Woodstock, Ann Landers, and Alice Munro

Alice Munro, one of my favourite writers, was once quoted as saying she was terribly grateful to have had her daughters, but had she been given the choice, she would not have had them. I thought about that when I read Maclean’s article “The Case Against Having Children”, specifically regarding Corinne Maier’s assertion that she at times regretted having children, which is “what many mothers silently think but aren’t allowed to say”. The famous Ann Landers article is then brought up, when she asked readers if they could do it again, would they have had children, and 70% said no, they would not. That’s disturbing to me, but on another level that poll was taken in 1975 and I would like to think that there is some “sign of the times” going on.

Women at that time, that revolutionary time, just did not have the same options and choices that we do today. As my mother’s cousin put it to me, “It was just so simple. I never had to make a decision about work. You just stayed home and that is what everyone did”. Clearly, a generalization. Clearly, not everyone just stayed home. But it was prevalent for women coming of age in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s to go to college to get the Mrs, or perhaps just to marry their high school sweetheart after graduation. For those women, of whom society expected to marry and have children, well, maybe they did have regrets. But I would like to think that today, if a similar poll was taken, 70% of mothers would not say they wouldn’t have had children.

It was different back then. I was telling myself that this weekend, this weekend that marked the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. Woodstock! Have you watched any Woodstock footage lately? It’s QUITE entertaining. The announcer telling the crowd to watch out for a certain type of acid going around, it’s “bad acid”. The out-of-service school buses overflowing with hippies. The proliferation of fringed leather jackets worn without shirts.

As a side note, I stumbled upon a clip of The Who singing See Me Feel Me, with a very high Roger Daltrey wearing a ridiculous fringed leather jacket and no shirt, which I subsequently became somewhat obsessed with, watching it some twenty times this weekend. That’s 100 minutes of my life I am not getting back. Man, I love that song though.

I know the general consensus regarding Woodstock is that it was a turning point in history, all those amazing musicians gathered for a free concert, all peace and love, but all I can think is this: half a million people, no toilets. Half a million people, no showers. Half a million people, lots of drugs, “free love”, and NO SHOWERS OR TOILETS. Ew. It’s prissy of me, I know, but I find myself oddly focusing on the hygienic issues.

The hygienic issues and the children featured in every single Woodstock clip you see. Inevitably, there will be footage of a small child, usually naked, playing in the vicinity of its very high mother. The children wave happily to the camera, while their whacked-out mother smiles woozily. This weekend I looked at those clips and thought about Ann Landers and Alice Munro and felt sad.


  1. That IS sad!

    And 70% would not have had children if they could go back…that’s sad too. 🙁 I guess I’m in the other 30%…if I could go back in time and change things I would have studied harder about childbirth to avoid my first c-section so that I could be having MORE kids right now! LOL

  2. We got stuck in the Woodstock anniversary traffic on our way home. Awesome.

  3. Hey Nicole, it Lorraine (Trudy’s sister), I love the name of your blog given that I have a husband and 4 (yes 4) sons. I at least have 2 female dogs! I quit work 6 years ago to stay home with my boys. My husband and I had always worked opposite schedules and one of us has always been home with the boys, but it left little time for each other and no time for rest. I had built a very successful company and just about the time I was making alot of money, I sold it and became a stay-at-home mom. You can’t imagine what all of my friends, family and clients had to say. Everyone thought I was crazy. My children ranged in age from 10 to 18 and everyone thought they were old enough that they didn’t need me at home (to be honest I wasn’t sure they were wrong). What a shock we all got! Since I decided to stay home, I have had 3 children graduate from high school, and make life choices about education and career opportunities. My oldest son has chosen a life partner, gotten married, and will be giving us our first grandchild in the new year. My youngest son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. We have moved, my husband has been promoted and I have been happier than ever. Through it all, my children have come to me. They ask for advice, they listen and most of all they know I am there for them no matter what. I cannot count the number of kids that call me “Mom”. My house is almost always filled with kids and I love it! I am Chairman of School Council and Football Mom. I’m the Mom that drives to concerts, movies and where ever else they need to go and the one who makes the pizzas for movie night. I have never felt closer to my kids! The big surprise for us all was how much my children need me and how much they appreciate that I’m here. When people ask me why I stay home, I tell them to ask my children. I’m sure there are Moms out there who can work and be present it their children’s lives, but it wasn’t me, I always felt like I was juggling. Before I quit work, I thought I was a good mom. I loved them more than anything, I was meeting their needs and I was there for them, but some how I didn’t know my kids. It’s different now. Now I know my children, their hopes, their dreams, their fears, what makes them happy and what makes them sad. I am enormously proud that I am a stay-at-home Mom, my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

  4. 70 %? That makes me sad too.

  5. Subspace Beacon says

    I just read Wifey, by Judy Blume this weekend. It’s just so far removed from my own reality as to be funny — but it does make me think that the 70% stat was correct considering the era.

    But I don’t think it’s true for our generation. We marry late, we have more education, we have the interwebs!

  6. I think there was a tendency for that generation to take it all for granted too. The house, the steady income, the perfect family … it all seemed so desperately normal and predictable. But for people of my generation none of that has been a given. Most of us struggled to find work throughout the ’90s, waited until our thirties before we could afford to buy a house … and if we didn’t experience infertility ourselves, we all know someone who did. So now I find myself with the house, the two beautiful children, the secure income and I pinch myself constantly. I can’t believe how lucky I am. (Of course, I get to work too, in a job I really enjoy, so that helps. But still, those Ann Landers readers had a pretty huge sense of entitlement, I think.)

  7. I could never imagine regretting having children.

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