Excuse Me, Jennifer Aniston?

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This weekend, I was reading an article on Huffington post that linked to another article and so on and so forth — you know how the Internet can be a time warp — and somehow I saw a link to the headline, “Jennifer Aniston Talks Motherhood And The Unfair Pressure To Have Kids.”

While I don’t closely follow Jennifer Aniston or most celebrity news, the headline intrigued me since I too feel strongly that people shouldn’t be made to feel weird if they haven’t had kids yet, or don’t even want any — yet this does happen way too often, particularly involving women.

So I clicked it. (The Internet wins again.)

The article referred to statements Jennifer Aniston makes in the January 2015 issue of Allure, and although her comments were brief, I was surprised at how candid she was on this topic and how much I found myself agreeing with her.

For instance, I completely understood what she meant when she said, “I don’t like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women — that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated. I don’t think it’s fair.”

As a woman with no children myself, I was nodding and thinking, Right on, sister!

Until she said that not having children “doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering — dogs, friends, friends’ children.”

Excuse me?

This is when she lost me.

Who said women have to mother anyone in the first place?

Would this quote have made any sense if a man was saying it?

Try to picture George Clooney saying him not having kids doesn’t mean he’s not fathering his pets, his friends and their kids.

You can’t? That’s because he would never say that. No guy would.

And no one should about women, either.

Women do not need to mother other beings to be valid as people in our society. That’s the point I thought she was making.

This part of her statement was, if anything, proof that she buys into the expectations on women. Trying to spin them in a new way doesn’t hide that.

Now look, I’m not usually one to split hairs and dissect every nuance of a person’s statement. But in this case, I think she completely ruined the point she was trying to make with the idea that women can still be motherly without having kids. And I was unexpectedly bothered by that, as well as comments people have made saying her statement was “brilliant.”

Brilliant for a Stepford wife wanna-be, maybe.

On a side note, another aspect I disliked about what she said is the concept of friends “mothering” friends. Who wants that?! There’s only one person I enjoy being mothered by, and that’s my mother!

In fact, one of my closest friends once had another friend take on a motherly dynamic with her, and let’s just say it was not a fun experience for her! (Although those stories do make us laugh now.) So Jennifer Aniston saying that women can mother their friends, oh and their children, is just plain weird. I mean, do your friends really want you trying to mother their kids? “Oh, I told Johnny he could have a few more cookies. Look how happy he is!” Yeah, your friend is really going to love your motherly “help” there!

To be fair, I think Jennifer Aniston used the word “mothering” to mean being “loving” or “giving,” to counteract the notion of childless people, especially women, being selfish.

However, there’s a big difference between mothering and being loving and giving; you can by all means be all three — which is a beautiful thing, don’t get me wrong — but you can also be loving and giving without mothering in any form.  This is another reason why I found myself strangely disappointed when I read this. Her point had been making so much sense until then. I felt like she took so many steps back with her statement — all while she was trying to be so progressive.

But maybe I should calm down. Some would say that as a female, being easily annoyed like this isn’t the motherly way I should be acting towards others.

I apologize, my sweeties. Now please go have something to eat. You all look so thin…

Note: This post was written as part of LindaGHill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which was skillfully organized this week by author Leigh Michaels while Linda is away. This week’s prompt was “excuse,” which we could use either as a noun or a verb. I wasn’t sure what I was going to write with it until I read this and wanted to comment on it, and the idea of using Leigh’s excellent prompt as a verb in a rhetorical question hit me. 🙂

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40 comments

  1. Love this post! Nice ending 😉 I can’t stand that society sometimes puts more value on a uterus than on a person. Not having kids doesn’t make me a bad or selfish person. There are plenty of selfish people who have kids as well! Too bad Jennifer Aniston back pedaled a bit there. Sometimes the disapproval from society gets old. God gave me the exact number of kids He wanted me to have!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “This part of her statement was, if anything, proof that she buys into the expectations on women. Trying to spin them in a new way doesn’t hide that.” I love this! You nailed the problem, namely the fact that even women who think they aren’t buying into all the pressure to be a mother/nurturing/feminine (whatever that might mean) actually still are. We need to question people’s statements, we need to question our own, we need to dig for the assumptions underlying seemingly innocent words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a mother of four, I always think I’m lacking proper nurturing feelings, and suspect my parents lacked them, as well. Apparently we don’t hover, coddle, fuss, and coo enough? I dunno. BUT I can honestly say I don’t care one bit about the breeding habits of others, or their reasons therein.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s fine if you’re not the fussing, cooing type. There are all types of moms, people, etc. — no worries! Oh, and I like that you don’t judge other people’s lifestyle choices when so many still do, despite how open-minded they may think they are…!

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  4. I enjoyed reading this, and I agree that society puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a woman to have children. I also think that Jennifer negated the fact that she alludes to Mothering others. By saying that she plays into what society thinks of her child birthing hips. 😉 I too have felt this as I waited till I was older to have my kids. Before that I was childless and if I mothered a friend I’d lose them. If I mothered their children I was a loser.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bravo! I do have one child and one stepchild. So be it, I’m not the most terrific mother in the world and I know it. I had to rely heavily on the grandmothers of this 2 children while they were growing up. Being a mother doesn’t validate me as a woman or a person. I do not mother my cats, nieces, nephews, friends, and so on. My roles with them are completely different. Again, I say, BRAVO!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate your openness and honesty in what you shared. Oh, and don’t worry about not being “terrific” or needing help — the fact that you recognized you needed help and weren’t too proud to ask for and accept it was the best thing you could have done for your family. More parents should do that! I also like how you said your roles with everyone are different. I agree that it’s best to adapt your approach to the dynamic of each relationship in order to have a real connection, versus approaching everyone the same way. All very true! Thanks again for the great input.

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  6. Great post! Loved the whole piece and the ending was so funny! You’re so right – a male celebrity a) wouldn’t be put on the spot like this about not having kids because being an eligible bachelor is cool; b) would never answer this way!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful post! I totally agree with you and not Jennifer …perhaps she meant “nurturing” but I don’t know the way it sounds is she was just slicing it differently but still sounded like a Stefford..ugh!! no one should feel the pressure…sheeesh…enough kids are unhappy in this world with parents who do not want kids and had kids…I hear the poor youths tell me such horror stories. And I like your last sentence too…go eat, you`re looking too thin…too cute!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Ah, yes — I bet nurturing is more what she meant, even over giving or loving. But yes, comes off weird for sure; glad my take on her statement makes sense! And I’m happy you like my last line; I got a kick out of it when it came to me as I wrote, which is why I love SoCS! It somehow gets words flowing that may not come to me otherwise. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I often remind my own children, now 10 and 13, that I was a whole person, with a life and an identity, before I was their mother.

    That can be easily forgotten, but I lived 32 years, richly, before I procreated, and, when my children aren’t children anymore, and my role in their life shifts to a more background affair, I won’t be any less a person.

    I understand the point you are making about what Jennifer Anniston said, but it doesn’t bother me in the same way it seems to trouble you. I know, because I’ve made a huge shift in my own reality as a moved from the abusive dynamic of my childhood to a place of parenting peacefully, that growth isn’t a straightforward, all or nothing affair. It’s a matter of fits and starts and wrong turns and getting stuck.

    Maybe, right now, she’s stuck at the point of knowing that a woman doesn’t need to procreate to be a woman, but not quite knowing how to define her own or others’ nurturing qualities outside of a mothering paradigm.

    As for whether a man would say what she said – I think society has a very different bias, there, one that makes men out to be -well, less masculine, I guess – if they go too far toward expressing any type of tenderness.

    And that’s equally sad, to me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like what you said about your life before you had kids, and how you will approach it once they’re grown, and that you share this perspective with them too. That’s good for them to know not only about you, but will help them approach parenting in a balanced way themselves once they’re older, if they decide to do so. I also agree that men should be able to express their tender side as much as women always seem to be required to. I do think Jennifer’s comments indicate she is indeed lost and unsure how to define herself as an individual; perhaps she does want a family and is trying to justify her situation not just to the public but to herself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting one, I just wish she didn’t feel the need to explain herself to anyone — I bet the interviewer asked her about motherhood, which I find rude and sexist. But, I bet it sells more magazines and gets more clicks!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We were married four years before we had children. My reason was simple; my husband wasn’t ready, and I didn’t want to bring any child into the world who would bring resentment.

        My mother was very insistent. She wanted me to ‘give her grandchildren’, and saw them as her right, and, in a sense, me as something of a brood mare, intended and obligated to give them to her…

        Once, when she asked what we were waiting for, I told her, “To consummate the marriage.” It was several months before she asked again! =)

        While I happen to think that both of my kids are going to grow into people who will make fine parents, if they choose to be parents, I don’t feel that they owe me grandchildren. Honestly, I don’t understand the mindset in the least.

        I’ve had a childless life, and, although I wanted children, even then, it was a good and rich life. I’ve had the pleasure of watching these children grow, in seeing who they were as babies evolving as they do, and I’ve had maybe a very different kind of joy with them than many mothers get to, because I am their partner, and not their boss.

        Maybe it comes down to a cultural sense that children are property, or trophies – and I don’t share the view.

        The children here came from us, grew in my body – but they aren’t ‘mine’…

        They belong to themselves, now and always. We all do; but many of us never realize it.

        I agree that anyone asking someone else about parenthood, as though it’s their obligation to add people to the world, is rude and presumptive. It seems like I’ve been hearing people asking Jennifer Anniston about this since before I became a mother; maybe she’s just tired and at a loss how to answer something that might be a very tangled personal issue.

        It won’t sell a magazine to me, though, because parenting is about so much more than procreating. If only people truly willing to give years of their lives over to doing it right, raising strong and confident and compassionate people, we’d live in a better world…

        Whether Jennifer Anniston, the actress people seem to love to watch, whose personal life is apparently fair game for prying eyes, simply because she has a career in the public eye, is much less important to me than whether the people who have children are truly meeting their needs…

        And that we all have the freedom to choose whether we want to be parents, or not, without others attempting to sway us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s so great you waited to have kids until both of you were ready, regardless of the pressures you were also facing to provide grandchildren; sounds like something that would be more common but it actually isn’t as common as it should be. I also love how you recognize your kids are their own beings; this is another approach I wish was more common. So many people don’t view parenthood this way, which is evident also in their actions as they raise them or in their reactions to their kids’ choices as they grow. So, your children are truly lucky to have a parent like you! I’ve thought this before when I read your posts on how you approach their education and I think it even more so now! Oh, and I love your response to your mom about waiting to consummate the marriage; that made me laugh! That’s the perfect way to handle awkward/prying questions — with humor! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I totally agree that it should be more common, Whether parents recognize it or not, every child is a person at birth, and always.

          Life has been a lot better here since the adults in the house started to ‘get’ that (not so easy; neither one of us was raised anywhere near this way).

          But I would add that I am mightily lucky to be the mom of these two fascinating people. To be a part of their growing up, to be included in things like the tooth that FINALLY popped out tonight, or the new movie being watched, or their hugs and laughter, and even the emotional storms of their transitions into puberty.

          I don’t want to control them; they are very capable of learning to use their own judgment, and they mostly do pretty well at that (and they are young humans, so mistakes along the way are par for the course, and talking them over is so much less stressful and more productive than turning into a dictator…).

          We’d been married almost two years when I dropped that line on her, and we’d lived together a few months longer than that. She had to have known it wasn’t true, but I don’t think she had a clue what to say in answer to a line like that!

          Maybe because I know some people who had fertility issues, and others who never wanted children, and because our second child lived only 12 days, I don’t ask people that kind of question. It’s so possible that there’s more to the story, and it may be and open wound that lies unseen….

          Whether people procreate or not, I’d just like people to be happy, because happier people are more likely to be peaceful people, and we need more of that!

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I feel for you having lost a child and appreciate how open you’ve been about it as well as your sensitivity discussing these issues. I also agree with letting young adults make their own mistakes when possible; a mentor of mine talks about that with her kids and is always giving them freedom of choice whenever she can and then discussing the concept of consequences before and after. I find her children to be very thoughtful and sensible and I think that approach has a lot to do with that. I love how you say you’re lucky to have them, which is so true — oh, and congrats on that tooth! 🙂 And happy holidays to all of you too!

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  9. Well-written and thoughtful, as always. I especially appreciated what you said about not wanting friends to “mother” us. As someone whose professional identity disappeared when she became a mother, I know there is a flip side to this coin. I do like Shanjeniah’s point about her response occurring in context of an interview. Perhaps she might have selected other words, if given more time? Certainly no woman should be made to feel “less” simply because she hasn’t given birth! Very thought-provoking piece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! True, being put on the spot does make a question like this harder to handle. I dislike when reporters ask questions like this; it’s none of anyone’s business! On a related note, I’d love to hear/read about what happened to you professionally once you had kids…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nothing very dramatic: I had been working on a Ph.D. when we moved to a different city so my husband could complete his training; he really didn’t have a choice about it. I went back and took Ph.D. oral exams a few months before my oldest son was born, but I never got a dissertation off the ground. I’m not sure why I wasn’t able to balance being a mom and being an academic, but the long-distance factor was part of the problem, and I had lost the drive to finish up my degree. Looking back, I wish I’d pushed myself to write that dissertation, but it didn’t seem important at the time. I definitely didn’t give up a high-profile career or anything, but I let something go that, later, I wished I had held onto.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I know what you mean; sometimes when we get derailed, it’s easy to wonder why and regret it. But from my outside perspective from your summary, I can definitely see how it happened. The dissertation phase is hard enough, much less with the long-distance factor and having a baby. I almost pursued a PhD myself but then decided against it, and that’s without those factors! As for you, who knows, maybe one day you can finish it — you never know! Thanks for sharing this.

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