Today's letter is a sad one. It's from a woman writing in response to another woman, who wrote to Amy seeking advice about how to get her husband to want children. They had married agreeing that they did not want to have any, and she had since changed her mind. So the responder writes:
Dear Amy: I'm responding to the letter from "Anonymous," who said she and her husband did not want children. Now, all of a sudden, she doubts her decision not to have kids.
Let me tell her: "Don't do it!" I didn't want any children, and after just one exposure I had a baby.
It doesn't end there, because they just keep coming. I raised my child. I raised the grandchild, and now I'm raising my great-grandchild.
How many times a day do I say to myself, "We should have used a condom."
This letter, to me, is so sad--sad that the writer never managed to live the life she wanted, sad that she's so bitter and blames the children for this, sad that through four generations, no one in this family seems to have made a different choice for themselves and sad that the writer accepted the consequences of her own actions....and then became responsible for those of her child and grandchild as well. Not much happy going on here. And I can't help feeling that, with so much unhappiness going on, Amy is a bit harsh in her response:
Dear Also: Your letter illustrates the unfortunate consequence of raising an unwanted child, who in your case evidently stayed unwanted.
I take the fact that you raised a grandchild and are now raising a great-grandchild as evidence that your attitude toward children filtered down to your own child––and your grandchild, as well.
When you found yourself pregnant after one "exposure," you could have placed your baby for adoption and at least given it a chance of growing up with motivated and loving parents. Two generations later, it seems unfortunate that you didn't make this choice.
Unlike you, "Anonymous" wants to have a baby, though she says her husband doesn't. One can only hope that if she chooses to have a baby, it will be cherished.
What good does it do to tell this woman, 30-40 years after the fact, that she should have placed her child for adoption? Who knows why she didn't, but it seems like that thought, as well as her regret over not using a condom, must have occurred to her over the years.
Again, I guess this is another case of the columnist respecting the contributor's purpose--this woman didn't ask for advice, she wanted to share the wisdom of her experience. So Amy offered her no help, but instead took her to task for her choices, as well as for spreading her toxic parenting attitudes to other hopeful would-be parents.
You can't undo the past....it doesn't do any good for this woman to dwell on, for a lifetime, her single act of unprotected sex. It also doesn't do any good for Amy to criticize a choice made several decades, and several generations of kids, ago.
If this woman had written in saying, "I don't know what to do, I can't feel the affection and devotion for my children that I know I should feel, and now they keep having kids and the kids keep having kids, and money is tight and I'm doing all the work alone." Amy would have sympathized with her for feeling trapped, overwhelmed, and unloving (I've seen her do it before) and told her to seek counseling (which she probably can't afford) and maybe recommended a book (Amy does this a lot, and I think it's a cool idea...if she actually checks out the major titles on a certain topic and selects the best one, and doesn't just do an Amazon search when a certain issue comes up).
This woman may not have directly asked for help--but, like Cheryl Lavin's contributor a couple weeks ago, needs it. She contacted an advice columnist, and it's the columnist's role to give it.
The fact that this woman has lived out four generations of mistakes, regrets, and apparent abandonment of the children by their mothers doesn't mean she deserves less support--it means she needs more.