Open Letter to 'Clock-Ticking' Childless Women Makes Moms Look Condescending & Self-Righteous

Rant 82

Where do I even get STARTED with this awful blog post by Janine Kovac, self-described "Mother of three"? Should I just get right into the part where I think it's about the most judgmental, sanctimonious, narcissistic, rude, belittling piece of gasoline-soaked garbage I've ever seen tossed into the Mommy Wars flames? Or should I back up and open with my theory that this may have been written by a clever SEO expert, because surely no actual HUMAN BEING shares Janine's beliefs?

Okay. Okay okay okay. First I'm going to breathe. Next I'll ask you to read this baffling post titled, "Maybe You Are Ready for Kids, You're Just Not Paying Attention." Then we're all going to 1) apologize on behalf of moms everywhere, because GAH, we don't all think like this! and 2) chat about how Ms. Kovac has LOST HER DAMN MIND.

In fact, let's just take this point by sarcastic, disbelieving point:

This is an open letter to an old friend of mine. I’ll call her “Doris.” If you’re a mom, you know Doris. She’s in her mid-30s and thinks of herself as a career woman.

So basically if you're in your mid-30s, you have a job and a vagina but you don't have kids, your name is now Doris. Because you're ALL THE SAME. Also, despite the fact that you are in fact a woman with a career, apparently you just "think of yourself" that way. You don't get an identity until you have children, Doris.

She knows the clock is ticking. She says she’s not panicking yet, but we know better—she’s freaking out.

Who knows Doris better than she knows herself? Her good pal Janine, of course.

She doesn’t want to be rushed into having kids (which is why she’s still doesn’t have any) and she’s worried that she doesn’t feel ready. Or worse—what if she finally feels ready at age 46 and it’s too late? What if it’s already too late? Sometimes Doris reminds me of my kindergartner—“What if I get sick tomorrow and can’t go to school and I never learn to read?” Sometimes Doris reminds me of my toddler twins—wanting whatever toy the other twin has.

Doris, why are you so reluctant to have children when you're basically a child yourself? Having complex, conflicting emotions and varying personal priorities is so incredibly immature. 

Mostly, though, Doris reminds me of myself before I had children. I did the math—kids are expensive! I couldn’t imagine myself having one child, let alone three. And forget about the high costs of college tuition, do you know what daycare costs? My husband had to talk me into having children. (In fact, he’s still trying to talk me into having more children). And now, here I am, six years later with three of them. And if I’d had just a little more faith, I would have started having kids from the moment I met my husband and I would have never stopped to worry about being “ready.”

Look at me, glowing with pride, years after cowing to my partner's demands to procreate, now that cognitive dissonance no longer allows me to recognize the feelings of not being ready for parenthood. Admit your jealousy, Doris! ADMIT YOUR LACK OF FAITH.

Oh, Doris, Doris, Doris. This is what I want to say to your face when we get together for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and you wonder—again—if you’re ready to have kids. I haven’t said anything because 1) I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and 2) you’re always looking at your iPhone. I’m not sure if you’re really listening. But you need to know this, so I’m saying it here.

Oh Janine, Janine, Janine. Have you considered that Doris may be checking her iPhone to see if anyone's released an app called "57 Ways to Silently Throat-Punch Someone in a Starbucks"?

First of all, Doris, I should have said this a long time ago, but please stop comparing your dog to my children. I get it—puppies are cute and babies are cute and both need to be housebroken. And your dog seems pretty smart, but will never learn how to brush her own teeth or call the vet when she has funny stomach pains. My kids, on the other hand, are going to grow up and vote. That’s probably the biggest difference. That and the poop. Out of all three children only one child has tried to eat his poop and that was an isolated incident, unless you count the time he found little goat droppings at the petting zoo. Your dog, on the other hand...I rest my case.

*gavel bang* Finally, we've solved the ever-complicated issue of Is Having a Dog Exactly the Same as Having Human Children? It's maybe too bad that the goat-poop-eating child will have voting rights, but that's how democracy works, Doris. You'd know this is you were a mother.

There’s something else I want to get off my chest, too, Doris. I know you’re a smart cookie with advanced degrees. You think of yourself as a mature woman and a kind woman and a compassionate woman. And you are! But you are also slightly short-sighted. You are dismissive of the younger mom and can’t imagine that she could have wisdom beyond her years and beyond your—excuse me for saying this—limited world experience.

That's right, Doris. What could you possibly know about the world until you have children? What value could you bring, with your "advanced degrees" and your "kindness" and your "compassion"? You were put here on the earth for one purpose, Doris, and that's to reproduce. Never forget this. In fact, go get a mirror and look at your vagina. What do you see? A MYSTICAL PORTAL FROM WHICH WISDOM FLOWS, DORIS.

And you’re a little dismissive of your own mother. I know she can’t text and she still calls the DVD player “the VCR.” But trust me, one day in your first trimester it’ll hit you that for each of the six billion people on the planet, a mother was pregnant and went through what you’re going through. It’s the most ordinary thing in the world and yet, when it happens to you, it’ll be the most extraordinary experience you’ll have had to date. I can just see you pregnant. You’ll be one of those people who reads What to Expect When You’re Expecting and you’ll watch the movie The Business of Being Born. After the baby comes you’ll read about the Ferber methods of sleep training and contrast them with the Harvey Karp methods. You’ll read Dr. Sears because you’ve read that attachment parenting is the best and you’d like to get your kids into a fancy school. I know. That’s why I bought an Ergo. It’s the first step toward giving your children the social/emotional intelligence that’ll get them into Princeton. And you’ll run around like a dog chasing her tail. You’ll panic because you will never feel “ready”—whether it’s feeling ready for your daughter to go off to Princeton or ready for you to go off the pill.

Basically, even though you're sort of a useless shit of a person, Doris, you're going to be an even more useless mom. But at least you'll be fulfilling your destiny. I mean, you won't be on the Janine level of things -- does your child eat his own feces? Yeah, I didn't think so -- but it's time to stop fretting about that "career" of yours and focus on the things that matter.

In a way, telling yourself that you’re not ready to become a parent is like saying, “I’m not ready to broaden my horizons.” Or, “I’m not ready to be humbled on a daily basis.” Or, “I’m not ready to feel my heart swell up with admiration and pride.”

Or it's like saying "I'm not ready to make an enormous, permanent life change." Or "My values aren't driven by the values of others." Or "I have life plans and goals that don't include children." Whatever, Doris. I don't expect you to understand my morally superior beliefs.

I know it seems like a big step. I know it looks like motherhood is giving up yourself. It’s not. It’s just shedding the parts of you that you don’t really need anymore.

Independence, freedom, your career, travel, sense of self-worth through non-childcare-related activities, time with your partner, the ability to take a leak without someone pounding on the door ... you don't need those things anymore, Doris. Because I said so. In case it's not clear: Any reason you have for not pursuing motherhood makes you a less worthy person.

There’s no guidebook that can prepare you for that; you learn through the experience of it. Motherhood is like boot camp for the soul. But since you insist on being “ready” first, here are some things you can do. Be attentive to your own life. First, recognize when you’re tired—and then rest. The next step will be to recognize when there is a person on the subway who’d like to sit down and even though she is neither old nor disabled, you should offer your seat to her. Look at her face, Doris, she’s had a harder day than you. You can give up your seat. After all, you’re not that tired today. Because yesterday you rested. And little by little you’ll be attentive to other things around you. You’ll look at the sky and think, “It really does look like it’s going to rain today. I’ll bring an umbrella, even though Mr. Weather Dude says there’s no chance.”

*I CAN'T EVEN MAKE A JOKING RESPONSE TO THIS PART BECAUSE THE IMPLICATION THAT CHILDLESS WOMEN ARE SELFISH AND WOULD REALIZE THEIR DESIRE FOR CHILDREN IF ONLY THEY PULLED THEIR HEADS OUT OF THEIR OWN INATTENTIVE-TO-OTHERS BUTTHOLES FILLS ME WITH INARTICULATE CAPS LOCK RAGE*

And that’s good training because later when little Connor or Travis or Wilson arrives, (we all know that Doris is totally going to name her kid Connor or Travis or Wilson) you’ll know when to send him to school in his rain boots.

Yeah. Who here's DYING to know what Janine's kids are named?

All this being attentive might make you do something about that job you’re always complaining about. You know you work really long hours and you can’t see where you’d fit if you stayed but you’re too scared to leave. If you stopped to pay attention, you might notice how your job is really something more like marketing than paralegal work or maybe you’ll notice that you’d really enjoy event planning and after noticing, you might go to more events and spend fewer nights home watching back-to-back episodes of Friends. Or maybe it’s not event planning. I don’t know. That’s what you have to figure out. But if you aren’t attentive to what’s happening around you, if you don’t respond to it, you’ll never figure it out. You’ll stay in this job that you hate and you’ll drag me to have coffee and complain. Again.

Oh Doris, it's a good thing you're just a figment of Janine's imagination. If you weren't an amalgamation of clouded perceptions and unkind thoughts strung together to make a terrible straw man argument to support Janine's life choices, I'd imagine you'd be readying an extra-hot venti latte to dump on your wonderful pal Janine right about now.

But Doris—one last thing. This whole idea of “being attentive” is not any sort of guarantee. You still might have miscarriages. The difference is that you might seek the support you need to heal rather than pretending it doesn’t hurt. Or maybe your Mr. Right comes with two kids from a previous marriage. But this way you’ll be able to anticipate what sets off the jealous ex and how to reach out to her. Bad stuff still happens. But the point is, you’ll be ready for anything.

What the fuck? Okay, I don't even know what Janine's talking about any more. I guess the gist is that 30-something "career women" need to be more attentive so they can better prepare for trying to become mothers because any other life choice is invalid. The only thing that strikes me as even more offensive than the views expressed in this post is the fact that it's entirely unsurprising that this whole mess is directed at "Doris" -- because god forbid "David" get some of this same tired, disrespectful, patronizing bullshit.

What do you think of this article? Do you agree with any of these observations about "Doris"?


Image via Penelope Waits/Flickr

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nonmember avatar Christine

Thank you for standing up for childless women everywhere. I'm 35, I don't have children. I'm sure a lot of my friends assume that I don't want children and I've been accused of being too career minded.
The truth is I do want them, however, I'm single and finding someone out there to have a family with is hard.
Unfortunately for me, my love life didn't turn out like everyone else's and through a series of circumstances, I'm now 35, single and childless. I hate that people assume that I've made the choice to be without children. It just so happens that this is hand I've been dealt for now.

handy... handy0318

I thought perhaps Linda was overreacting (not uncommon with Stir bloggers) so I read the original blog by Janine.... yeah, that's about the worst bit of sanctimonious, condescending, litter box liner I've ever read. blech...

nonmember avatar Carly

Jesus, like we need more offensive articles like this to throw gasoline on the Mommy Wars. Thank you for pointing out how utterly ridiculous this pile of goat droppings is, I would hate to think that any of my many 30-something career-oriented friends would believe that I, or any other mother ,feel this way. Hurray for choices!

spect... spectralmind

Yeah I'm having a hard time believing this article is real... it's THAT bad. I want to believe its fake.

Vegeta Vegeta

So what I'm gathering is: as soon as your ladyparts become a functioning magic portal, you should use them to make as many baby's as possible. Whether or not your mentally or financially ready (or even if you don't like kids at all). At which point you level up automatically in perception, attentiveness, and knowledge- Thus not needing schooling or a career job. Don't worry your 10 poverty stricken uneducated neglected children will be so much better off.



My brain broke down.

nonmember avatar K

THANK YOU for this post -- and Christine, for her comment above. I too am 33, single and child-less. Not by choice...I would love to have a family and children, but as of yet, my love life has not quite evolved in the direction I'd anticipated or hoped. I do work hard at my job, I do continue to move forward in my career -- but this doesn't mean it's the only thing I want in my life and it certainly doesn't mean I chose between children and my job. What am I do while I continue to date and hope to find someone I'd like to start a family with? NOT continue to advance in my career? Pass up jobs or other opportunities and sit around moaning about the lack of a date? Come on.

Thank you Linda for your (always) hilarious and insightful writing.

Bloom... Bloomie79

Vegeta I think you hit the nail on the head! 


Now lets all go back to minding our own business about other people's personal choices m'kay

nonmember avatar LizzieBorden

Wow this "Janine" sounds insufferable; I feel sorry for her kids! Lol.

BirdCo BirdCo

Vegeta,

Through out the day I have been following this "Doris" debacle and by far and away your comment is my favorite. Thank you!

older... oldermomat41

Yep, more gas! I read many of the comments listed under the article and there it goes, pitting mommy against mommy, non mommy against mommy, stay at home mom vs working mom. The author (Janine) lacks perspective and clearly has limited worldly experience all the while criticizing her friend of such things. I think Doris needs to delete this "friend" and label her as toxic!

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