Questions surrounding my intention to procreate became excessive after the age of 21. The expectation was that I should have decided by now and it was more stifling than before, with the implied pressure climaxing in 2015.
When I went home to Jamaica, the personal inquiry was constantly bestowed upon me. “You don’t have any kids yet?,” a family friend asked. “When are you going to have a little one?,” my younger cousin pressed. I was only 23, and found the prying utterly offensive, both to my womanhood and the autonomy I so strongly identify with.
The pressure felt has continued somewhat. More so because graduation is roughly in one year, and we are encouraged to outline our futures post college.
Valentine’s Day is our current focus and for people in my age range, so is sex and possibly marriage. The topic of pregnancy can be added too. With superstars like Beyonce announcing that she will have twins, and Ciara expecting a child with Russell Wilson, pop culture is experiencing a cycle that pinpoints reproduction. So inevitably, I began to consider my position on this subject again.
Truth be told, I have always known I did not want children. Fleetingly so initially, but with age that stance evolved into a conscious decision. In my opinion, society is tricky in that it does not explicitly say “we still primarily value women as breeders.” But there is still an unavoidable inability to separate women from motherhood, which can subconsciously plant in our minds that motherhood is something we must aspire to.
This is implied largely through imagery and language: Including roles women render in media, and reactions to those who divert from the path to motherhood. Take for instance a recent Buzzfeed article by writer Tahlia Pritchard. In it, she discusses how New South Wales’s current Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, was “asked about why she didn’t have children.”
It was her first press conference as the country’s new appointee, and that is what she was expected to answer.
I am not okay with that. We can reject society’s imposition that womanhood is not fully achieved when void of kids. Every woman has the inherent right to self-define her womanhood.
Reflected Through Activism
The Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 advocated, in part, for the freedom to chose whether or not to have abortions. Of course it also addressed intersectional activism and the host of issues such activism encompasses. What resonated with me though, is how this modern, inclusive feminism subtly redressed negative views of women who opt out of procreation.
Abortion is not only for those not wanting additional children or those not yet ready for an offspring. Access to this procedure is just as crucial for women who do not want children for the simple reason of not wanting to. Though I wish that logic was as much a part of the abortion discussion as not being ready, financial reasons, tough circumstances or other endless aspects.
With all of this talk about pregnancy and women’s rights, I wondered how my college peers felt about motherhood in today’s culture. Do they feel pressured? Is this a concern for them? The responses are insightful.
Sarah Dorleus, an art major, said her experience sees emphasis on partnership rather than children.
“[The pressure is] not necessarily to have children but definitely to be married. I don’t think there is a stigma, in fact, I think women aren’t encouraged enough to reproduce and cater to a family. Instead our society is heavily career driven and push women to work instead of giving them leeway to find a happy medium,” Dorleus said.
Journalism student Rachel Gallo said that she has not personally felt pressured to have children. Like me, she has been probed on the subject though.
“However, I do think there have been pressures placed on women to fit into various societal norms throughout history, especially to have children. Several members of my family have asked when I plan on having children, not whether I plan on having children,” Gallo said.
This indicates a stark generational contrast. Early days of feminism demanded equal opportunity and for women to be viewed as more than just mothers, that women can have the best of both worlds. No doubt these philosophies serve as a basis for current women’s rights organizations.
“Women of previous generations were more adamant about having and raising children and women now are more focused on having their own lives together. However, I can’t say it’s selfish since the younger generation learned it from the older women,” Dorleus said.
The older version of Women’s Lib may have unintentionally excluded women whose ideal is not have both worlds. Which could be attributed to the perpetuation of notions that our lives will be lacking without children. However, it is okay to oppose these ideas.
“I definitely think women can lead fulfilling lives without children. Every person’s definition of fulfillment is different. Though, I do know that there are women out there who find fulfillment in having children, I know that there are many other ways to grow and be happy,” Gallo said. “Personally, the older I get, the less I want children. I find now that I am focusing on fulfillment in my career and independence. Empowering myself is my goal at the moment, and I am in no hurry to have children, regardless of what society may think.”
Even though the concept of women’s choice is not new, we have not reached the point where women are truly liberated. We have not completely accepted that liberation has no blueprint, nor is there limitation to the choices we advocate for.
Women pushing for control over their lives means having the right to be respected the same, regardless of whether or not motherhood is a goal. My point with all of this is: Women of the present, and in the future, should not have their womanhood questioned for not aspiring to become mothers.
Stats For Perspective
- In 2012, 46.5 percent of women between 15 and 44 never had children – Huffington Post.
- 2013 fertility rates consecutively decreased for 6 years among women 15 to 44 – Time Magazine.
- By 2014, the percentage of women age 15 to 44 who never had children grew to 47.6 – 2014 U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey.
-Sarah Dorleus, junior level art major.
“My ideal is to enter into the art world as a scholar and also watering the seed that will eventually blossom into a full family unit.”
-Rachel Gallo, junior journalism major.
“I definitely think women can lead fulfilling lives without children.”