Unbearable: I Take Personal Offense To Bad Parenting

angry womanHaving a child is usually a happy time in a woman’s life. Unfortunately, as we wait longer to have children, infertility and trouble conceiving can become a part of the family making process. Unbearable addresses these difficulties.

People often think that it’s really hard for infertile women to talk to or be around pregnant women. Like, even if we love this person, we’re going to be a tad jealous of their glowing fertility when compared with our barren inability to reproduce. Personally, I haven’t had too much of a problem with that. When my sister told me she was pregnant over a year ago, I was genuinely happy for her. She’s a really amazing mother and I care about her very deeply. How could I not be ecstatic for her?

However, there is one parent that I think most infertile women have a really difficult time handling. While we can be happy for friends and family members when they announce a new bundle of joy, hearing about a horrible or irresponsible parent is really difficult for those who are trying to conceive. I’m not talking about someone who bottle feeds when you think breast is best. I mean truly, objectively bad parenting.

This week, I wrote about a case of child neglect in my city and the lax sentence given to the mother who allowed her children to be beaten, choked and whipped by her boyfriend. There were plenty of parents and non-parents alike in my town who were upset by this case. But I have to admit that I felt personally offended by such a mother. It was impossible not to think, “I want so much to have a child, and this person doesn’t even care enough to protect her’s from a monster.”

It might not be fair. It might be an exaggeration. But I’m also pretty sure that it’s not unique to me. A close friend of mine used to tell me that every story of a mom abandoning her children made her so angry she couldn’t see straight. This friend was spending thousands on IVF to have children, so seeing another mother disregard her own was infuriating. Another friend used to say that she had no problem when her sister got pregnant, but hearing about teens who got pregnant through accidents and didn’t know how they were going to support their kids made her so frustrated.

There is something about seeing other people’s bad parenting when you want a baby so badly that just sets a fire in an infertile couple. It feels like the universe is just slapping you in the face. There is an obvious lack of fairness in struggling to have kids while others who don’t seem to want or care about them have no problem getting pregnant.

I have known some infertile couples who get angry at the idea of abortion. They’re mad that someone would choose to terminate a pregnancy when they want one with all their heart. I have to admit that my anger has never been directed in this path. I would never want someone to carry a pregnancy they didn’t want just so they can give a child up to an infertile couple. I think carrying a child for someone else to raise is a personal decision and shouldn’t be made by anyone but the individual.

However, once you’ve decided to keep that child, you’ve taken responsibility. You’ve entered into an agreement to look after and love that baby for their rest of their lives. Neglecting, abusing, or abandoning that child after you’ve brought them into the world, that is something that makes me furious. And even when I have no connection to the story at all, hearing that it happens feels like a personal insult.

(Photo: konstantynov/Shutterstock)

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  • treagan

    You write, “I have known some infertile couples who get angry at the idea of
    abortion. They’re mad that someone would choose to terminate a pregnancy
    when they want one with all their heart. I have to admit that my anger
    has never been directed in this path.”

    Frankly I don’t see much of a difference between this line of thinking and judging other mothers for “objectively bad” parenting. They both involve an inability to let go of the fact that other people’s circumstances differ from your own. You can argue irresponsibility in both cases until you’re blue in the face, but you’re ignoring the fact that most women who keep their children don’t set out to be “bad” mothers any more than most women who have sex set out to have abortions or give children up for adoption. And it’s important to acknowledge that other women’s choices–”good,” “bad,” or whatever judgment you want to put on them–are not about you. It’s an understandable impulse, but it’s also a destructive one, especially when the discussion dead-ends in women criticizing other women and not digging deeper to examine the social factors that generate the behavior they’re criticizing.

    • Sara

      Sorry, but I have huge problems with your argument. The types of “bad parenting” that the author is writing about are not trivial differences in parenting philosophy. We’re not talking about parents who give their kids candy when the author believes they should be feeding healthy food, or parents who let their kids play too many video games.
      She’s talking about parents who are abusive and negligent in the extreme. When the issue is a parent who allows her child to be physically abused by her boyfriend, or who leaves her young children home alone for days at a time so she can go party, this is a supreme breakdown in personal responsibility and the blame lies squarely at the feet of the parent, not “social factors”. These are unequivocally bad parenting choices–there is no gray line here.
      If you’re not prepared to raise a child, don’t. There are lots of other options out there (and I say this as an adopted child whose birth mother realized full well that she was not prepared to be a mom), and there’s absolutely no reason to keep a child to abuse or neglect him. Another person’s circumstances can differ from my own until the cows come home, but that will never be an excuse for abuse or neglect, and the author has every right to be upset with parents who perpetrate this type of mistreatment, whatever her reasons. And frankly, abuse and neglect of children is behavior that SHOULD be judged, and harshly.

  • Rae

    Totally agree. My second son was stillborn at 36 weeks in 2008. Right at the same time that Octomom had her litter of children. I still cannot read anything about her without my blood boiling. All I wanted was to bring my ONE baby home from the hospital alive and well, instead I brought home his ashes. Yet she got to bring home her 8 babies. Did I feel she deserved all of them? No. No I did not. How is it fair that someone with so many babies already gets 8 more at once, when you know she’s just doing it for the attention and money. I am a good mom (a damn good one thankyouverymuch) and I don’t get to bring my perfect little baby home. Sometimes the universe just seems unfair.

    • Caitlin

      I’m really struggling with this lately.. I recently had a miscarriage at 13 weeks and four years ago I delivered a stillborn baby girl the day before my due date. EVERY single one of my friends has a “surprise” baby from a young age. Most of them are fabulous mothers.. but there are a few that really get under my skin. They’re given a bright, sensitive, gorgeous child and how do they raise them? By ignoring them 90% of the time, constantly bribing them to behave, letting them raise hell and dumping them off on whatever babysitter they can find so they can party. I know this isn’t as extreme as abuse, but how can you raise a child and not think about what person you’re shaping them to be? Its a huge disservice to the world, and your child.

      I understand that being a single parent at a young age is very stressful and sometimes its difficult to be a ‘good’ mom, but I don’t even ask for that, just put your all into it. Half-assing your relationship with your child is deplorable. My mother was in their situation and NEVER had any of those behaviors.

      I would give ANYTHING to have a child. I’ve gotten to where I aviod being around my friends and their children together because it hurts SOOO much to see them just not care about parenting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

    “However, once you’ve decided to keep that child, you’ve taken responsibility. You’ve entered into an agreement to look after and love that baby for their rest of their lives.”


    Seriously, we need to get this on billboards and shirts and everywhere.