People always tell me I’m going to regret not having kids, but what if I have one and then regret having him or her? Has anyone thought of that option?Karl Pilkington
A while ago, one of my mentees told me that she has no intention of having children. She’s only 22. “Why?” I asked because I was curious not because I thought she was too young to be cynical. “It doesn’t feel right for me and I have no desire for children.” She replied coolly.
This got me thinking about the society we live in where women who don’t want babies are branded selfish, weird, less, immature etc etc. A society where women who choose not to have babies are told they will grow old alone and die lonely deaths, yet we’ve heard countless stories of mothers who have died alone in nursing homes: just because you’ve had children doesn’t mean they want you in their lives.
“It’s your life, your body, your decision that you have to live with for the rest of your life.” I regretted those words as soon as they came out of my mouth. Because I realised, …a decision you have to live with for the rest of your life… may have come across to mean the decision was wrong. But no, I was, in some sense, preparing her for the inevitable invasion of her life that will follow.
Because in our society when a woman reaches a certain age, the question – ‘when are you having kids?’ becomes a greeting. People will be patronising in the way they talk to you about this decision. They will say things like, ‘you are young, you don’t know what you want yet’ or, ‘you’ll change your mind when you see your friends cuddling babies’ or, ‘you’ll grow out of this childishness’, or worse they will assume you have medical issues that you don’t want to talk about. The idea that you have made a conscious decision not to have kids doesn’t come naturally to society.
Amazingly men who consciously decide they don’t want children don’t face the same criticism as women. The assumption that having a uterus means being a mother should be eradicated from society. Sometimes you only have to look at the many children suffering in the world because the people who brought them in didn’t want them or don’t know how to look after them to know having kids should be a choice and not a requirement.
Unfortunately for my mentee, she’s from a culture that believes choosing not to have children is a sin punishable by death. For the foreseeable future, she will have to smile when people insult her with cruel and unnecessary comments like, ‘good luck finding a husband who doesn’t want kids’, or when women look at her and say mean things like, ‘I had 3 kids by the time I was your age’, implying that she will be alone forever.
As far as procreation is concerned I think society assumptions need overhauling: 1) just because someone is not breeding doesn’t mean they are medically unable; 2) just because someone chooses not to have kids doesn’t mean they are evil or that they will change their minds; 3) just because someone has one child doesn’t mean they are selfish; 4) just because someone has 11 children doesn’t mean they are inconsiderate; 5) just because someone chose not to breastfeed doesn’t mean they are foolish; 6) just because some women choose epidural births doesn’t mean they are cowards; 7) just because some women give birth without pain relief doesn’t mean they are better than other women. I could go on.
Society should respect women and respect the choices they make regarding their bodies. Almost every person is fighting a battle, and just because they don’t broadcast it on social media does not mean it doesn’t exist or because they are not saying anything doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. Just because they are saying something doesn’t mean they are telling the truth or lying.
To every woman who chooses not to have children, you are still one hundred percent woman – not that anyone needs to tell you that. Society makes assumptions about women who choose not to have children and the same society fail to understand that these women have unique personal reasons and don’t owe anyone an explanation. Society should afford them the freedom to exist as they choose without cruel comments or implied judgement.
Before you judge someone for not having children – think of those children as people. For one, people should not be brought into this world willy nilly.
And because most culprits are women, we need to be supportive even if we don’t agree or understand but never to disparage.
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Photo credit: Wherbson Rodrigues – pexel