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Saturday
Aug302008

Choice

I want choice.

  • I want the right to choose whether to get married or not. If I choose to marry, I want the right to go back on that choice. If I choose not to marry, I don't want to be considered a lesser person, given less advantageous tax status, or be considered to be "living in sin" if I choose to live with a partner.

  • I want the right to choose whether to be a mother or not. If I choose to be a mother, I want society to recognize that making that choice does not mean resigning all other choices and options that a woman has. If I choose not to be a mother, I don't want to be pitied by others, be considered selfish, or seen to have an unfulfilled life.

  • If I get pregnant, I want the right to choose whether to continue that pregnancy. Until women are able to will their bodies to either get pregnant or not get pregnant, this is an important choice. Women get raped. Birth control fails. People make mistakes. If I choose to terminate a pregnancy, society does not have the right to judge me or judge my reasons for doing so. If I choose to continue the pregnancy, I should have support available to me to ensure that the child I am bringing into the world has a fighting chance (financial support if I am a young poor single mother, medical and social support if I am having a child with a disability, etc.).

  • If I do decide to have children, I want the right to choose what type of birth to have. That means choosing where to give birth (home, hospital, other setting). That means choosing who will attend to my birth. That means choosing whether to have a natural birth or not.

  • I want the right to choose whether to breastfeed or not. If I choose to breastfeed, I want to be assured that the medical profession and others around me will not undermine that choice and make me to feel that my milk is somehow inadequate or that choosing to breastfeed is unfairly tying me down. If I choose not to breastfeed, I don't want to be considered selfish or stupid.

  • I want to be able to choose whether to go back to work. If I do decide to go back to work, I want to be able to decide when to go back. And I want to be assured a reasonable amount of subsidized maternity leave and job security. When I do go back, I want to be assured that there is quality child care available and that labour standards include provisions that protect the rights of mothers (flexible hours, sick leave, ability to pump breastmilk at work). If I choose to stay home, I want my work in the home to be valued and don't want to be seen as lazy or contributing less to society.

  • I want to be able to choose how to dress. I should be able to choose to wear provocative clothing if I want to. And I should be able to choose to dress modestly if I want to.

  • I want to be able to choose how to educate my children. I should be able to choose to homeschool them if I feel that is the best environment for them to learn. And I should be able to send them to a government-run or a private school if I feel that is a better place for them to learn.


We have a lot more choices now than our mothers did, and they had more choices than their mothers did. But even when we do have choices, they aren't always free choices. I have made a lot of the choices that I talked about above already. But I didn't always feel they were free choices and I did sometimes feel judged for my choices.

I recognize that choices come with trade-offs and pros and cons. That I can accept and that is what makes choice interesting and makes choices individual. However, I don't think it is fair when a woman feels forced into a choice that she is not comfortable with because the society she lives in values one choice more than the other or because she simply cannot afford to make the other choice.

It is bad enough that the patriarchal society that we live in still limits women's choices. But it is even worse when one woman looks down on another woman for the choices that she has made. That is why I will not and I cannot support any politician or any group, female or not, that seeks to limit the choices that women have. Especially when they themselves have benefitted from some of the choices that were available to them.

« A letter to my darling boy | Main | Here we go again with the abortion debate »

Reader Comments (22)

Yes, yes, yes and agree again! Especially the bit about not being undermined if you've chosen to breastfeed.

August 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJane

I loved this post, it felt so real. I have made a lot of choices too. The problem is not the choice as much as it is the pressure coming from those around you or as u put it being judged.

August 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjessyz

Amen.

I have written a lot on our decision to have a son before marriage and how we are somehow seen as "less than a family" - I want not the right to choose how to build my family but just as much not to be judged for it!

And choice when it comes to abortion is just that, choice. That means if someone is "pro choice" and wants to keep a baby, there is nothing wrong with her. If a woman is pro-choice and wants to continue a pregnancy even after rape, that is her decision. If a woman doesn't want to, same thing. I cannot imagine voting for a person (ESPECIALLY a woman) who would look at my (hypothetical) daughter and say yes, even if you are raped, and even if that crime is committed by a family member, and even if you are 12, you MUST have that baby. It isn't "pro-life" to dictate and destroy someone elses.

August 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLu

Very well said Lu!

August 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] Caregiving is Powerful Published September 1, 2008 Uncategorized Choice/ Also Could be titled Mothers Bill of Rights [...]

August 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCaregiving is Powerful «

what a great post! thank you for such a real thought.

September 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I am a bad person. I still think people who choose not to breastfeed are selfish and stupid. I am trying to get better. :)

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterElita

@ Elita

It took me a long time to get to a place where I didn't judge the choice not to breastfeed.

I went through a lot to get my son to nurse. He was tongue tied and didn't latch on until he was almost 8 weeks old. So I had to pump the whole time while trying to get him to latch on. Even then, it took 7 more weeks to get him to be nursing well and full-time. It was a long road, but I wasn't willing to give up. It was too important to me.

After going through all of that, it was easy for me to judge other people that weren't willing to go through as much as I did. And at first I did. But now I don't.

First, I have heard of stories of women that are not comfortable nursing because they were sexually abused and find it too emotionally painful to have their breasts in constant use. I thankfully haven't been in that situation, so I don't feel that I can pass judgement on that decision.

Second, there is still too little breastfeeding education and awareness and too much misinformation. Women think that they don't have enough milk, so they start supplementing, which creates a nasty spiral (more formula = lower supply). Women have jobs that are not conducive to pumping and don't realize what their rights are as a pumping mom and don't realize that even if they don't pump at work, combination feeding is possible. Women don't know where to turn when breastfeeding is painful, when the baby isn't latching well, when the baby isn't gaining weight, etc. And often the place they do turn, ends up giving them bad advice.

Third, we all have our strengths and weaknesses as parents. I breastfed both of mine. It was really important to me. I'm really proud of it. But there are other ways that I am not perfect. And maybe some of the formula feeding moms are perfect in the ways that I am not.

I'm a lactivist. To me that means raising awareness about the rights of breastfeeding mothers and breastfed babies and ensuring that the necessary support is there for breastfeeding moms. It also means getting the word out about the benefits of breastfeeding to help moms make an informed choice. But that is where it ends for me. I let them make that choice and I don't judge. It doesn't mean that I don't wonder (e.g. what made her make that choice?), but I try really hard not to judge.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] stand up for the rights of all women to make their own choices. But I also think it is important that we be compassionate human beings and good parents.  I [...]

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[...] Everything I said when I started still stands. But it has become more than that too. I believe in choice and I think that parents have the right to choose how they want to parent their children. But I [...]

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Choice | PhD in Parenting...

I want the right to choose whether to get married or not. If I choose to marry, I want the right to go back on that choice. If I choose not to marry, I don’t want to be considered a lesser person, given less advantageous tax status, or be considered to...

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpligg.com

[...] innovative. To be a frontrunner in meeting the needs of our families and our children and promoting choice the way that Quebec did with its day care program. var addthis_pub = 'phdinparenting'; var [...]

[...] Choice posted at PhD in Parenting. [...]

[...] and the choices that stem from them can take on different [...]

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter“Don’t Judge Me&#8

and i want a million dollars

October 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjordan

This is like a beautiful prayer, and all I can add is AMEN.

August 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Just remember what can be said from the other point of view. I don't want to be heartless and hurtful, so I concede that those who don't are not selfish and stupid. There are just as many reasons not to as there are in support of... and it's not my business to decide if someone else's choice is right for them.

Annie, lovely article :)

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLara

We are limited in our choices by constraints and boundaries. We are tied to economic realities, relationships, proximity to support systems, geography, and many other factors that constrain our choices. For example for many women the decision to work is not really a "choice" although there are many that would like to construe it as a choice. Breastfeeding "choice" may be limited by birthing situations, support or lack thereof, etc. Our american culture loves to make everything about the individual and free will/choices over acceptance of one's economic, social, political reality. We don't (in America) paid maternity leave, enough support for breastfeeding, etc. With enought financial means, one can make more choices in line with one's values. (To stay home or work, to seek support and information ahead of time to breastfeed, to hire out of hospital birth support, etc). Our society doesn't value (in a tangible financial way) supporting mothers staying at home, etc, so in the mean time, we have to just "deal" with our economic reality and choices or lack thereof.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I agree with much of this, but the part about not being judged, about society not viewing you as this or that... just strikes me as highly unrealistic and even an infringement on other people's rights. You can and should be able to do what you want to do with your life, but judgement is part of the human experience and you can't expect people to not hold opinions about you. Freedom cuts both ways.
That's not to say we can't work to educate and change harmful public opinions. But getting angry at others for holding opinions about you is just a waste of time.

August 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSara

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