If there’s one thing my family and closest friends know about me it’s that I do not want children. I’ve often been vocal about my need to live a life that is self-fulfilling but it has been misinterpreted (or manipulated) as being selfish. I’ve been made to feel that bearing a child is what I’m SUPPOSED to do, as if my only contribution to society is linked to fertility, and as if having a child is THE single most important thing I will ever do.
One of my favorite articles on this topic is an opinion piece that Queen’s University professor Christine Overall wrote for the New York Times in 2012. Overall points to the instigators of the why-don’t-you-want-to-have-children question and reverses their logic: why DO you want to have children?
Overall’s argument is sound: children do not, and cannot, give consent about being born and therefore having children requires deep and careful consideration. So, rather than asking someone why they don’t want to have children, perhaps the better question is a justification for why you would want to be responsible for another human life.
What’s most bothersome about this conversation is that the interrogators often assume an omniscient tone by claiming “I’ll change my mind eventually.” Ain’t nobody got time for that bossy attitude!
I’ve often felt attacked and delegitimized by friends and family members who tell me this. I’ve never once heard anyone ask my male cousins that question. I’ve also never heard any of my male friends ask each other if they want to have kids. But I have had them ask me and when I tell them the truth they ask, “why not?” and then proclaim, “you’ll change your mind!”
No, I won’t. Or maybe I will. But even if I don’t- who cares?
It’s imperative that women feel supported in their decisions, especially if they operate outside traditional gender roles. The ease in which women are made to feel inoperative based on the decisions we make against society’s plan for us as these virtuous, baby-making machines sheds light on how deeply sexism is ingrained in our culture and even our subconscious.
A woman who chooses to be her own unique entity, one that seeks fulfillment based on individual accomplishments- a woman like me- deserves not to be questioned, but encouraged to be whatever is she wants to be. With or without a baby.