Discharging on Whether or Not to Raise a Child

I attended a daylong workshop in Oakland, California, USA, led by Ayana Morse and organized by Vivian Santana-Pacheco. It was for women in their twenties and thirties, and the topic was deciding whether or not to raise a child (or children). About thirty women came. Not having decided about becoming a parent was a requirement for attendance.

We started by taking turns saying, “Raise your hand if you are female and . . . ,” to see who else shared one of our identities or experiences. It was a lovely way to get to the root of our connection as females and to air out all the ways we might feel different from the group.

Ayana talked about how having a big life is really about us being ourselves. We, as females, might think that being a mother is the only big challenge available. She dared us to fight completely for ourselves, whether or not we decide to become mothers, and said it is important to do this before becoming mothers.

She said that we can’t avoid a life of struggle, especially in these times. This is a tough spot for me personally. My immigrant family left their homes in Mexico and the Philippines and endured racism, assimilation, and language oppression in order to move out of poverty and have a better life—a life of “ease” and “comfort”—in the United States. Deciding not to parent can feel attractive to me, as I could avoid being targeted with parents’ oppression and therefore have an “easier” life. This is a solid place from which to discharge on the upward mobility and false “comforts” of middle-class life in the United States. Ayana was clear that either way we decide, we will face female oppression—the heavy exploitation and oppression that come with doing the unpaid and barely recognized labor of raising children, or the intense sexism that targets women who don’t have children.

She asked, “What would it look like to pick a goal of your own choosing—something that lets your mind think big enough?” She asked us to think about something that could be as interesting, meaningful, and satisfying as raising a child. She was clear that child raising is an institution of sexism and that women do an “over-the-top” (a huge) amount of the work involved.

I’m grateful to Ayana for extending herself to us younger women and for giving us an opportunity to discharge about something that preoccupies almost all of us. I’d love to hear from other women who haven’t made the decision, and about any opportunities they are organizing in their Communities for women to discharge on it.

Cristina Mitra

San Francisco, California, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of women

(Present Time 185, October 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00