On Friday, an older post of mine ( Children Vows ) was published at Mamapedia Voices (welcome, new readers!) and I had a completely new blogging experience: I got a lot of negative comments. I’ve been told publicly that I should not be a parent. Thanks, everyone – I feel like a real mommy blogger now!
I read every single comment after seeing how intriguing the first few were. The audience at Mamapedia Voices is a general audience of moms (and dads, I’m sure), whereas my regular readers are mostly Objectivists, a lot of them parents. It was fascinating to see the difference in the responses. The Mamapedia comment that captured the difference best was from Kala, who said, “Wow…I don’t even know how to respond to this. I’ve never seen anything like it.” I was surprised to hear that because this particular post didn’t seem like anything too unusual to me. But then I thought about it:
I say that my husband and I are having a child for selfish reasons.
I say that our priorities are career, marriage, and then child, in that order.
I say that with rational people, there are no conflicts of interest so that what is good for us as parents is generally good for the child.
All of these principles are so integrated into my life (and most of my friends and readers share them) that I don’t think about them as being that far from the norm. But, of course, they are – especially the idea that selfishness is a virtue. In my world, it’s easy to forget that most people think selfishness is the biggest vice in the book.
The most interesting comments were those that misunderstood the essence of the post. First, it seems that many people believe that career means money. I was chastised for putting money ahead of family. That’s so funny to me. The idea that the only value in a career is the money it brings is so foreign to my way of thinking that I never would have thought to clarify it (and I’m not going to clarify it here). Even more common was the misapprehension that when I said that my husband and I were clueless when we wrote the Children Vows, that I meant we now think they were a mistake and we now renounce them. And re-reading the post, I can see that the readers did have some basis to think what they did. Coming from their context of believing selfishness to be a vice and parenting to be the ultimate act of altruism, it would be hard to believe that I was truly advocating selfishness in parenting. When I said we were clueless, I was a little unclear about exactly in what way, and I don’t think it was a totally unreasonable interpretation for some to think that I was saying that I had no idea that I was going to have to sacrifice.
Of course, I did not mean that at all. We were clueless about the details. We still hold the same principles, but now we know that the challenges in holding them are different than what we thought they would be. Travelling with a small child is easy. Showering is not. And, according to my principles, I have worked hard to keep showering. I will never, ever use the cowardly excuse of sacrifice to give up a value. I will keep working for all of my values. That is the point of the Children Vows.
These comments reminded me of how difficult it is to try to communicate to both Objectivists and non-Objectivists at the same time. I’m not interested in defending or promoting Objectivism, but I do like to write about how I apply Objectivist ideas in everyday life. It’s hard to strike a balance between setting enough context for a general audience and not boring those who already share the same core beliefs.
And then I realized that this tension is exactly what has been so difficult about coming up with good plot-theme ideas for my fiction writing. I have no interest in defining an entire philosophy in a novel as Ayn Rand did. I want to write good stories with what I’d call “medium-depth” themes. But because my most basic beliefs are so unconventional, it is difficult to get to those themes without going all the way back to the core ideas.
I’m going to be doing a lot more thinking on this issue.