Before I became a mother, I was extremely familiar with the judgement and shame women who don't want to become mothers, face. I was dead-set on never being a mom; on never experiencing a pregnancy or reproducing; on never being responsible for another human being the way a mother is for her child. I knew what it was like to have women who did decide to become mothers, downplay my decision or judge my choice or tell me I would be lonely and, eventually, change my mind. What I didn't know was all the ways women without children shame mothers, too, and it took me eventually becoming a mom to realize that, well, women just can't win. Like, at all. Ever.
When I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant and, after weighing my options and speaking with my partner, decided to have a baby and become a mother, I was shocked at how much shame and judgement I received from women who didn't want children. I honestly thought it would be smooth sailing, since, you know, I was doing that thing that everyone kept telling me I would eventually want to do. It wasn't smooth sailing, however. I had women tell me my life was over and I had women tell me I would cease to live a meaningful existence and I even had women tell me that I wouldn't be able to continue my career; that I wouldn't be a "writer," but just a silly mom that sometimes writes on occasion. For women, especially when they weigh their procreation options, the grass isn't only not greener on the other side; there is no green grass. Nope, there's just a barren wasteland of judgement and shame of which no one is safe.
In an effort to combat social and sexist expectations of women and womanhood, we hear and are all relatively well-versed in the judgements kid-free women face on a daily basis. I do think it's just as important to look at all the ways moms are shamed, too, because, well, we don't have to all make the same life choices to realize that, regardless of said choices, we're going to be judged for them.
Telling Them How Nice It Must Be To Have All That "Free Time" At Home
I had someone tell me that it must be nice to just stay at home and write, now that I was a mother. "I wish I had that kind of free time," was a sentence sincerely uttered in my direction, at which my only response was to sit in disbelief while simultaneously keeping my mouth from saying something just as rude. Whether you're a stay-at-home mom, a mother who works in an office or a mother who works from home; nothing is easy. Like, nothing. You don't have free time, you have some time, which is rarely yet generously given to you by a tiny dictator who wants and/or needs you the majority of the 24 hours you are allotted in any given day. Assuming that becoming a mother is somehow "easy" or taking an "easy" way to any specific profession or life destination, is about as condescending as it is ridiculous.
Assuming Their Work Suffers Because They're A Parent
Assuming that a mother won't make a deadline or won't be able to handle a high-powered meeting or won't be able to do whatever it was she was doing before she became a mother, is ridiculous. Does parenthood get in the way, sometimes? Of course. Does it even make things harder to accomplish or achieve? It most certainly can. However, so do many other life choices and decisions and random occurrences that may or may not be in our general control.
Describing Them As A "Mom Who (Insert Profession Here)"
According to one individual, I used to be a "writer." Now, I'm "a mom who sometimes writes." I can tell you that her condescending tone and overall judgement and shame were not lost on me. A woman who becomes a mother doesn't automatically lose every other aspect of herself, or the identities that she associated with and has (probably) worked her entire life to cultivate. A mother is still all the other things she was before she decided to become someone's mom. Stripping her of her other titles and downplaying her other attributes, is not only wrong, it's inhumane.
Assumes They're Not Feminists Because They Became A Mother...
Being a feminist doesn't mean doing what you think you need to do in order for other people to easily identify you as a feminist. Being a feminist means doing whatever it is you want to do, because you believe in equality and equal opportunity for all genders. That means that being a stay-at-home mom doesn't make you a bad feminist and being a working mom doesn't make you a bad feminist and, yep, simply choosing to be a mother doesn't make you a bad feminist. Motherhood is no doubt a role that society has haphazardly determined all women should eventually take on, but that doesn't mean that the women who do make that choice have somehow bought into that out-dated and sexist idea. It simply means that, while mothers respect (or should) the choices of those women who do not want to be a parent, they should be respected by those same women for making a different choice, too.
...Or Assumes They Didn't Have A Choice In Becoming A Mother
After I found out I was pregnant, I had many people assume I was "stuck." As a pro-choice woman, I knew that I had options and that I didn't have to continue with an unwanted pregnancy if I didn't want to. I desperately hope that all women have that same ability, and know that I am lucky for being able to choose when I became a mother. Because that's exactly what I did; I made a choice. I decided that, even though I wasn't actively deciding to get pregnant, a pregnancy and motherhood was something I was ready and able and willing to experience.
Telling A Mother Her "Life Is Over"
Assuming that a woman's "life is over" the moment she becomes and chooses to stay pregnant is not only inaccurate, it's condescending. Procreation doesn't mean the end of a woman's career or relationships or social life or love life or any of the above, and it most certainly doesn't mean that she ceases to exist as a viable human being. This idea stems from sexist tropes and stereotypes, because a mother can (and usually does) become whatever the hell she wants to be.
Assuming A Mother Has Lost Her Freedom...
Do certain abilities cease to exist for a woman who has decided to be a mother? Sure, maybe, sometimes and for a little while, at least. Maybe she doesn't have the time that she had before she became a mom (she doesn't) but that doesn't mean she has no freedom whatsoever. The idea that a mother must constantly and endlessly be mothering is a direct reflection of the shame and guilt our society puts on women who reproduce. It's the reason why mothers are called selfish when they have lives outside and away from their children. It's the reason so many mothers are afraid or unable to do some basic self-care, in order to make sure their happiness and quality of life is important, too.
...Or The Ability To Have A Sex Life
Your sex life may change after you've had a baby, but I would argue it doesn't change anymore than anyone else who is either in a serious, long-lasting relationship, or just gets older and becomes busy with life and a career and friendships. Your sex life is what you make it, and if you don't want the frequency with which you have sex to change or diminish, you put forth the effort and make sure you don't. Whether that means you get a babysitter and go out on dates, or you work with a partner to keep the "fire" alive, sex after baby doesn't have to be as dead as our society (and those who don't have kids) assume it to be.
And, honestly, the idea that a mother doesn't have sex is an extension of our society desexualizing mothers because they've obviously had sex with someone. A mother is still sexy; A mother is still desirable; A mother doesn't have to fulfill some selfish standard of purity in order to appear attractive to members of the opposite (or same) sex.
Assuming A Mom Can't Do Something/Doesn't Have The Time, Before Actually Asking
Just because a woman is a mother, doesn't mean you should automatically assume she has no time for anything else in her life. A mother does and she can and while her schedule might be a little more packed than someone who doesn't have a child, that doesn't mean that she can't carve out time for the people and the things that matter most. Don't make these decisions for her by assuming you know the answer and not even asking if a mom can attend that one thing on that one day next week. Just, no. She's a grown-ass woman. She gets to decide what she does or does not have time for.
Assuming A Mom Can/Only Wants To Talk About Her Kid
I don't know about you, but I look forward to the conversations that don't involve my kid, just as much (and sometimes more) as I look forward to talking about that cute face my son made the other day. Again, don't assume a mother is some one-dimensional entity, only capable of speaking about her spawn.
Equating Her Entire Existence To Nothing More Than Her Ability/Choice To Reproduce
This is arguably the most frustrating way a non-mom shames mothers; stripping a mother of every other aspect of her life and focusing only on her choice and/or ability to procreate. Mothers shouldn't have their humanity stripped from them, just because they chose to be mothers. They're still complex, complicated individuals with lives that are just as multifaceted as the next, kid-free person.