“It is always an issue of ‘Are you married yet? Are you going to have your babies yet?’ Oh god, stop judging. And it’s just constant, I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done, and if they’re not checked then I’ve failed some part of my feminism or my being a woman or my worth or my value as a woman, We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child,”
“For women who are assumed to have passed the age of having children, it is normal to enquire into why not, Aside from the obvious gender bias, this line of questioning belies another assumption – namely, that marriage and family life are viewed as the proper occupation of women.”
BEING CHILDFREE IS MY RIGHT
As a pro-choice woman, I believe that “choice” extends beyond the political debate to include any decision you want to make with your body. I expected the same support from my fellow ladies about my choice. But as I aired my decision to friends and acquaintances, I began to get subtle signs that I was seen as an outcast not just by society in general, but by other women too. I never imagined my decision would elicit pity, judgment and even misogyny from other women. Whatever we accomplish, the social pressure and expectation to become a mother stays heavy on our shoulders. We see it in the media’s preoccupation with celebrities’ baby bumps, or in the movies whose plots culminate around pregnancy as the pinnacle of achievement. It’s unpleasant, yet the motherhood default setting has become so ingrained that women will force it on each other. But why? Between old-fashioned gender roles and what researchers call the “myth of motherhood” — the idea that motherhood is integral to being a woman — we spend our lives absorbing and internalizing the conflicting notion that a woman’s true purpose can be found only in motherhood.
LITTLE SUPPORT FROM OTHER WOMEN
On the surface many women agree that women have the right to choose. But what about a woman’s right to be left the hell alone about her choice? Doubting her decision or nudging her toward the “norm” undermines the choice itself. A patriarchal society doesn’t want women to have the power of self-determination, and when we question a woman’s choice about her own life we do the patriarchy’s dirty work. Like it or not, there are plenty of women out there who had children to defer fear or regret. And that’s not OK. After all, the only thing that makes us more uncomfortable than woman who doesn’t want children is a woman who has them and regrets her decision. A quick Googling of “I regret having children” yields sobering results. Amid all the otherwise happy parents blowing off steam, there are some truly miserable souls lovingly performing the mom role out of responsibility and obligation.
But rather than protect each other from this fate, we push for “just in case” motherhood without much critical thought. Meanwhile, young women are left isolated in the weeds of self-doubt or, worse, as unsure mothers struggling to provide care to their kids. All because the people who matter most — the band of women who were supposed to trust, support, and respect her — questioned, dismissed, and undermined her choice instead of accepting and celebrating it.