Sunday, 19 July 2015

It is YOUR choice

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.
What it comes down to is simple:
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. 

Remember:
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.






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16 comments

  1. I agree 100% with you Miriam. The only people who should be having children are the ones who want to, period. And I do believe that there are people out there who are getting pregnant for all the wrong reasons too.. like to save the marriage for instance. Isn't that the most selfish thing you can do to a child? Society and their judgements, it doesn't matter if we do the right thing or not... they are still going to judge.

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  2. I totally agree! No one should feel pressured to have kids. It is a very personal decision all the way around - deciding not to have kids or deciding to have kids (and how far you'll go down the medical intervention route if you do want to have them and are struggling to get pregnant, etc.). I really feel like pregnancy is a topic where everyone should just mind their own business and make the best decision for themselves.

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  3. Thanks Bailie! I had a conversation about that topic with a couple of friends not long ago, and we compared notes on all the things people say to women of "childbearing age", particularly when you are over 30. Depending on how you look at it, it's either shocking or hilarious. Either way, it's none of their business!

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  4. Amen! It's disturbing what kind of thoughtless things people will say to women, without knowing their story. What if they want to get pregnant, but can't? What if they grew up with a childhood trauma they can't/don't want to talk about? What if they still struggle with their decision, and getting comments about how wrong they are is making it so much more difficult for them?
    The thing is, that men never have to deal with these ambushes, no matter how old they get. Just look at the media: Jennifer Aniston has been dragged through the tabloids for a decade about how desperately she wants to become a mom (is that even true? most likely not). George Clooney, on the other hand, can be unmarried and childless, and is considered wild and free, instead of lonely and desperate.
    It's wrong.

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  5. Sad, but true. If you are on the fence whether or not to have kids, it seems easier to go ahead and have them - much less conflict and confrontation that way. But that's not a good enough reason! We should all be free to make this significant decision without a guilt trip. Hopefully one day, we will be able to.
    Thanks Isabel!

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  6. This post is amazing! I love it. There is so much pressure out there to have kids. I am so tired of people asking me when or why. It isn't their business. If I wanted them to know I would of already shared my personal feelings, beliefs and struggles already.

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  7. Love this post Miriam! It's spot on. One time when I told someone that I will not be having kids, the reply I got was "No, you will."
    ...Like what, pardon me? Are you going to put some sperm in me and make me be pregnant for nine months. That'd be a sight to see!
    I think this goes beyond pregnancy too though. I think ppl just need validation that their decision to do certain things is accepted by others by tgem doing the same things.
    Ugh
    -Linds

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  8. I completely agree with you on this one, Miriam. I myself, don't want kids and people seem to not find that ok, or accept it. They ask, and I tell them, I just have never wanted kids, I don't, it's just not for me. And they usually reply with- Oh, yes you do. No, I'm pretty sure that I don't. This isn't something that I "just decided" one day, it's something that I have put a lot of thought into and a decision I made, not without reservation. For a long time I thought that something was wrong with me, because I didn't want them, but then I realized, there wasn't anything wrong with me, no matter what other people thought, when it really comes down to it, it's my life and decision. To hell with society, there's plenty things about me that they don't like to go along with that. I'm happy that you made the decision that was best for you. People always tell me- "You'll want kids someday" or "Why not? They're the best! You haven't lived without having kids" and my personal favorite- "You say that now, but just wait until you meet Mr. Right". I just want to look at these people (and I have to admit, I have) and say- Oh, really?! I'm sorry, I didn't realize that I wasn't living by being happy and standing on my own two feet. I'm sorry, I didn't realize that doing all of the things that I love and being surrounded by people that fill my world up with joy, laughter, fun and about a million other emotions weren't enough, I must not really be happy, you obviously know me better than I know myself. And oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know that I needed to wait for "the man of my dreams" to make all of my major life decisions. My bad, I'll get right on that. In other words, I'm happy for you and proud of you, ma'am!! There's nothing wrong with you, society has it wrong if they think there is. You're awesome!!
    -Katie

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  9. I of course love this and can totally relate! I found it so incredible for strangers to be so intrusive on such a personal topic. The "you don't know love" one really makes me want to smack people, it's so rude. Really it's all SO RUDE. I once had a woman ask me at a company party, what I would do if I got pregnant...as part of the I'm not having kids conversation. I was very taken aback. Really, you are going to go there. I want to be like, you do know there is this thing called birth control right. I had to be diplomatic though, b/c it was a VP's wife. Though to her credit she did mention she wish she knew more women like me, when she was younger.

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  10. Totally. When it comes to procreation, people act like it is our duty to pop out a few humans to ensure the survival of the human species. With over 7 billion people in the world, I don't think we have to worry about us dying out any time soon.

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  11. I agree. Our lives would be a lot easier if we stopped worrying what other people think, and just do what WE want. Having children is such a personal topic, but for whatever reason it has become public property. I completely understand that people want to have children - why can't they understand that some of us simply don't? Our decision to not have them does not mean we think they are wrong for wanting children. Live and let live!

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  12. Thanks so much Katie! I thought too that something was wrong with me for not wanting them. Especially since I have stepkids: I was worried they might think it has something to do with them (it doesn't). But we are so primed into thinking that all women have the urge to want children, that it makes you feel like you are broken if you don't. After talking to lots of women about this, mothers and non-mothers, I believe now that the environment has a LOT to do with women starting families. There are some who always knew they want kids, and can't wait to start a family. Then there are some like us, who never had the desire. But then there is a wide spectrum of women who are somewhere in the middle: They don't not want them, but also don't really want them (I hope that makes sense). But because of expectations, the desire of wanting to fit in and family/friends pressure, they decide to go for it.
    I'm not sure if that's good or bad - probably neither. But all I'm saying is, it's hard for women (like us) to say no to kids, and it may just be easier to avoid all that and go for it.
    I'm so happy to have found women like you who understand! Nothing is worse than feeling alone.
    Because of people like you, I don't any more!

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  13. Oh, did she? That's interesting. But also not really surprising. I firmly believe that some (a lot?) women make the decision for kids because it's easier. They may be on the fence, but pressure from others makes them go down the kids-route, which may seem like "right" choice. I remember vividly how one girl once said: "I ran out of excuses." I don't blame them whatsoever, and I'm sure they are good moms and love their kids fiercely. Once you have them, nature kicks in and awakens the mama bear in us.
    But still, it's SO wrong to put this pressure on us.
    Like Katie mentions, she used to think something was wrong with her for not wanting kids. I used to feel the same way. But we shouldn't! We are complete and whole just as we are, with or without children.
    I'm so happy I found you and other women who decided to be childfree. It made me feel "normal" (what the hell is normal anyway?) and understood. So I get why the VP's wife said that. Finding people who understand is so important! I am very grateful for that, and for friends like you.

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  14. Me too!! I love your honesty and open-heart. It's so inspiring. So glad I got to meet you through blogging!!

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  15. Yikes, that one is the worst. I've gotten it too a few times. It is so inconsiderate and rude! But most of all, baffling. Why do strangers feel entitled to share their opinion about our lifestyle? I don't get it.


    Thanks for sharing Marjorie!

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