“I am completely comfortable saying that I do not feel the need or desire to ever have children of my own.”
Those three seemingly innocuous words can come across as patronizing, alienating and ultimately dismissive.
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about our mutual decision not to have kids. We both acknowledged that we lack the necessary selflessness and feel that we can be more productive members of society without them. This doesn’t make us selfish people; we simply want to leave a legacy in other ways. Also, since the next great global problem after climate change is population explosion, I look at it as similar to reducing our carbon footprint.
This doesn’t stop me from feeling just a tad guilty. Occasionally I feel a twang of semi-regret when I reflect on my decision. However, something occurred to me during this particular conversation that changed my perspective on the issue. While citing all the reasons we wanted to remain childless; career, health, hobbies, travel plans, blah blah blah, I thought to myself: “How the hell does anyone even have kids nowadays anyway?”
That was when it hit me. Here’s the thing; Western society heaps a huge amount of expectations on Generation Y. Finish high school, do (possibly multiple) degrees, work your way up the employment ladder, have interests outside of work, be in a fabulous relationship while still finding time for friends, and continue to do so for the next 20 years. A few decades ago, children would have been at the forefront of this list, especially for women. Nowadays, it is no longer compulsory for it to feature. Other aspects are allowed to take precedence. It’s often preferable for them to do so.
Look; my point is that society, because of the lofty heights it expects us to hit, no longer truly facilitates the bearing and raising of children.This might sound like an extreme claim, but hear me out.
The perfect 21st century woman is supposed to have a killer career, amazing partner, a couple of kids and be able to sustain all aspects of her life while remaining truly happy. Sounds too good to be true? That’s because it is. I know a few women who have achieved all of these things and they are the most stressed out, highly strung, insecure people I know. Why? The pressure to maintain this ideal existence is simply too much.
Something’s gotta give, and usually it does. From my observation, it’s rarely the children-aspect. A mother’s primal bond will overcome all other desires. However, when the career-aspect slips, the shame and guilt of it puts even more pressure on women to rectify it.
In a funny sort of way it was easier pre-1950s. There was always one parent at home as a failsafe for child-rearing. Yes, women lacked the wonderful array of choices we have today, but there was nothing wrong with your sense of worth being bound up in your children. That, for most women, was fulfilling; a well run house and beautifully mannered children was the equivalent of being a CEO.
The last thing I’m saying is that we should go back to that girls-in-the-kitchen mentality. Eventually, women by and large weren’t happy with this. That’s why they fought it, and continue to fight. However, I think that if women admit that maintaining a perfect career/kid balance is an unnecessary amount of pressure, and don’t guilt themselves senseless if they fail to achieve it, we would all be a lot happier as a species.
If you want to go for that high-powered career but also have three or four kids, go forth and be fruitful. If you have the drive, you’ll do it. But if you want to make the choice between the two, then take a deep breath and decide. Times have changed. Values have changed. There’s nothing wrong with wanting both, but there’s also nothing wrong with wanting one or the other.
Image via Careeraddict.com