Lifestyle choices

Just to add to Ruth’s post at Mothers for Women’s Lib, in which she nicely deconstructs the “but it’s a choice” excuse for denying mothers a decent quality of life:

We don’t say that every other choice means you have to forego any right to complain, or to ask for or receive help. Exhausted after a night saving lives as a paramedic? Dude, it’s a choice, you could do data entry. Upset because a shift volunteering for the Samaritans has left you drained? Could have gone clubbing.

Both of those sound faintly stupid responses, don’t they? Because being a paramedic or a Samaritans volunteer are worthwhile things to do, and we’re grateful to the people who do them. But yet, when I said to my boss that I’m exhausted because I was up three times in the night with my teething toddler, she snapped “It’s a lifestyle choice, Kate.” Yes, parenting is a lifestyle choice; so is a choice of job or volunteering (all of which are constrained choices, not free ones). But good parenting saves lives, keeps people out of prison, makes a lasting contribution to society. And doing it at all, let alone trying to do it well, is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting.

Is it because it’s unpaid? Is it because you choose it yourself, rather than being chosen by “someone objective”? Is it because it’s mostly just aimed at one, or two, or three (or however many) particular individuals, rather than indiscriminately to “those in need”? All children are in need, and one of their needs is for an adult to attach to: usually, a parent. All kids need parenting, and parenting (in the sense of being the attachment object) is not transferrable. And you do not want to see what would happen if all parents decided they’d rather just do data entry and go clubbing because this is too hard. Unless you think there should be no next generation, you need to support us; we need to support each other.

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4 Responses to Lifestyle choices

  1. Aphrodite says:

    This is a really fabulous little addendum/sidenote on the point of Parenting-As-Choice. Kudos!

  2. Niall says:

    What an unutterable turd of a boss!

  3. I have been told by more feminists than I care to say that my PPD/PTSD was my fault because I made the “choice” to have a child (and subsequently should have naturally expected that cesarean, etc.)

    Do we tell war heroes that it was their fault they got PTSD because they were stupid enough to sign up for battle.

    No. We don’t.

  4. msruthmoss says:

    Thanks for the linkie love. And as for your boss; horrible!

    I particularly like the Samaritans analogy.

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