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Uncovering the Internalized Sexism in My Decision to Be a Parent

Thirteen years ago I went to one of Diane Balser's1 workshops at which she proposed that each woman discharge for at least a year on whether or not to become a (biological) mother before making that decision. At the time, my partner and I had just decided to become parents. I assumed it would not be harmful to do some discharging about this, so I attended a group with four other women, each of whom was trying to decide if and how they'd become mothers.

I never really questioned my decision. I "visited" the group and worked on the "fact" that I wanted to be a mother. At that point I had no idea of the overload of sexism influencing my choice nor the sexism that would play out at me once I became a mother. Although I had a hunch that a fully rational choice might be impossible, I pretended that my choice was a rational one. (My partner's and my lives were generally well organized, we were in good condition, we had enough money, RC was available to me, I had dependable RC relationships, and so on.) I did not really look at the reasons why I longed to be a mother. I discharged some about my father's death, missing him, and wanting to restore a lost parent-child relationship, and I gained a few insights, but I did not thoroughly discharge these distresses.

In March 1999 I could be honest with Diane about this, and she counseled me well. She helped me to look at the pain I needed to discharge in order to move forward. I discharged on the painful place where I could not fight for myself and where I had used my children as an excuse not to do this (not an easy thing to discover!). Since then I have taken the direction of promising my children that I will discharge everything necessary to be able to fight for myself again and that I will no longer use their existence as an excuse not to do so.

I'm telling you this personal story because I think that for many women, distresses connected to internalized sexism soon become obscured in all the pain and oppression that parents suffer as parents. We tend to counsel about the things that make it hard to be a parent in the present -- lack of support in an oppressive society, isolation, no pay, little appreciation, denial of the amount of work parents do, and so on. All these difficulties exist, of course, but I have found it liberating to also discharge the pain that influenced my choice to become a parent.

Since I've counseled on this, I find that I can enjoy my children more easily, I let their father do more of the work in caring for them, and I feel responsible in a different way. I can be more honest. I pretend less about how good a mother I am. I become angry more often, have more fights, and also seem to think better about children in general and mine in particular. If this is true for me, it might be true for many mothers (at least in Western society, where we suffer from the same oppressive "motherhood" ideology).

I would like to hear others' thoughts about this.

B --
The Netherlands

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00