There's a risk in having children, other than the obvious, and even though Rebecca Walker, author of Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, is a relatively new mother, she's weighing heavily on the topic.
In today's New York Times, Walker, daughter of Alice and goddaughter of Gloria Steinem, says, "I keep telling these women in college, 'You need to plan having a baby like you plan your career if it's something that you want.'" She continued, "Because we haven't been told that, this generation. And they're shocked when I say that. I'm supposed to be like this feminist telling them, 'Go achieve, go achieve.' And I'm sitting there saying, 'For me, having a baby has been the most transformational experience of my life.' "
She goes on to say she isn't telling every woman to have a child but those who have the desire should not ignore it.
Like many mothers and daughters, Rebecca and Alice have a difficult relationship. I'm not going to pretend to know the answers as to why, but the daughter is now a mother of a two-year-old son and has strong opinions of what is right for him while comparing it to her own upbringing, as most of us are wont to do. After all, what other first-hand comparisons do we have?
Alice Walker's works are exceptional gifts to the literary world. Recently, she offered her voice and support in celebration of Small Press Month, appreciating independence in the world of publishing. However, to Rebecca, she is a mother first, one who apparently falls short in the daughter's eyes.
For me, though, I take issue with one point in Walker's book, which states that there is a lesser kind of love for an adoptive child than for a biological one. In an interview, Walker said she would die for her biological child, but wasn't sure she could do the same for her "nonbiological" child.
As a Mom of three children, one biological, two adopted, that comment raised my hackles.
"I'd die for you" is a statement many say to their loved ones while it's quite unlikely any such grand act would be required. Nevertheless, it sounds solid, committed. However, in light of this, promising to go to the grave for a loved one is easier to consider since it's doubtful we'd be called to do just that. The real challenge is actually sacrificing time and effort for our loved ones on a daily basis. Maybe that is where Walker, the mother, failed from the daughter's point of view.
I agree every woman who wants a baby ought to plan having one with the same thoughtful process that she plans her career, since raising children should not occur from happenstance. The glitch is that often no amount of planning can prepare for what transpires from time and experience. Perhaps, though, when Rebecca's son is of an age where he can espouse his own opinions on how he feels a child should be raised, Walker will have transformed once again and will write another book on the new lessons learned. She might discover she has more in common with her mother than she realized.
P.S. Baby Love reviewed by Alexandra Jacobs in this week's New York Times Book Review, did not fare too well, Jacobs stating that the book was "merely a paean to pampering."