Is Society Perplexed by Women who don’t want Children?
During this pandemic, I have been thinking a lot about my friends, who are juggling taking care of their children with the pressures of work. They have been a true source of inspiration. It does also remind me of the path that I did not choose for myself – that of motherhood. This is my story.
We live in a world which sets out certain milestones for you to follow when you reach adulthood – you should leave the roost, be independent financially, find a suitable partner, get married and have children. Society places a lot of value in these things – especially marriage and children – such that if your life path takes a different turn, whether with intention or not, it puts a certain spotlight on you which at best makes you feel uncomfortable, and at worst leaves you feeling a bit lost and frustrated. Let’s focus on the children part of this equation.
It appears that society can better accept a woman who wishes to have children but have not been able to do so for whatever reason, even women who have decided to have children on their own. However, for those people like myself who have made a conscious decision to not have them, society is left perplexed. How is this possible? Isn’t the decision to have children Darwinian at its very core, driving the survival of the species? On a more emotional level, isn’t motherhood an expression of love and altruism in its highest form and don’t you wish to experience the spiritual growth that comes from it? Heavy societal judgements indeed. But for me, it has come down to one simple truth – despite my love for children, motherhood has never been my calling.
In society, there are always outliers and I have always been one of them. I remember growing up and a member of my family telling me about their decision to not have children. They said that they did not want to spend the rest of their life living vicariously through them. Perhaps this had more of an effect of me than I realised at the time – impossible to say. Even from early adulthood, I have always wanted to stretch myself at every level – emotionally, mentally, spiritually – and I have chosen to embark on many adventures in order to achieve this kind of inner growth. But the adventure of motherhood was never an option for me, despite societal expectations to the contrary. And while I have absolutely no regrets in living what I call “my truth”, this conscious decision is not without its consequences.
While I remain in the minority, there are arguably exponentially more women in my position than in previous generations. On the one hand, that is a positive thing and I am grateful for it. On the other hand, the drawback is that there is no roadmap for someone like me to follow, no prior generation to use as precedence to show me the successful paths that are available to me? There is a decided lack of sources of inspiration for someone like me. So I must conjure these ideas up in my own head. At times, that exercise can be very tiring and actually quite scary – venturing into the unknown that way. This issue lingers in my mind a lot these days as I reach middle age, at a time when I am more in touch with my own mortality than ever before, and definitely more contemplative about what I want to do with my remaining years on earth. Are these heavy burdens? At times, yes, but I would much rather deal with the consequences of living “my truth”, then going down another path and living a lie. Being as I am, I couldn’t bear that.
Finally, what advice would I give someone who is trying to understand a person in their life who doesn’t want children? Quite simple really – believe them. There is nothing wrong with them, they are not kidding themselves, they are simply living their truth, and are prepared to face the consequences including the societal judgments in order to do so. Instead of judging them or putting them in a box that society decides they belong in, be proud of them for being brave and taking the path less chosen.
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