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May 28, 2011

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Steph Burgis

I have mixed feelings about that. Yes, it is a strong bond, but then, it's a very limited one. There's more to my life than my parenting, and for a friendship to be strong and vital, I really NEED to be able to have more than just motherhood in common. This just feels like saying that women who have the same careers have more in common than women who have different careers...which sounds plausible on the face of it, but then, I need a lot more than a shared career to make a real bond. As mothers, we all share an essential job and passion and a certain set of experiences, but that might or might not make for a strong friendship.

Of my closest friends, half aren't mothers, and while I can't vent to them (or share the good bits of mothering with them) in the same way I can with my mom-friends, I share different things with them which are also vital to who I am as a person. And botho f my closest mom-friends are also writers like me (the part that sparked our friendship in the first place before I ever had a child), so we spend at least as much time talking about our writing (another consuming passion we have in common) as we do about our parenting.

And now I'm rambling. So I really should have just left it as: mixed feelings!

Steph

No, no, your ramblings are very helpful, Steph. I have mixed feelings about it, too -- for me, sometimes just having motherhood in common is enough and other times, well, it isn't.

Kerry

It's not been my experience. I think being a mother does give you access to a level of understanding only other mothers can relate to, but it's not a substantial enough connection to create a friendship. In fact, motherhood has brought me into contact with some women I'd never have met otherwise, who I have nothing in common with but our children and that we're free in the mornings, and I don't think I've ever spent time with people so UNlike me-- a learning experience, but not necessarily a fun one.

But what a delight it is to discover mom-friends who would have been friends even without the kids-- friends who share my passions, and have others that inspire me. For me, these friends are the highlight of my stay-at-home mom-life.

Melissa

Well! Well. Well...

I think the idea of quantifying how much we have in common is a little silly-- it's not only a phenomenon of quantity, but also of quality, degree, priority, etc.

I often find that I have little in common with other mothers, because we appoint different value and meaning to those shared mothering-specific experiences. I kind of think it's not enough to have had the same experiences, if we interpret those experiences entirely differently.

hush

I think Figes is essentializing motherhood in a manner that marginalizes various groups of mothers and fathers. I'm sure she is very well-intentioned, however, Figes' simplistic assertion that all women are either in or out of this wonderful "tribe" of (read: real) mothers who remember giving birth creates a false dichotomy that completely excludes and renders invalid the experiences of mothers who did not give birth, and/or gave birth at a period in history when childbirth sedation was a common practice, and/or are mothers who have given birth but are not raising their children, and/or are women engaged in "other mothering" who are taking on child-rearing roles in nontraditional ways... the list goes on and on.

Further, Figes glosses over the many rich and textured experiences of people who are technically "childless." My friends who are currently "childless" but who have experienced the agonies of infertility and loss; my other friend who has been trying unsuccessfully to adopt and at one point held a baby she thought would be hers until the birth mother changed her mind - well, I think it is cruel and inaccurate to lump their experiences together with all people who have never wanted a child, never parented a child, never experienced pregnancy, under the general category of "childless."

Steph

Thanks for commenting, Kerry, Melissa, hush -- lots of good thoughts.

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