You always dreamed you’d be married by 25 and have your first kid by 27.What happened? Now you’re approaching 28, unmarried, no kids, switched careers, and debating whether you want those things anymore, questioning motherhood altogether. Did something change? Did you change, or is this just a phase as so many believe it to be?
“But you’ve always loved kids” they say (likely our mothers). “I’m sure you’ll come around; you just aren’t ready to settle just yet.” What if that day never comes? What if I never feel ready, or feel like it’s too late?
The older I get, the more I question society’s expectations or standards for how I should live my life. Perhaps that comes with life experience, realizing that you will survive disappointing others. You learn that you cannot live your entire life a people pleaser if the choices you make aren’t leading to happiness.
The Rise of the Feminist Woman
As women have garnered success in their careers and other areas of their lives, they are choosing to get married and have children at later stages in life. Just a few decades ago, the average age at first child was 22; now it is quickly approaching 30. The widespread use of birth control has allowed women to take control of their lives, education, and careers, by prolonging childbearing until they are ready, if ever.
Almost entirely gone are the days where a woman would sacrifice her career for her man. She no longer has to choose between college and marriage, being a career woman or a mother. She can have it all. Most women now seek equal partnerships where both partner’s careers, ambitions, and voices are heard in the relationship.
Still the default reaction in society is “someday when you have kids…” or “when are y’all planning on getting pregnant?” As a society, I believe we are slowly progressing toward the idea that motherhood does not have to be the default. Women offer much more to society than just their childbearing potential. We are leaders, educators, innovators, advocates, nurturers, negotiators, and adventurers.
As many women chase their careers, their hand is still forced in family planning, trying to balance work and home. We still live in a system in America that is not very supportive of family life, compared to other developed nations.
No Apologies Needed
Women are made to feel guilty if they don’t want children. Some women don’t feel that call to motherhood, or a nurturing instinct. That does not make them monsters or people without feelings. Also, just because they do not want their own, that does not necessarily mean they dislike children. They may enjoy playing with friend’s children, but just prefer to give them back.
Women that do want children are put in terrible pressure cookers. See if this resonates in today’s society. She can work feverishly on her career, and at the same time is constantly reminded that her biological clock is ticking. The longer she waits, the higher risk her pregnancy will be. There is a terrible psychological weight surrounding the contemplation of motherhood for women.
Let me also acknowledge that the desire for children, and the actual ability to conceive, are separate issues. The later is not addressed here. There may be women who can’t conceive and desperately want a child, and others who likely can conceive and have no interest in having children. I believe for this reason, there is a stereotype that those who do not want children are selfish. Or perhaps, women that have a lot of children have no self-control, or are super religious. Women need to stop the battle of tearing each other down based on how they live their lives. Children or no children, single, married, LGBT*, straight, old, young, of all races; we all need to unite as diverse women fighting for the same causes.
The Motherhood Realist
So there are the women chasing their careers, and those who simply don’t want children; however, is there also a new breed of realist regarding motherhood. The deeply practical part of me also realizes that purely from a logistical and timing standpoint, motherhood may not happen for me. I am not willing to slow my life down to search for a partner or think about having kids, and I am fine with that.
Although sometimes frustrating, I actually truly adore children. I enjoy being around them, their infectious laughter, and the way that they view the world. I am still questioning though whether that means that I want to bring a child into the world, or would rather help and enjoy all the wonderful children who already exist.
This is just my personal opinion, but I am super conscious of the state in which I would bring a child into the world. Now my anxieties will likely manifest in the following sentences but this is honestly my thought process. Would I be in the optimal health for my pregnancy? Could I plan it at a good time for me personally and professionally? Would I have the ideal resources to take care of the child? I am a proponent of personal responsibility, and I will not embark on the crazy adventure of parenthood without having carefully planned out the details. I won’t even get a dog at this point because I don’t think my lifestyle is conducive to one.
Some may say that all a child truly needs is love, and I agree with that to a large extent. However, when you have seen children in all kinds of adverse circumstances, you can’t help but want to be able to offer them the best life. Regardless of experience, I hope that most people feel this way. Ultimately, women today have the right to choose when or if they have children and that is a glorious thing. It is a deeply personal decision. I hope that every woman will do what is right for her and not what is “expected of her.”
LGBT* indicates inclusivity of all umbrella groups and terms normally denoted by the LGBT acronym including queer, intersex, etc.