In The Baby Matrix, I talk about about how pronatalism is all around us. Here’s an example that has to do with a woman who is struggling with her uncertainly about becoming a mother. In an article by Nina Jacinto, “Loving So Much It Hurts: Why I’m Not Sure I Can Be a Mom” here is an excerpt of her feelings:
It’s the “‘loving so much it hurts’ that makes me want to scream and run away from the land of mamas. Caring for someone with all your heart that way requires a tremendous amount of trust in oneself, and even more vulnerability. Opening up our heart to love, and letting in everything that comes with it — happiness, sadness, fear, intimacy, risk, compassion sounds… terrifying. I struggle with this already as a daughter, as a person in a committed romantic relationship. I feel this way as a best friend. How can I take this on as a mother? The insecure and scared person inside me who has experienced and remains afraid of loss says, What if I can’t handle it?”
To this I say – If she decides she can’t handle it, that Should Be OK. She seems to be beating herself up for fearing she is not “ready” or does not have what it takes to be a mom.
Pronatalism, what The Baby Matrix explores in depth, includes the idea that a) there comes a time when we should all be ready to become parents, and b) there’s a strong connection between the ability to give birth and the ability to parent. Not only is a) not true, b) is a myth.
If she comes to the conclusion that motherhood is not something she has the ability to take on, she need not feel badly about this. If we lived in a society that did not unquestionably believe that parenthood should be the central focus of our adult lives, she would not have to be hard on herself for this choice.
But she does say that she thinks she wants to be a mom one day. So what could help her get beyond her anxieties and feel she has the abilities she needs to raise kids well? I give answers in Chapter 5 of The Baby Matrix, where I look at an old pronatal assumption surrounding our “right to reproduce,” and propose an alternative mindset about that right to reproduce.
The alternative mindset includes having solid education for people to think through why they want to become parents (because it is not everyone’s biological destiny, as the book also dissects), and to assist them in assessing and learning the skill sets that parenting requires.
Like any other “job” parenting requires certain aptitudes, certain “components of capability,” as I call them. What if our society required adult parenthood programs to help people really examine whether parenthood is right for them, and if it is, help them prepare for it?
If we did, people like Ms. Jacinto would have a place to go to explore her feelings, and get what she needs in order for her to be able to confidently say, “I can handle it,” or decide that parenthood is not right for her, and make this decision without self-judgment.