Dear Parents, Parents-to-be, People-who-hang-out-with-kids (you get the point),
Welcome to our first series in our Yummy Mummy and Sassy Daddy’s Guide to Abortioneering! To know more about this ongoing series (until you all get bored of it!), read more here. On this week’s agenda: how do you tell your kids what you do for a living?
I think this is one of the biggest things to tackle. We’ve blogged a lot about how it can be challenging to tell strangers/family members/potential romantic interests what our job is. There’s always that shock effect. We all know it: abortion work is controversial. How and when to tell our kids, then, is going to be a delicate matter, right?
(Before I start spouting off my own opinion, I want to reiterate that I’m not an expert in parenting except for the fact that I’m a parent. A flawless parent I am not.) I’m hoping that some of you will chime in with your own thoughts about this subject and that it will be interactive.
The first obvious step is to be as age-appropriate as possible while also considering your child’s character/maturity. This can be approached the same way you have your life-long sex/body discussions (we’re having those, right?). One of the coolest things about being an abortioneer parent – I think – is that our jobs, in a nutshell (ha!), are all about sex. We talk about sex every day, know the appropriate terms for body parts, etc. Hopefully, we can use this skill that we’re super trained/educated in and transfer it to open and honest discussions with our children.
Below is my little outline of age appropriate examples of what you can tell your kids when talking about your job and abortion. This is inspired by personal mommy experience, stories from other abortioneers, and the book “Talking to Your Kids About Sex: Turning ‘the talk’ Into a Conversation for Life,” by Dr. Laura Berman (love her – but not her angle on abortion in this book. Ugh):
• Age 2-3: “My job is to help girls.”
• Age 4-5: “I help girls and women.” (They might ask why. These kids like to ask why a lot.) If they do, you can say, “I like helping people. My job helps me do that. It’s kind to help others.” Or you can insert any other value you want to teach your child here.
• Age 5-8: Building on helping girls and women, you could say a little more specifically what you do. Examples could include: “I help the doctor at work,” “I pay the bills at work,” “I help girls find money to see the doctor,” “I help make appointments so girls can see the doctor,” etc.
• Age 8-9: Again, building on the previous stories, you may want to start adding that the girls/women you see have a problem and you try to help them solve their problems/support them. The statement can be that simple. Your child will probably ask what kind of problems the women are having. An example could be, “Some of the girls are having a hard time making a choice in their life and we help them with that.” You could also say that the women are pregnant and are having a problem. Depending on how inquisitive your child is, they may or may not press you. If they do ask for more information, you can continue to be vague, answering only their specific question(s), “Sometimes there can be problems when women are pregnant.” This could be a very good age to discuss some of the problems that can happen in pregnancy: sometimes there are fetal indications and you could simply state this. “There are times when there are problems with babies. It might not be safe for the woman to stay pregnant.” At this age, your child should know the basics of sex and how women get pregnant. You very well may have already discussed this before age eight. During this age group, you could've talked to your children about the values you want to instill (when people should have sex, have babies, get married, etc.). If you've already had talks about that, then this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss that people don't always make the same choices you think are best (and maybe why?). This helps set the stage for them to understand life isn't black and white.
• Age 10-11: Your child most likely knows about abortion. If not from you, from the media or friends. It’s important before this age to set the stage for abortion. It may be very hard for them to understand why anyone would not want to continue a pregnancy. Society and the media make it clear that women should always be happy when they’re pregnant. We know that is not always true; if you've had ongoing discussions with your kids that people make different choices in life and that there are consequences for those, they might be able to better understand why an abortion could take place. One approach is to simply tell your child this. You can bring up the fact that some women are raped and become pregnant: they did not ask to become pregnant. You can also talk about how pregnancy is something that can sometimes be controlled, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes women do not want be pregnant for many reasons. It’s probably easiest to discuss the obvious reasons why they wouldn’t want to be pregnant. I believe it’s important to call an abortion an abortion.
I think this is an appropriate age to tell your child that you help women obtain abortions. Validate any feelings your child has about this. Answer, as best as possible, their questions simply and honestly, while letting them know they can ask you questions at any time. You may feel your child is not ready for this at age; it depends on your child, how you communicate, and perhaps, even, how long you've been an abortioneer for. (If your child has been raised in an abortioneering family, then it would not be difficult to discuss it at this age, I think.) Be aware that at whatever age you do "out yourself" to your child, it's very normal they will worry about your safety at the clinic, especially if there has been media attention surrounding violence aimed at abortioneers. We can discuss this at another time.
• Age 11+: I think at this age, you'll want to continue your discussions about choices in life, about our bodies, about pregnancy, contraception and abortion. This ties into the whole theme that
"life is complicated" and that the reality is: shit happens. (You may not believe life is complicated.) My firm belief is that it’s vital to try to raise optimistic, but realistic children. Sometimes things are hard. We make mistakes. Or we can be victims. We have choices, but sometimes they only take us so far. This is life. Sugar coating it does not provide our children with the coping mechanisms to deal with disappointments and mistakes in the future. There’s a balance here and you’ll have to find this yourself. I realize I am talking about my own personal view here.
At this age, you will probably have your kids ask you more questions about sex and you may find that their friends feel they can come to you. This is a super great thing about being an abortioneer. Many abortioneer parents are those liberal parents that other kids can talk to, or ask where to find birth control, etc. Another series....?
This was longer than I expected. If you're still reading (thank you!), then feel free to comment. Let's talk about it. What works for you? What doesn't? What's been hard? What's been good?
If you want more info about talking to your kids about sex, check out Dr. Laura Berman here. Of course, as Abortioneers, we all have loads of resources and if you decide you want more, comment and we'll provide more. (Scarleteen is a great source.)