Some reflections and opinions about repentance of having given birth
by Feminists Lucid, Santiago, Chile
In our group we have translated the discussion about motherhood and the repentance of giving birth [Birth Regret: A Mother’s Day Truthtelling]. We find this discussion endlessly interesting. Here we send some comments that came from this text.
Reading the current thoughts of women of American radical feminism on motherhood, the first impression I have is the difference between our experiences and the diversity of opinions that they motivate us to have. I find the common experience of women as a truth that crosses ages, social classes, races and ages. Undoubtedly, this is an idea of radical feminism that, among others, has had such a force that transcends the times.
I say this, because I, a 42-year-old woman living in Santiago de Chile, identify myself with the vital situations that American women describe in Meeting Ground about motherhood and whether or not to exercise it. I chose not to have children / daughters and so far I have not regretted. I chose it because I consider it irresponsible to bring beings into a world that, being subject to the domination of male supremacy, is on the verge of collapse.
Gynocide [As Andrea Dworkin defines it, the “systematic mutilation, rape and / or murder of women by men.”] and genocides are the order of the day, as well as the trafficking of women, child prostitution networks, animal torture, the depredation of nature, among other cruelties. I think that not giving birth is an ethical-political stance. In this case, I believe that adopting a girl or child becomes a more valued action, but the responsibility to raise and form another life is always very great in a society that leaves women alone in parenting and care, for therefore our creative energies are consumed in these labors. I chose to put these energies into feminist politics and writing, and a decision like this, not to create a human being, but to create other kinds of works, must be supported among women. Moreover, women, in one way or another, are always caring for others, whether relatives, elderly, animals, plants, etc. But caring for freedom and basic material conditions is very different.
In addition, I have a personal reason and it is that I have taken years to resolve my relationship with my mother. Being a daughter implies an important work of awareness, because the mother-daughter bond is special. It is often full of pain, contradictions and conflicts in a culture like this, where the legitimacy has the voice and the law of the father. In this sense, I share what the thinkers of the radical feminism of the difference say about the loss of authority of the mother in a phallocentric culture and the need to return that authority as both life-giving and word-giving: two facts that can not be separated, breathing and talking.
Likewise, the policy of care that has characterized female labor could have cultural status and social recognition if it were not scorned and erased by the recalcitrant misogyny of the androcentric order.
Consequently, I think that many of the bad experiences of motherhood, such as sacrifices, slavery and compulsions, are more symbolic than material, taking into account that the symbolic also has a considerable weight in the human species.
I personally decided not to have children, but I do care that women talk about motherhood, not just to analyze how this relates to the social mandates of heterosexuality or the free decision to abort. I am interested in knowing from those women who have decided (for whatever reason) to have children how that reality changes their lives. The discussion of many experiences on maternity is consistent with the frustration that arises in the field of professional and personal development, because being a mother in this system of male supremacy and in a neoliberal economic model implies an incompatibility to exercise a motherhood without social pressures, exclusions, discriminations or sanctions of all kinds.
We women have many difficulties to develop in freedom and according to our desires. I think, for the majority of our lives, we are exposed to the risks involved in being a woman in an androcentric culture, although the slogan of the emancipated woman tells us everything otherwise. The ideology of equality has given us the illusion of better lives conquering rights that have not given us well-being or tranquility, let alone freedom.
The trap is the freedom of choice between personal development – professional and being a mother, while we remain anchored to the same patriarchal structures that regulate social relations between men and women. For this reason for many women, motherhood becomes a limit or threat to one’s existence. If we look for example in the age when we are more fertile and in better physical conditions to give birth, at the same time we want to travel, go out, enjoy the day to day, etc. This decision always entails internal conflict and decisions full of contradictions. On the other hand, aging in a society that sets life parameters and idealizes youth and beauty models, aging is very cruel and difficult, especially for women.
Through these discussion, I can connect with those experiences of motherhood, and I am moved, because they are very real. I can see it reflected in the women of my family or in my friendships. My grandmother gave birth to 7 children and her dedication was unique and exclusive to them. Now she is 87-years-old and carries several diseases. On several occasions she has told me how disappointed she is to live in such conditions. She believed like so many other women that having children would give her a full life and company until her last days. She was wrong. If they ask me if I want to give birth, I say no! I do not regret not wanting to give birth.
When I read this MG piece I could not help thinking about motherhood from where I am now, how to be a daughter and not planning to have children, but also for the territory in which I have developed since my mother gave birth to me. Since my childhood, my mother has been the most important thing in my life, arriving at certain times to deny the existence of my father (“you are not my father” were some of my phrases from a very young age). I’m not sure why, maybe it was out of jealousy. Now I know that I deny it as patriarch of a family nucleus.
The lives of many women around me are predetermined by patriarchy expectations to be a mother. Even so, my mother claims that she wanted me and planned me in time. That I am not another “mistake” as were most of my classmates at school or my cousins. It is an anomalous situation in a context where sexual education or access to termination of pregnancy did not exist, and ignorance was the most common criterion for acting. At times I think that her safety in the decision to give birth can mean an inability to repent of being a mother either in times of fatigue from the work of caring, or a possible retrospective analysis of her life. Now that I’m older – and I’m a feminist – I try to have a more sympathetic position with her, rather than judge her for deciding to be a full-time mother and not dedicating her life to any profession (which was not an option in her family either) – we have immersed ourselves in deep and long conversations.
I understood a few things about what it meant to be a mother to be a woman, I understood all the mental load that arises from their upbringing, that whole sphere from which the parents disengage and then complain when they are empty or alone, because they never cultivated affection towards their children (at least in my case).
Reading my attitudes and my predisposition towards life, my internal conflicts as situations of concern for my mother made me relax the hostile attitudes towards her. Why does being a mother also involve dealing with the lives of children in youthful rebelliousness, in thoughts depressive and in their long philosophical ramblings about existence? They do not have to do it, the less we have to demand them, especially if their ex-partners redo their lives easily, and they feel impotence. That is what patriarchy has left in their lives.
After this I would never underestimate my mother and I am largely understanding what it is to be a woman. To feel that my mother must be in every crisis and in every personal conflict is to admit that place to which hegemonic motherhood relegates them: care workers regardless of the consequences.
I find it difficult to imagine that a woman of this Third World land, deeply Catholic and conservative, assume that repentance. That would be against the stereotype of the patriarchal motherhood that has built Catholicism: the mother who gives everything, who gives up all her life as a sacrifice for the children. I believe that my mother would never regret giving birth and raising, that would be too unnatural for her Christian morality. However, she understands the injustices in which she was subjected by the institution of patriarchal and hegemonic motherhood. All those tasks that she was forced to assume and that compromised her mental health, would not have to be her exclusive responsibility.
Eliminating these behaviors in me has been part of getting rid of misogyny towards my mother, and toward women in general.
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