down to the fact that neither of us want them.  Speaking for myself, I've never wanted to have any children– something I started telling my mom back when I was 3.  I like other people's babies and young children fine for a little while, but not enough to live with them.  I do like teens, but the odds of giving birth to a 13 year old are pretty low.  To me, what would be an "abomination"  would be someone who is pretty sure he or she (or he and she in our case)  doesn't like or want children having one on the off chance that she would 1) feel differently about one of her own and 2)hoping it would somehow deepen their marriage and somehow make them a family.

Anyway, I had some more thoughts, but they've drifted away and it's time for bed.  I've probably written enough anyway.

The title of this entry is adapted from Sanda Cisneros's author description in her first book, The House On Mango Street.  In it she writes she is "nobody's mother and nobody's wife."

I'm not talking about strict Biblical law here, but rather about when the act (whether sexual or spanking) becomes immoral / unethical.

13 thoughts on “Nobody’s Mother and Somebody’s Wife

  1. Amber

    Hi Mija!
    Thanks for thinking in depth about this and posting about it. Often, part of my goal is to be provocative, I guess :).
    Naturally, what you choose to do in your life is your right which I don’t suggest should be taken away. Nevertheless, I do think that choosing whether to be a mother, provided that does not endanger your life, should not be a choice. (In the same way I think that a woman has no choice to take life of her own child by aborting it.) While my beliefs are strongly influenced by the Catholic Church (although not 100% subject to what the pope has to say), so you can see where the wind is blowing from!
    Anyway, why do I feel so strongly about motherhood? I guess I just do. Note that I don’t say that being a mom is cute, fun, sweet, and amusing (although it actually is all of the above), but it also means not being a subject to yourself, I guess. The birth, especially natural birth, is excruciating, the recovery can be painful (I had an awful experience myself, for instance), the first two months of a child’s life are a killer, and you can’t just up and leave your house without taking your child or finding a babysitter. In fact, as I write this post, I am nursing the baby who cried and demanded that I hold her and nurse her right now – by the way she’s not hungry, just needs me. Nevertheless, there’s an immense happiness from having a baby, and it’s something deeply innate and encoded in the feminine nature which comes to the surface once the child is born, even if before it seemed like it would be a pain to have a baby. In fact, I didn’t want children just because I thought it would be neat or, most importantly, not because everyone else seems to be having them. Instead, being a healthy woman, I wanted to have a baby [with my husband] because I thought it was the right thing to do (and, God willing, I’d like to have at least 3 more). I never thought that children were cute or fun to be around – quite the opposite, I am still uncomfortable taking care of others’ kids – but I guess I trusted that motherly instincts would come – and they did. When she was first born I was resentful at first and it was a MAJOR physical trauma – but only for a few weeks – then motherly love began to pour out from the inside, and I embraced my baby with joy, as I thought I would. And now it’s actually inconceivable for me to imagine what it would be like if we were still just the two of us. I am looking forward to having another one two years from now, at the latest (but again, sometimes you can’t plan those things). That’s I guess to explain where I was coming from.
    Thanks again for giving it your time! I expected you’d have something to say about it.
    Amber

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  2. Amber

    Oh, also, I wanted to add this – I am not questioning the level of commitment between you and Paul – cause surely it’s not measured by whether or not you choose to have children.
    And, by the way, I would be exactly an example of a woman who I guess didn’t want to have children in the sense that I didn’t think it would be fun or make MY life better, and like I said above, I didn’t like children per se – I am not crazy about cuddling them and stuff, especially some else’s, but rather I made a choice to have one, just as you say, with the hope that I will feel differently about my own, and, OF COURSE, I felt differently about my own, and now I feel more warmly about others’ children as well. And, sure as hell, it makes my already diamond-strong marriage stronger and my husband and myself more connected – because we are now connected by blood, and we created another person together, like [OK, you’ve heard this cliche before] the love between the Father and the Son produced the third person, the Spirit. We share a responsibility over the life of another who was born as the result of our commitment and our desire to spend the rest of our lives together, and it sure will make us think twice if ever we get pissed off with each other enough to consider separation. (Not like we would, necessarily, but hypothetically speaking). So, yes, I think, on top of everything else, that children are a glue.

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  3. Dyke Grrl

    I’ve got to say something on the other side of having children. My partner and I desperately *want* children. We have *wanted* to have children for a long time. And we keep making the painful, heartwrenching decision to not have them, at least for the time being.
    We are surrounded by people who are having children, because they want to, because they can, because they made a mistake about birth control, or for whatever reason. And these people are doing those children a grave disservice. They are not able to give them the love, compassion, and nurturing that all children desperately need. Because these people have not made the “selfish” choice to make sure they have met their *own* needs, they are unable to meet their children’s needs. W. and I are unwilling to do that to children.
    Disclaimer: this next paragraph has nothing to do with ANYONE who is posting here and now.
    I believe firmly that the majority of people who are abusive to their children do so not because they are evil or hateful, but because they are overwhelmed and unable to cope with the situations they find themselves in. I see people screaming at their children, grabbing them, neglecting them, not meeting their needs. I see far too many parents who do love their children, but are not able to be consistent or loving in action.
    So is it selfish of me and W. to choose not to have children, when we can easily predict that, given our current situation, we would be overwhelmed and unable to cope appropriately? Or is it selfish of the people who have children because they want them, or feel G-d is telling them to, despite the fact that they are not able to be the best possible parents for those children?
    (PS–I’m copying this comment verbatim to Amber’s entry on her blog as well.)

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  4. Pablo

    Not much to add to this, except that the world is *not* full of people who decided to have children for the sake of the (as-yet unconceived) children. People choose to have children because they think it will improve their own lives somehow. Not a *bad* motive, but no more or less selfish than the choice not to have them. (Though I agree with DG that people who have children – or thoughtlessly allow conception to occur – without considering whether they can take good care of them, are doing something that’s profoundly selfish.)

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  5. Amber

    I think Paul is wrong by saying that everyone has children to somehow improve their own life. Children are work, not commodities – but it’s like planting trees, if you will. People buy a plazma TV or a shiny car to “improve” their life, I would say, but having children is not like that. Most people who have kids do take good care of their children, too. I really do think that it’s a choice that is selfish and wrong to not have children because someone doesn’t want to the work or sacrifice that comes with it. Can’t say that enough.

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  6. Molly

    Unless they’re actually psycopaths, people don’t set out with the intention of screwing up their kids. And most people who are emotionally and financially able to, do a reasonably decent job of providing for their children whether they planned to have them, whether they gave birth to them, or whether they adopted them. Some of them screw the kids up unintentionally.
    But I can’t help being struck by how culturally specific this discussion is. I don’t see that as bad, just as something to take into account. Over time and place, the relationship of kids and parents varies a lot. As does the relationship of kids and other non-parent adults. This American nuclear family configuration is a very recent cultural construction and not simply the natural order of things. It’s also statistically the minority arrangement here and now.
    I think deciding not to have children is often a responsible choice. It says nothing about how you treat other people’s children. It says nothing about whether you are a good neighbor, aunt, uncle, friend to children. I think it’s vaulable for children to have responsible adults in their lives to supplement their parents. Choosing to be one of those people rather than a parent does not seem selfish at all to me.

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  7. Janet

    “it’s something deeply innate and encoded in the feminine nature which comes to the surface once the child is born”
    Having a vagina, uterus, and eggs has nothing to do with being a woman or feminine.
    I feel the exact same way as Mija. I don’t want children, never have.
    There are thousands upon thousands of ways one can be unselfish and devote themselves to the betterment of human society than to have a child.
    I’m not too sure about defending your believes on parenthood by using the Catholic faith. Many nuns are just as healthy as any female and one would not consider them selfish or hedonistic in anyway.
    Is the issue sex without the intention of creating children? If so, then logically it’s selfish to have sex, and the issue is not about not creating children at all.

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  8. Rob

    Pablo’s comment had me thinking. Why did I choose to have children? Well, yes, I did think it would enrich my life to have children, and secondly, it was a decision that I didn’t have to think about much at all really, because it was a natural drive in me. Each individual must make their own decision on this one, not to mention that life circumstances play a big part in the decision making. I can’t for the life of me think how it could be argued that anyone has the right to tell someone else whether they should or should not have children, unless there were medical reasons. I was also prompted by this post to think about my last pregnancy – not exactly planned and quite a long way after what I thought was my last child. I was anguished as to what to do – I wasn’t at all sure that another child would enrich my life this time around. In the end I embraced this child inside me, and was rewarded with the most loving boy any mother could ask for. Another mother in another situation might have made the opposite decision, and hopefully for her, that decision was the right one as well. Finally, I encourage loved ones to become interested in the lives of any child. Hilary Clinton’s “It takes a village to raise a child” statement couldn’t be more true in my opinion. A special childless friend, aunt or uncle, can make a big difference in a child’s life.

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  9. angrylittlegirl

    This is intersting to me because just the other day I was recalling being told, as a little girl, by my Catholic mother, that she thought it was okay for poor people to decide not to have children couldn’t support, but not for rich people to decide to “buy a boat instead of have another child”. While I now understand the social and cultural choices that led her to this postition, it still seems as unnatural an inclination to me now as it did then.
    I have huge issues with the nuclear family, and my experiences in them—as both a child and a wife—were neither helpful nor beneficial. Which I realize doesn’t mean they never CAN be—and I’m not trying to be at all critical of anyone elses’ choice of what’s best for them—but god, they’re so well adapted to contain child abuse, domestic violence and scary secrets.
    I am a mother, and divorced with minimal paternal involvment. I have always viewed my child as my gift to the world, and the world as my gift to my child. Many of my friends have chosen not to have children, and my son is surrounded by people who love him, are interested in him as a human being, and actually want and are excited to play knights and star stars games with him when I am too exhausted. He has a whole network of adults he trusts, he’s amazingly secure and confident, and he’s incredibly giving and loving. And this is due as much to my child-free friends as it is to his own mother. We are both much better people for their decision to channel their nurturing energy into aother arenas beside having their own kids.
    I think the idea of one (or even two) people being entirely responsible for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of even one (let alone several) other people is absolutely insane. To me that sort of parenting is more an endurance test than a relationship. It DOES take a village.
    I think the nuclear family makes sense for some people, but I don’t think it makes sense for most. I feel the same way about monogamy. While I choose it(mainly because part of my sub thing is wanting to belong entirely and exclusively to one person)I don’t think that makes it right for everyone. I don’t think these things should be the model, I think they should be a few of many alternatives.
    I hope I didn’t offend anyone…

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  10. Rob

    angrylittlegirl: I’d like a penny for every time I thought the same thing as I have brought up my children – two adults aren’t enough in a childn’s life. We actually moved countries back to where there were lots of relatives, thinking of all the benefits for the children, only to find that all the relatives were actually pretty absorbed in their own lives. Some good teachers, coaches, and other parents along the way have been great support, but at the end of the day my experience is that many parents have no alternative but to go the extra mile to ensure that their children’s lives are enriched. That you have found adults who want to get involved in the life of your child is gold.

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  11. angrylittlegirl

    Thanks, Rob, it IS gold. And their decision not to have children is benefiting society amazingly.

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  12. Mija

    Thanks for all the replies to this entry. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and reading your thoughts as they’ve posted. You’re very welcome and I appreciate your comments very much.
    My mom was actually the first person I’ve ever heard say “people have and don’t have children for largely selfish reasons — I’ve never met anyone who decided to have a child just to make the world a better place.” I can’t comment too much on why someone would choose to have a child, but I do think the descision would be made based on them believing that the child will make their life better. Either by making them feel more like a family, the pleasure of caring for someone who is dependent on them or to deepen the connection with their spouse. I don’t think material things are generally those which enhance ones life.
    I became most clear that I didn’t want to have children myself (I’d always known on some level, but also believed my feelings might change) when I was in my early 30s and supporting a friend going through round after round of fertility testing and treatment. Watching her go through this physically and emotionally draining process, I realized that there was no way I would do even 10% of this — that she burned and ached with a desire to have a child that I had never come close to experiencing.
    Once I realized that, I was pretty much at peace with the idea of living a life without children of my / our own. Fortunately (though probably not accidentally) I met and fell in love with someone who also hadn’t ever imagined being a father. Would P wanting children have changed my opinion? Probably, at least somewhat and the same might well have happened in the other direction.
    I do think having children you raise and care for is a wonderful contribution to make to the world. But obviously I disagree that, being female, it’s a necessary one for those of us who have no desire to do it.

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