This post started off as a comment at Miller Schloss's place but unfortunately I don't seem to recall my Xanga password at the moment, so I will post here instead. M-S is expecting a baby in less than two months (very exciting! congratulations!) and notes, "Over the past eight months, there have been some not-so-nice anti-child, anti-pregnancy sentiments expressed by some of the not-having-children couples."
I don't doubt it at all, because I have heard such sentiments expressed. In fact, I myself was expressing just such a sentiment last night and I would like to explain a little bit about what I think the motivations are behind such statements. In my case, I and the lawyers in my practice group went out to discuss marketing issues over a beer. One of the lawyers mistakenly thought I had ordered a non-alcoholic beverage (how she could ever thought such a thing of me I don't know!) and she speculated that I might be pregnant. I immediately feigned heart palpitations and then said, "Good God, no! That's all I need -- a puking, pooping creature to pick up after!"
Now the fact is that I am actually quite fond of babies. They're interesting and cute and fun in their way and I have found it interesting to watch some babies I have known grow up and develop. Indeed, I would even go so far as to say that I would probably quite enjoy having my own baby and may yet adopt or even conceive a child. (Maybe, maybe not. I'm cool either way.) Nonetheless, my first reaction to any suggestion that I might have my own baby was to squelch the idea that I might even have any interest whatsoever in such a thing.
Here's why. Women who say things like this are often reacting to (a) the all-too-common assumption that we are as individuals wholly defined by our baby-making ability; and (b) the assumption that we will be less dedicated professionals because we are likely to have babies and then devote more of our time than our male counterparts to caring for them. These assumptions have long had pernicious and life-damaging consequences for women striving to succeed in arenas that do not involve baby making and baby care. Women like me feel vulnerable when our reproductive capacity is invoked because it is so often used against us.
I am NOT saying that deriding babies and the activities associated with babies is a good thing. In fact, I am going to make more of an effort to avoid saying things that could come off as a slam on people who choose to have kids. But I think that the intention behind a lot of anti-parenting jokes and sentiments is a defensive one, a response to the way that society mistreats mothers, rather than a conscious intent to insult parents and their offspring. It's a self-defense response in the face of patriarchal assumptions and stereotypes.
I think that we will see less anti-baby sentiment when our society achieves the following: more paternal involvement in parenting, less workplace stigma against women who have kids, less stereotyping about gender roles in parenting, and greater acceptance of childlessness as a valid life choice and something that many women do in fact choose quite happily.
Towards that end, I very much applaud the growing popularity of co-ed baby showers. (M-S recently had such a shower herself.) It used to be that a baby shower meant a group of women getting together to coo over little teeny booties, and bibs, and caps, and diaper pails-- because of course the assumption was that we would almost always be the ones changing the booties, feeding the babies, and dealing with the diapers. (My former female boss, however, used to show up at such events bearing a bottle of Jack Daniels for the expectant mother.) But now it is more and more common to have men involved -- a fact that expresses and conveys a growing expectation that men will take on an equal share in child care (or at the very least not completely ignore their baby care duties as in past generations).
I am happy to report that my last law firm -- a very rough and tumble firm of aggressive trial lawyers -- had a tradition of throwing a massive baby shower for every expectant parent in the firm, male or female. Everyone attended these events, and my mentor, a formidable silver-haired male senior partner was one of those who took the greatest delight in holding up itty-bitty baby jammies. Times they are a-changing, and, while these changes might seem slow if you are trying to get hubby to change a diaper once in a while, ultimately I think a more egalitarian model of baby-care will succeed and will benefit men and women, and certainly the babies themselves.