Time Magazine published an article entitled The Childfree Life by Lauren Sandler. Since the publishing of the article, writers bloggers, anchors and everyone in between has commented on the increasing amount of American women who remain biologically childfree. 1 in 5 American women will not have a biological child in her life; this rate is up from 1 in 10 since the 1970’s. While motherhood and families are being redefined from single motherhood to same-sex parenting, it is necessary that society catches up to women who remain childfree.
Choosing to have a child or not is a very personal decision. The attack on childfree women in this society needs to stop. Women who do not have children choose not to conceive, or due to circumstances in their life, they were unable to have children. Women who opt out of having children do so because they genuinely do not want kids, do not like kids, do it for environmental reasons, economic reasons or they do not have a partner or simply aren’t able to.
Growing up, I always thought I would have children someday when I met the right person; I never questioned this growing up surrounded by my sister and cousins. When I was in college I challenged everything like most college students do. One of the things I fought was the idea of motherhood. I wondered how it is socially internalized in gurls; we are expected to become mothers because it is ‘tied’ to our womanhood. We are reared to play with dolls, play house and pretend to do other domestic activities. I argued in a college paper against the institutional internalization of motherhood and how it has become part of the backlash against feminism, beginning in the 1980’s. The women’s movement did not directly address the association of womanhood and motherhood as 2 different things. Conservatives politically reproduced the notion of the traditional woman, in which motherhood was intertwined with being a female. We have seen these variations within the past couple of years with the ‘mommy wars’ and the rebirth of ‘natural mothering’ and ‘attachment parenting.’
I remember the conversation I had with my professor who did not have or want children. We discussed the internalization of this message and what happens when other women and myself push up against the idea of motherhood and womanhood being tied together. I was 20 when I first started to question and say to my family that motherhood may not be in my future. For the most part, the people around me have respected my questioning of becoming a mother – but there are inklings here and there about my intended biological capabilities. I was walking out of a department store recently with my mother and we saw an adorable 1 year-old girl holding her parents’ hands. My mother said, “That could be you someday.” I know my mom wants grandchildren, and I am fully aware I may change my mind one day, but it is not something on my radar and the consistent reminders are bothersome; we as women are always reminded of our biological clock.
I believe as a society we need to rethink parenting and what a parent is. I am a parental figure at my job in which I am responsible for children’s lives. I am there to guide them while their biological or adoptive parents are not. It is important to rethink what it means to be a mother. Mothers are not only women who biologically give birth to a child, mothers adopt children, mothers are aunts, friends and women in children’s lives. Mothers care about the well-being of the children in their life. Mothers are not always blood related.
I love children; I work with children and I believe we have a lot to learn from them when it comes to relationships and interactions with the world around us. At the same time, children are exhausting emotionally, psychologically and financially. Parenting is one of the most selfless things another human can do! I also believe choosing to remain childless is a selfless thing in itself because you are making the best decision for yourself. As a society, we need to stop questioning and looking for reasons as to why women who choose to remain childless do so. It is a personal decision that should be left to the privacy of someone’s life, not in a political debate. Women should be valued for who they are as individuals beyond their capability to reproduce.