Originally Written for and Posted on Isis Magazine
“So I don’t want to be offensive or anything…”
Oh God, I thought to myself. Here comes something offensive.
“But, like, do you guys all want kids? Like, don’t all women want kids? Isn’t that like the main part of being a woman?”
I felt my blood pressure rise to a dangerous level. Me and my three girl friends who were also in the room instantly tensed up, as if ready to battle with the sexist sitting before us in on our common room couch. Every muscle in my body was fighting the urge to make a scene. My first instinct was to yell, “THE DOOR IS THAT WAY” while pointing sassily in a way that would make Beyoncé proud.
Instead, I simply locked eyes with him and said evenly, “Actually no. Not all women have to have kids and not all women want to have kids. I actually don’t think I do, at least at this point in my life I don’t see myself having kids. I would appreciate it if you didn’t say such sexist things in our suite. If you want to have these offensive opinions then that’s fine, but you just can’t continue to have them in my room.”
Suffice to say, he kept his mouth shut for the rest of the night (Although, this guy in question has also been known to make public rape jokes, so that should tell you something about his character) but this was not the first time that my choice to have children was called into question.
It’s kind of expected when you’re a young girl in America that you will grow up one day and have kids of your own. After all, we’re raised to play with baby dolls, a not so subtle effort on the part of our elders to train us for motherhood. We have dollhouses and toy vacuum cleaners that teach us how to keep house and mini kitchen sets that train us to be good cooks for our future families.
Unfortunately, I, like many young women, find myself questioning this life path for myself. I find motherhood a perfectly admirable choice for many women, I’m just not sure it’s right for me. I’ve babysat little children ever since I was old enough to take care of myself, and I absolutely love it. However, there is a BIG difference between taking care of a child for a few hours and having to care for one 24/7. I’m not all too sure I want to be completely responsible for another human being; forced to an endless life cycle of diaper changing, vomit wiping, constantly watching, no sleeping, endless crying, etc. Is this really what I want? And at some point, like many young women in the modern era, I find myself asking the all important questions: Career of family? Can you really have both? Which is more important to me?
Ever since I’ve publicly declared my uncertainty regarding childbearing, I’ve gotten more than a few strange looks. When I told my mom she would always respond with a “Oh you’ll change your mind once you get older. I was just like you when I was your age but then I woke up one day and wanted kids!” And sure, maybe I will wake up when I’m 30 and becoming aware of the eggs wasting away in my uterus and feel the need to procreate. However, I don’t really appreciate being told that my current feelings on the subject aren’t valid. I feel what I feel, and I’m not going to apologize for it (It’s safe to say that my mom has accepted at this point that she might have grandpuppies and not grandchildren).
I currently intern for Mass NOW, so I may be slightly biased in my appreciation for Betty Friedan (after all, she was a co-founder of NOW), but she was spot on when she wrote in her infamous book, The Feminine Mystique, “The feminine mystique permits, even encourages, women to ignore the question of their identity. The mystique says they can answer the question ‘Who am I?’ by saying ‘Tom’s wife … Mary’s mother.’ The truth is – and how long it’s been true, I’m not sure, but it was true in my generation and it’s true of girls growing up today – an American woman no longer has a private image to tell her who she is, or can be, or wants to be.”
Jessica Valenti, one of the major faces of Third Wave feminism, chimed in on the issue of women having children as well saying, “American culture can’t accept the reality of a woman who does not want to be a mother. It goes against everything we’ve been taught to think about women and how desperately they want babies. If we’re to believe the media and pop culture, women – even teen girls – are forever desperate for a baby. It’s our greatest desire.”
Jen Kirkman, an American comedian who is a series regular on shows like Chelsea Lately wrote an entire book about not wanting kids, entitled “I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids.” In an interview with Marie Claire, Kirkman discusses the reactions she gets from people after confessing her desire to not have kids: “‘The first one I always get, which I wanted to name my book, is: ‘you’ll change your mind.’ Or people come up to me and say, ‘who will take care of you when you’re old?’ which I take to mean, ‘you’ll die alone.’ My short answer to those people is ‘Have you ever watched The Golden Girls?’”
Kirkman and I are not alone: about 20% of American women in the United States will not have kids during their lifetime. I don’t believe women need to justify why they don’t want kids but I’m going to tell you anyway. I don’t want anything coming out of me. That is just not going to happen. I am a firm believer that an infant is not meant to fit in my body. I also don’t know if I could handle the responsibility of it all – having a child (let alone multiple) is incredibly expensive! With the economy the way it is, who even knows if I’ll be able to afford a child. Most importantly, I don’t exactly like the direction the world is going. I’m not really sure I want to bring a daughter up in a world where a woman doesn’t have the right to control her own body. Is it selfish? Call it what you like, but I, for one, believe in every woman’s right to choose. And that choice includes whether or not she wants to have kids.
At the end of the day, just because a woman has the ability to give birth doesn’t mean she has to. Who knows, maybe I will change my mind one day, and that will be okay too! There is no wrong or right choice between having kids or not, as long as you make the choice that feels right to you. But for now, I’m more than okay with not having kids – and that’s my right.
Click here to read the original article posting on Isis Magazine.