I feel strongly about this subject as a woman who does not want to be a mother, yet respects those that do.
Two publications recently released articles on motherless women, or as I like to call us: Women… who happen to not have kids. Time Magazine’s “A Childfree Life” article reported that for the most part, women who don’t have children or choose not too, choose this because they are too career focused, or interest focused. They gave examples that these women make the decision early on and don’t regret it later. CBS then covered the story on their morning show.
Huffington Post released a response to this titled “The Truth about the Childless Life” claiming that the “childless woman” chooses love before having a child and therefore may miss her opportunity to bear children. One article aims to show the autonomy of women and help break down the historical and cultural expectation that womanhood = motherhood, while the other discusses that most (not all) women, do in fact want to be mothers, except that those who tend to bear children later in life do so because they are waiting for love.
Needless to say, I was not sold on either publication. These two articles began debating about the motivations behind women’s “child-less life.” Now lets understand motive. We hear about motive when there is something unexpected, perhaps something that should be judged in a court of law. Motive, or justification for one choosing to act in a certain way stems from the expectation one should act in that certain way. When we are forced to analyze motivation, we find that at its root, feminine natures and actions are rooted in love. So, lets look deeper at the idea that womanhood = motherhood. Women, since the beginning of time have been expected to bear children, serve as the caring and nurturing role, serve as the teachers, and ensure that the young learn all the lessons necessary for living. For centuries this was expected of the woman in society. Only recently have more women began to challenge this expectation and role as a vessel for potential next generations. This shift is not lacking in love and infact it is based on love. Love must not only be external, but it must be internal. A woman may choose to not bear children because she loves her life, or feels she may not fully love a child as expected.
This social placement of women has affected not only our role in society with regard to working, education, and our own interests, but as well our reproductive and sexual health. Because of our expected role, our best interests are taken into consideration later: our health over that of a fetus, or our future over that of a potential child. We feel the pressures of having children just because we may happen to be in a relationship of any significance. Then there is also that of those who are not in relationships, and the pressure to find a suitable mate before we are beyond our child-bearing age. Once we are pregnant, we are expected to see the pregnancy through for the sake of the fetus no matter what situation we may be living in, our future goals, or how we even became pregnant in the first place. The best interest of the woman in that situation is not considered and in fact judged for being selfish.
A shift in mentality will lead to a shift in culture. This is necessary if we are truly striving to achieve a society where we all have reproductive justice. These articles have brought awareness to this subject, yet by the sheer nature of the titles of the reports, it only reinforces the expectations that women should be child bearers, before being one’s own person. Womanhood to me equals, grace, beauty, strength, love, happiness, bravery. And if a woman chooses to bear a child or not, she should be able to, free from pressures and barriers.