The idea that deliberately childless women are selfish is a general theme when it comes to policing women in this society and smothering them with ideas of what other, more important people expect them to do with their lives as opposed to allowing them to make their own decisions without comment. When a woman, especially a married woman, chooses not to have children, it opens her up for all sorts of comments ranging from her being selfish to the idea that she must be very unhappy because she doesn't have kids.
And in this piece about men who really really want to be daddies, the wishes of men are added to the mix of reasons why women should feel terrible if they do not reproduce as society (and perhaps their husband) expects them to. (Trigger warning on that link for descriptions of reproductive coercion)
According to this piece, there are a growing number of men who desperately desire to be fathers, but are hitting roadblocks because the women they are with would rather do things like pursue careers, or they just plain aren't interested in being mothers. The disturbing part of it all is that it shows that some men want to be fathers so badly that they will pressure their wives into trying to get pregnant.
Take Neil, whose wife Fiona was made a partner at a PR company and does not feel ready to be a mother. Neil said:
"I'm putting pressure on her to stop taking the Pill and to leave the situation to fate," he admits. "I know it's a decision we've got to make together, but I don't want to be an old dad. A baby would make my world complete."There is a sad but interesting point here. Evolving gender roles and opportunities have allowed more and more women to progress in careers that they may not be willing to give up right away to start a family. They have also allowed men to express their desire for fatherhood more openly. While that may seem like progress, where women used to be forced to follow husbands pursuing careers, they are still facing opposition to living the lives they want from husbands who are willing to coerce them into having children to fulfill their own desires.
It's great and all that men are coming around to the idea of fatherhood and that they don't have to be alienated from their feelings when it comes to wanting children. But women should also be allowed to be true to themselves, whether or not their visions for their futures include children. They shouldn't be ridiculed or looked down upon for not fitting into other people's expectations. All in all, women still lose.
I guess this whole motherhood/children thing has been on my mind lately because of the unsettling trend among girls I went to high school with of getting pregnant and married before they turn 23.
I'm relatively young, but I have known for most of my life, with much certainty, that I will never be a mother. Children tire me. I have never been able to stomach babysitting for more than a few hours at a stretch. Holding babies makes me anxious, and I have several memories of being a child and family members practically forcing me to hold a baby, a new member of the family, because why shouldn't I want to hold a cute little baby? The thought of being responsible for a human being, emotionally, financially, what have you, terrifies me.
When I've expressed these feelings to various people, generally my family, it has been said that I will change my mind once I grow older. You know, right about the time that this society will start expecting me to pop out some babies and fulfill my womanly duty of self-imposed motherhood.
Not to mention my type 1 Diabetes and the difficulties of managing the disease with another human growing inside me and the potential complications that could arise from that. Not to mention the obvious idea that me parenting a child that I did not want to be a parent to is the ultimate form of unfairness. Not to mention that with those things taken into consideration, I might sound like a good person who has made the right choice when it comes to bearing children.
But that's not what people will see when they look at me in a few years and ask if I have children. Or if I want them. All they'll see is the word "Selfish" stamped across my forehead. Unfortunately, as long as women continue to be necessary for creating babies and as long as we live in a society that believes that arbitrary expectations are more important than the desires of individual women, it's a brand that many of us will not be able to escape.