Motherhood is a cult ‹ CrimeReads

Motherhood is a cult ‹ CrimeReads

I just realized that I’m behind on paying the very high storage fees for my frozen eggs – fees I’ve pledged to pay in perpetuity, I guess.

Five years ago, at age 33, I sat down in front of my friend and former boss in a coffee shop and explained to him that I needed more money. “Why?” she asked, surprised. “You haven’t been promoted?” I replied that yes, I had just been promoted (at a salary slightly above five figures), but that being single in New York was difficult, and “What if I wanted to be a single mother one day?! “

“Well,” she said, after a pause. “Let’s give you more money, then.”

I don’t know why I became so preoccupied at this point in my life with the hypothetical scenario of being a single mother. I think I was less interested in reality and more interested in the possibility of choice. I finally reached my goal of relative financial stability and sold my new book, Just like mom, gave me the freedom to pursue fertility preservation. However, it’s highly unlikely that I can comfortably afford to be a single mother in New York even now, and in fact my circumstances have changed drastically over the past five years – I’m no longer single and I don’t live more in the city, having moved to the more affordable area of ​​the Hudson Valley. But I often think back to that conversation because the truth is, nothing motivated my commitment to improving my finances more than the idea that my fertility was rapidly expiring.

I never felt a strong maternal instinct. For a while I assumed that many years of nannying had temporarily turned it off and it would eventually reappear at some random time. (I loved the kids I cared for, but being a nanny in Paris and New York painted a daunting picture of what it took to juggle a career and a family in an expensive city.) But the fact is that my instinct was not temporarily quenched – it had never existed at all. I never felt opposed to children, but I never particularly looked forward to them either. They simply existed as a fact of my distant future, and over time the gap between the present and the future never really narrowed. They were still there, hovering about 5-7 years out of sight, even though I was 33, 34, 35, 36….

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…and just before my 37e birthday, my theoretical family went on the ice. Typing this sentence invites shame, because knowing that my eggs are safe in a cooler, sportier miniature sweater (uh, that’s how I imagine it) in an Upper West Side lab is a privilege. absurd. Beyond the problematic aspects of paying to prevent the inevitable, opting for “fertility preservation” (a nice term!), I am complicit in something bigger and more sinister: the cult of motherhood. .

Motherhood is a cult. I don’t expect this to be popular opinion, but think about it: what prompted me, a woman who never felt ambivalence towards child-rearing, to shelling out an ungodly sum and subjecting myself to weeks of self-injected hormones… all leading to the grand finale of general anesthesia and a painful uterus – for something as intangible as “options”. ”? Only to know that I will have to spend After money down the line to potentially (hopefully) achieve “mother” status?

And don’t get me started on the finance implications and how unfair it is that so many people don’t have that option at all. So why do we, the “lucky” ones, at least do it?

I have a theory, but I want to take a look at the dictionary definition of “cult” first. One of Merriam-Webster’s entries reads: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work.” By that definition, almost anything can be a cult, and to be honest, I think a lot of things in society are mind-blowing. It may seem obvious, but there’s a reason why the word “culture” shares an origin with “cult.” As a writer/editor, I like words, and as a former (average) Latin nerd, I’m into derivations, so bear with me for a second.

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At the root of the two terms are the Latin “cultus” (noun: care, adoration) and “cholere” (transitive verb: to cultivate). I don’t know because I remember any Latin, by the way. I googled it. Anyway, I’m interested in the terms ‘cultivate’ and ‘worship’. From the religious veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus (she has no other notable identity) to the unreasonable cost of designer onesiesours is a culture that cultivates an adoration of motherhood.

OK, but how? To come back to my theory, the maintenance of this culture depends on two factors: shame and a lack of questions.

Emotional manipulation is by far the most insidious and frightening aspect of this cult, whose leaders are all of us who adhere to it and perpetuate it. Society’s emphasis on cultivating a family unit as the inevitable next rung in the ladder of life is overwhelming. We are basically conditioned from birth to participate. It’s no coincidence that dolls are arguably the most popular toy for anyone born with a uterus. We’re taught to mimic motherhood when our brains are still squishy and squishy, ​​and by the time our prefrontal cortices and amygdalas sync up in our mid-twenties, we may already be pregnant; if we are not, then the inevitability of parenthood is deeply ingrained.

The result is a great deal of fear, anxiety and, yes, shame, if a person’s life evolves on its own, in a direction different from that of the majority of their community.

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Many aspects of my fertility preservation were uncomfortable, including extreme fluid retention to the point where I was forced to walk bent under the weight of my bloat like a Lady Gollum. It was unpleasant, but worse was the unexpected emotional responsibility. When I was barely out of anesthesia and dozing in a recovery room, the doctor pulled back the privacy curtain to reveal my “number”.

” It’s good, no ? ” I asked.

“Yes! Good job!” she said, adding to a list of congratulatory comments I had received during my two weeks – accolades I didn’t think I deserved, given that everything I was doing on my own to get things done was to eat salted meat and drink water, as I had been asked. I like salted meat, which requires little effort.

Then the doctor moved to the person at the bottom of the row, his form concealed by a few flimsy cotton panels. “You have thirty! she declared. This woman immediately burst into tears, overwhelmed with relief. For my part, I was appalled that we could hear each other’s “numbers”. What if my roommate, with whom I felt an instant affinity, hadn’t been happy with her results? I would have felt bad about my own success! And in fact, egg cravings are common, it turns out. Fertility can become a competitive sport, with women jealously competing for crops. When I looked at my phone as I sat there recovering, I got at least one message from a prying friend asking me how many eggs I had. I know of women who have gone back and paid extra, unnecessary and expensive recovery rounds to eclipse the results of friends.

This is where the element of shame comes in. When motherhood becomes a value judgment, it changes us. When we’re praised for parts of our biology over which we have no control, it’s infuriating. And we are all guilty of competition to some degree because reproduction is like a lottery by which we are judged and must fight to “win” despite our helplessness.

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I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of people who really want kids and for whom it’s authentically fulfilling. Plus the benefits of having children are obvious. You are guaranteed love and companionship, an inheritance, and someone who (hopefully) will visit you in old age and lead you to the other side. You’re entrusted with a cute little person to take care of, hopefully better than you’ve ever done plants and goldfish, and soon after they learn to talk they’ll be saying hilarious things that will bond you to them and make you wish you could keep little forever through tantrums and diapers. Plus, parenthood has the potential to change you for the better (from what I hear). Who has time to chat when their brain is fully occupied with strategies to keep a child alive? Seriously, there are few things in life that surprise us after a certain point, and I guess parenthood is one of them. That fact in itself is incredible, and the prospect of introducing a human into the world and shaping their personality is breathtaking.

I could make an equally compelling argument for not having kids, and you can probably guess what that sounds like. Money, time, deposited dreams, etc. How many of us sit down and really wonder what matters most?

If we don’t, it’s because we’re taught that it’s shameful to question the system. It’s selfish to want careers and vacations or to pursue dreams that consume too much of our time. It is inherently wrong, we are told, to prioritize short-term goals over potential long-term emotional gain. Besides, it’s even bad to think of it in terms of loss and gain, because how cold-hearted can you be? You bring life into this world and it is a noble pursuit that requires selflessness!

Even the best-meaning people reinforce this pattern. “Don’t worry,” a kind parent told me at a time when I wasn’t worried. ” It is still time ! My contentment wasn’t enough when I was missing something, something I hadn’t realized yet. Enter a slight feeling of unease. Should I to worry? I asked myself.

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On the other hand, when I hang out with mom friends, I tend to look back to my nanny years to feel a sense of belonging, despite my obvious lack of knowledge and authority. “Oh, I to like Magna-Tiles! I heard myself exclaim at a recent rally, relieved that some aspect of my distant past still holds true. I received tolerant smiles as a reward.

All this to say that I am the problem. We are the problem. I didn’t know that was where this essay was going until now. But as long as childless women like me adore Magna-Tiles and express a lifelong dream of bringing a child – any child – to American Girl’s flagship store (recalling a wine-induced conversation yesterday evening… my God), the worship will occupy an important place.

See you in two to four years after I give the green light to the big thaw, mothers. Congratulations to all of us for our hard work.