OPINION: Mama Mafia – treat me like a person!

I’m going to say it out loud finally! “Mama Mafia,  treat me like a person, not a failed woman”

Dealing with the “mama mafia” is an ongoing challenge.

I don’t have kids. I don’t want kids. I’m not sterile. I do have (great) sex with my husband. I’m not trying and failing to have kids. I don’t want IVF.

Childless state

But above all I don’t want sympathetic looks from the Mama Mafia, as if I somehow don’t have the brain cells to know when I am depriving myself of one of life’s greatest pleasures. My childless state should not make me an object for sympathy.

I do understand that having children is a procreative imperative. But today women have a choice. My choice is not to have children. This is not because I have been scarred in any way, or abused and neglected. I had a perfectly well adjusted childhood – or as near as possible for a child whose mother spent a period in a commune, and became a vegetarian light years before it became fashionable. I am not some avaricious career woman, out to stab men and women in the back with my killer heels, trying to get to the top of the career ladder. My husband is not cheating on me (as far as I know.)

The idea just doesn’t appeal and never has. My husband agrees with me, that’s why we are together. We have a shared value. I like being around kids more than babies. But I then do like to leave them.

This does not make me a bad/boring/limited/deprived person.

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Bad sell

And for what it’s worth, the Mama Mafia don’t exactly up-sell the whole child experience. There is a Mama Mafia sub-text and shorthand for which non-Moms need a crash course on de-coding. We are slow to pick up on the look exchanges when a faux pas is made. The whole world has opinions on parenting anyway, as we saw with the Harper Beckham pacifier incident.

And of course there are never ending complaints about what kids do to their bodies, bank accounts, relationships and sex lives. It creates this club from which women who don’t have kids, are excluded both directly and directly. Directly is perfectly understandable. A mother and toddler group would not count as a must-have social engagement for me and I suspect I could make no valid contribution anyway. It taps into an unconscious bias that all women should want to have children when an increasing number don’t.

Backhanded comments

Over the years, I have become adept at fielding and ignoring backhanded comments from the Mama Mafia, about my childless state and  I have developed a thick skin.

  • “Your house is lovely, but with little xxxx we could never have a white sofa.”
  • “You look fabulous – you see the advantages of having no kids!” (gentle lift of sagging breasts)
  • “Going to the Bahamas ? Lucky you – but little xxx needs braces/college/summer school/re-hab”
  • “You’re reading.. a newspaper..  OMG. I only have time for Burping Weekly” (longing look at NYT)

The Mama Mafia need to develop empathy. Today many women choose not to have children. Some can’t have them. Others have had sad experiences. Some have a different sexual orientation, which makes things more complicated.

So, please Moms, before you start on about your children, take a moment to reflect and find out what is going on for the woman you are speaking to as a person. 

She is not defined by the state of motherhood or lack of.  Neither are you.

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3Plus, Culture, Relationships
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  • Sophie says:

    I totally agree about being sensitive to every person and not assuming what someone may or may not want for their life, especially when it comes to something as potentially painful as having a family. But I think the author is a bit harsh about the comments she quotes – if she empathised with the mum’s, she would see that saying ‘I wish I had time to read a newspaper’ is an admission that being a parent can be boring and exhausting and sometimes parents wish they were ‘unattached’ in that way again! I’m not sure such comments are (or come across?) judgmental. I suppose it depends on how close your relationship is – with a good friend you can be open about your struggles and ask each other probing questions.

    • Thanks Sophie. I think there is a feeling amongst women who do not have children that mothers can be relentlessly self-absorbed and also overly absorbed in their kids. As we saw with Andrea Leadsom’s ill considered throw away comment about her family and motherhood there was a negative reaction. As a Mum myself I think it is true too. I susepct I went through that phase myself. Today we have more child centred cultures in certain geographies and as a coach I say you’ve had a baby not a lobotomy! It’s just about being empathetic.

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