The other day I heard that one of my friends may be pregnant. And my first reaction was: "I'm so happy for her!"
You are probably wondering why I even mention it - isn't this the appropriate (and only acceptable) reaction to have upon hearing these sort of news?
Of course you are right, it is. Yet for a few years pregnancy announcements would invoke a host of conflicting emotions in me: resentment, joy for them, confusion, pressure, yearning, reluctance.
Every woman has to decide if she wants children - or not. What should be a personal decision first for herself, and second between herself and her partner, really isn't - everybody has an opinion. Family, friends, co-workers, our society - they all weigh in, whether you want them to or not. And the general consensus is this: women who don't want kids are suspicious.
Something must be wrong with them. Isn't this what women were made for, being mothers? If a woman doesn't want children, she is labelled as being incredibly selfish. Also, it isn't natural. Also, everybody tells her that she will regret it later in life, no doubt about it.
How do these people know? What do they know about someone else's life? Doesn't matter. When it comes to reproduction, everyone is convinced that they are entitled to their opinion, and the public opinion is this: If you say you don't want kids, you don't know what you are talking about. You are just confused. You do, in fact, want them - you just don't know it yet.
Parents seem to have difficulties grasping this one simple fact: We are all different. What is right for you doesn't have to be right for me.
I completely understand why people want to become parents. For women in particular it is the ultimate achievement: Making a new person. Your own body producing a new one must be an incredible experience. I get that, and I am truly happy for you!
But here is the thing: I don't tell you not to have kids, just because I don't want them. It is your choice, your life, and whatever you do with it is fine by me.
But when it is the other way around, people are a lot less tolerant:
They accuse you of being selfish.
This one always boggles my mind. How is not creating a new human being that isn't 100% wanted, selfish? Wouldn't it be more selfish to want to become pregnant, but for the wrong reasons?
You may not realize it, but by passing on the whole pregnancy thing you also pass up on a whole lot of attention. Being pregnant is hip. You will get showered with attention. You will get gifts. Everybody will be happy for you. Strangers and friends alike will congratulate you.
Do you really think that doesn't affect some women? Especially the young, insecure ones? Who may feel like they never did anything right, but by becoming pregnant they are now accepted, validated, and part of something big.
Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge you expecting mothers your time in the spotlight. You more than deserve it. From all I hear, being pregnant is no walk in the park, and you deserve some extra pampering.
All I'm saying is this: Making the choice of not having children is the unpopular one. You will have to face criticism and disappointment from others.
It may be easier to just go with the popular flow, and to get pregnant. For the wrong reasons. Wouldn't that be much more selfish?
They insinuate that you don't know what you want, i.e. basically telling you that you are immature, needing to grow up and "face your responsibilities", which for a woman apparently means popping out a couple of babies.
Parents always say that raising kids is the most difficult job in the world, and I believe that. I also believe you when you tell me it is the most rewarding job in the world, and totally worth it.
It is that for you. It wouldn't for me. Please don't think you know me better than I know myself. I may not know what it feels like to be a mother, but I know what it feels like to be me. I have lived with myself for over 30 years, and gotten to know myself pretty well in this time. Certainly better than you know me, stranger at the party who met me 30 minutes ago. Or you fellow colleague, who has known me for less than a year.
I love dogs. They enrich my life and make me very happy. But do I think everybody should have a dog? Hell, no. I know they are not for everyone. In fact, there are people who own dogs who shouldn't, because they don't give them the love and life they deserve. (Which, incidentally, also applies to some parents.)
Some people have children. Other people have dogs. Some people have both. That's the beauty of diversity, isn't it? Live and let live.
They will tell you that you don't know what real love is.
Love is impossible to define. It's a feeling, a force, a power beyond mere words. Every living creature deserves love, and I fervently want for everyone to experience it in their life, despite knowing that sadly, this isn't the case.
Trying to put a label on love is futile. Saying one love is more or less than another is lessening the positive force that is love.
Let me reassure you: I am fortunate to have a lot of love in my life. I receive it, and I give it. Without having born children. It is real, and it is powerful.
Being a mother doesn't mean that you have to be related by blood. It means loving someone unconditionally and with your whole heart.
We have to respect each other. For who we are.Not everybody is the same. It is tempting to believe that what works for us will also work for others. But that's not true.
What I would love to see is a society that is supportive of all women and their choices. Especially when it comes to such an important, life-changing one: About whether or not to bear children.
It is your choice. Not your parent's, or friends', or random stranger's at a party. Yours.
You are not worth less by deciding to not have children.
You are not loved less by deciding to not have children.
Do what is right for you.