Childless by Choice
By: Hannah Smith
“You’re never going to get married if you don’t have children.” One would expect this sort of statement would come from someone of an older generation; yet, it was my 13-year-old sister that told me this a couple weeks ago. This mindset that all women are deemed to be mothers, with as much progress women have made, is still rampant. This opinion isn’t only embedded in the minds of older people but is shared by younger generations as well. Celebrities are bombarded with questions about life fulfillment without children. We obsess over the latest pregnant celebrity. Any woman who desires a life without children must be abnormal. It’s unthinkable for a woman to be proud of her accomplishments if at least one isn’t a child. A woman can have a successful career and a happy marriage, but without a child, her life must be incomplete. Is it not enough for a woman to be completely satisfied with her life and simply not want to bring children into it?
A 2010 study found one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without birthing a child, as opposed to one-in-ten in the ‘70s. With this becoming more of a trend in the past few decades, it shouldn’t be viewed as a deficiency in a woman when she expresses her lack of desire to become a mother. The media portrays women without children as “crazy cat ladies,” workaholics, or obsessed with the idea of having a baby and scouring the earth for the perfect man. Kitty Bradshaw, creator of a website about lifestyle, said, “If you are single with no kids, you’re desperate, you’re in a house, you’re living with your parents, you’re overweight or you’re not a pretty girl. It’s just very negative and in most cases, that’s not the case.” With the media’s influence and society’s assumptions, childless women are sentenced to a lifetime of weird looks and being looked down on.
Tamar Anitai, TODAY contributor, wrote in an online article, “The lengths people — from older relatives to doctors to complete strangers — feel they must go to save me from my own potential regret never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for worrying about the regret I actually don’t regret at all, but surely you have something better to worry about than whether or not I’ll regret something when I’m 80 years old and we probably won’t even remember each other anymore!” This obsession over childless women has got to stop. The decision to bring a child into the world is one of the biggest decisions a person can make. Women should be able to choose a life without children and not be reprimanded for their decision. Dani Alpert said it best in a Huffington Post article when she wrote, “Personally, when it comes to such a highly intimate choice, I’m not looking to see what my friends are doing. That’s just me. And for people to equate giving birth to a baby with the only measure of a woman’s worth, value, or feminism is a joke and insulting.”
Even as a child, I knew children were not going to be in my future. From the first moment I uttered the words “I don’t want children,” the immediate response was, “Oh, you’ll change your mind.” I heard this from every single person I encountered and continue to hear this response today. I am a 20-year-old woman and still receive the same response I did at least a decade ago. With the progress women have made since I was born, it is incredibly disappointing this assumption still exists. Since we are human, it is completely possible to change our minds. But society needs to cease assuming we’ll eventually “find out way” and decide to partake in motherhood. It’s nobody else’s decision but our own. Our bodies, our decisions.
No woman should feel obligated to have children. I refuse to feel any less of a woman because I don’t possess this maternal instinct that every member of my gender is expected to have. Not every woman has a maternal instinct, but that doesn’t mean they are any less compassionate, loving, and selfless in other ways or towards other people. Children are a wonderful gift for those who genuinely desire to have them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with women who lack this desire and the media needs to begin looking at childless women in a more positive light. The decision to have children should be on a woman’s own terms, not because she has an obligation to fill solely based on her gender or the assumption of prehistoric societal values that need to be destroyed.