Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Tuesday!

So I was watching The Wendy Williams Show last night, and one of her guests was a woman who wrote a blog dedicated to women who choose not to have children. While the discussion mainly touched on parents' rights vs. the rights of those who are childless, one thing she said struck me. The guest said she gets hate mail because of her decision not to have children - and most of it comes from WOMEN.

I thought that was fascinating, but at the same time, it seemed to make sense.

If a man says he doesn't want to have children, no one really a blinks an eye at that. After all, it's believed that the paternal instinct is not as strong as the maternal one. While this may not be true in all men, no one thinks twice about men who decide they don't want children. George Clooney has said he doesn't want children, and that doesn't stop him from getting a date.

Okay, so George Clooney isn't the average dude...but you get my point.

However, if a woman says she has no desire to birth any babies, something must be wrong with her right? Women are supposed to be maternal and nurturing by nature, so if she has no desire to have children, then something must be off. And it's usually women who believe this. While a man may be surprised that a woman doesn't want children, he may not necessarily think something is wrong with her. But I've heard women say things like "She's selfish" or "She must have had a bad childhood" in order to justify their judgment of the childless woman.

Here are a few myths I've heard regarding women who don't want children:

1. She's a lesbian. This has to be one of the most absurd things I've ever heard. But I've heard it. Just because a woman is attracted to other women doesn't mean her maternal instinct isn't there. There are plenty of women who are lesbians who long to be mothers, so to think that a woman must be a lesbian if she doesn't have any children is ridiculous. Two women (and two men) who are in partnerships can be parents, and heterosexual men and women can decide that being a parent isn't something they want to do with their life. It's a lifelong job, and if you don't want to do it, then you have every right not to want to take on that responsibility.

2. She's selfish. Yes, being a parent is a selfless thing. You usually have to put the well being of someone else before yourself. It's one of the hardest jobs in the world - if not THE hardest job. I get that. Which is why if you KNOW you aren't up for the challenge or the job, you shouldn't take it on. It's not necessarily being selfish, but being realistic and honest about what you want from your life. If you'd rather sleep in late every weekend, or take spontaneous vacations that don't require you finding a sitter or taking the kids with you, then that's your right and your choice. There is nothing wrong with being a little selfish if being childless makes you enjoy your life more and make you happy.

3. I've heard (along the same lines of being selfish) people say, "What if your parents had felt they way you feel...you wouldn't be here." Again, this is foolishness. We are not obligated to do what our parents did, or make the same decisions. Yes - life is a gift, but it's a gift from God. He chose your parents as vessels to bring forth life, but if a person is meant to be here, they'll be here because it's Divine order. Your parents may have wanted to be parents...or maybe not. The decision was theirs and children don't ask to be here. But if you know you DON'T want to be a parent, then the child you don't have won't know the difference.

4. She must have had a bad childhood/been molested. There are some women out there who don't want to have children because they are afraid they won't be able to give the child a better upbringing than she had. Or she may be afraid that she won't be a good parent because of psychological damage she's suffered from some sort of trauma. While this is sad, and sometimes true, that doesn't mean ALL women who don't want children have gone through some tragic experience growing up. Each case/situation is different, and women shouldn't assume that women who don't want to have kids have some deep dark, hidden reason for not wanting them.

5. She CAN'T have children. I've actually had men and women ask me if I was able to have children once they found out I didn't have any. Not only is that a personal question, it's a ridiculous assumption to make. While there are women out there who want them but can't have them, there are plenty of women who have nothing physically wrong with them...but just have no desire to carry a child and birth one. It's as simple as that. I've heard women say, "Maybe she's had too many abortions and can't have any now." That has to be one of the most ignorant and troublesome statements I've heard regarding women who don't have children - but you'd be surprised the things people come up with.

6. She doesn't like children. I know plenty of women who chose not to be parents, but who lead full lives with the children around them. They are wonderful aunties and Godmothers...and they can give the kids back after they're done playing with them. It's totally possible to love children while not wanting to raise any yourself.

No matter what society may tell us, it's totally possible to have a wonderful, complete life WITHOUT children. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to share you life with any biological children, but serve as a role model, mentor and/or Godparent to children of friends and family. Forget what anyone else thinks...and until they're ready to raise your child for you and pay for its daycare and college tuition, everyone else can keep their opinions to themselves and mind their own business.

-b

23 comments:

-V- said...

I wonder how many of these angry women got pregnant in their teens ...

Annamaria said...

Children are a BLESSING... IF YOU WANT THEM... There is NOTHING wrong with not wanting them. They are a BIG responsibility & Brooke you are 100% right. Once you have them you can't be selfish! Having a baby isn't for everyone. For those that want them fine. For those that don't FINE.. As long as you are happy who cares what anyone else thinks...

Yolanda said...

Well, I am a little selfish at times and I only like kids when they're about 2-6 yrs old. Is that so wrooonnng? I just like kids when they're not coming home with me for 18 years. I'd be a bomb ass step mother though!

And there you have it. Nothing coming out this womb... well...um. You get what I'm saying :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Brooke,

The female panelist to yesterday's show is my high-school friends wife Laura. I think it would be interesting to have her husband chime in on today's topic! I am going to send him the link to your blog to see if he can comment.

Thanks.

Floyd

Geeque said...

I think it is a woman’s right not to want children. Like you stated Brooke, it is a difficult job. My opinion has always been if you feel that you cannot give your 100% to a child then don’t bring one into this world..

Serena W. said...

Hey everyone! Totally agree Brooke. Why do people get all in the business! While in Dallas last week a guy friend of mine (that sometimes doesn't know how to keep his mouth closed) asked me, "What are you waiting for?"

I cleared my throat and looked down at my hand and said, "Oh look...no ring" then I scrolled through my phone and said, "Oh and wait...no man either."

I told him as nice/calm as possible, "I don't want to have kids with just anyone and that's why I don't have any! Any more questions..."

He became silent...shame that people say comments out of the side of their mouths about "your" situation.

But I'm with the blog, be happy and go down the path that God laid out for you whether it's having kids or not.

Geeque said...

This was a great Blog..

This goes along the same line when people ask if you want to have another kid. If you tell people you don’t want another one they sometimes look at you like your crazy or they say your selfish..

Anonymous said...

OMG, great Blog Brooke, I get this question all the time. I'm 37 and don't have any children. People always say " What is wrong with you girl, you better hurry up before your eggs dry up and you CAN'T have kids."Well my eggs are just fine and I'm perfectly able to have kids and I have a wonderful man who is a great father to his children. I love kids with all my heart and soul. I just love giving them back even more lolololo.With 5 God children and 2 stepsons I feel very happy with that.I'm at an age where if it happens great if it doesn't that's fine too. I know My life is full whether or not I decide to have children. Being childless does not make me less of a woman, or selfish or anything else.It is such a personal choice for every women. Sometimes women have babies for all the wrong reasons, to keep a relationship alive, to please the family, or get pregnant due to lack of birth control and keep the baby out of guilt due to their religious upbringing.Nine times out of ten these are the mothers who end up resenting their children even though they never say it out loud lest they be judged. Is it not better to bring children into the world by women who actually want them?I say to each their own. Life is hard enough without people guilting women into a life long responsibility they do not truly want.
Stephanie

phillygrl said...

Chiming in on this, b/c I have a friend who is a married attorney in Baltimore, wo does not want children. She said she know she didn't want them from the time she was a little girl and was blessed to find a husband who already had a daughter (who is 12 or 13 & now lives with them.) And although this is a very personal decision, just as the decision to have children is, she chose to share it with all of us at another freind of ours' Bridal shower. There was an audible gasp in the room from several people, and one of the older women said well at least she KNOWS it. I totally agree with the olders sister, sometimes people, men & women don't take the time to gauge thier, not only strengths, but thier TRUE desires....I say to each his /her own....everyone has to live thier own lives, who is anyone else to judge? really...

Yolanda said...

I've known that I didn't want to have children since I was about 15. It's become a running joke between my mother and I. When I see a kid cutting a fool in public, I'll look at her and say "Reason #4985 I don't want kids!"

I've told her the closest she'll get from me in the manner of a grandchild is a GRANDPUPPY!

As I've gotten older though, I have thought about my reasons for not having kids and I think a lot of it has to do with a fear of being a single mother and struggling. Growing up and watching my Mother wear both hats lets me know I don't want to do that. But I do want to be married though... so whoever puts a ring on it will have to be on the same page with me. No "oops" babies!

Stef said...

I have to admit, I used to wonder why women wouldn't want children. Thne I had the pleasure of babysitting cousins and friends kids and TOTALLY got it. They're alot of work, and the responsibility of raising a child can be an overwhelming one. You have to truly want it in order to do what is necessary to make sure your children are cared for.

I know I want them, but I know it'll be alot of work. Choosing not to take on that job isn't selfish, especially if you feel you're not up for it or would be good at it. Not all women are meant to be mothers. I've seen women who have NO BUSINESS being someone's mother, but had them because society says they should, or because their husband wanted them, etc. I say do what makes you happy and what you know you realistically can handle. To hell with what everyone else thinks.

Jay said...

It's interesting, because I would think a woman would understand more than a man the reasons why a woman WOULDN'T want kids. You all are the ones who carry them, bear them, nurture them, etc. I'd think men would feel that women were naturally maternal and that all women want babies. But I guess women are more judgmental when it comes to that stuff because they feed into the societal backlash more than we do.

Either way, it's a woman's choice. Men probably don't care either way unless they've somehow gotten involved with a woman who didn't want kids. That's something you usually find out up front, because most women who want them make it be known some way or another. I guess if a woman doesn't want kids, men don't care because they can just keep it moving (or hit it and keep it moving) and it makes no difference. I never realized women feel more strongly about this than men do...interesting.

Annamaria said...

Yolanda I think you are PERFECTLY normal...

I LOVE KIDS... MY KIDS!!! And lil Leah...

I CAN'T STAND OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS. I WANT TO PUNCH THEM IN THE THROAT & THEN TASE THEM...

But give me my 3 & Leah & I'm happy.. Even my lil Clarkster cuz she's mad calm... I wanted to open up a day care at one point...UNTIL I REALIZED THIS FACT! lol

Brooke said...

For a long time, since I can remember, I said I didn't want any kids. It wasn't that I didn't like them, I just never saw how they'd fit in my life. I guess I figured I'd be too busy to have them. It wasn't until I was in a relationship with someone I could see myself marrying that I had a little change of heart. Now I'd like one, maybe 2 if I'm not too old :) But in my case, I changed my mind...and I could just as easily change it back.

I love children and spending time with them. Anyone who knows me knows that...but I wasn't always like that. Just this morning on the train, a group of about 20 kids - about 10 years old - got on and were loud and screaming and just getting on my nerves. You look around, and there were some people who were oblivious to it and thought it was cute - and then there were people like me...who couldn't wait for them to get off!

Some days I think about what my life would be like if I didn't have kids...cuz it's a real possibility that it won't happen. I find that while I might be disappointed that I missed the opportunity, my life would still be full with the children I DO have in my life...and that's A LOT!

I'm with Yolanda, my biggest fear is of having children with the wrong person and having no support. I'm sure if I HAD to raise them, I could...but I wouldn't want to do it alone. I'd rather be a super cool auntie than a struggling single mother ANY day.

DMoe said...

I dont think anything's wrong with that choice by a woman. I also think society has to put everything/everyone in some sort of box when it comes to things that they don't understand.

B listed the options that people have to label the woman with, but damn...That's dumb. She can be cool and still not want children. Its a large responsibility and selfishness is not in the recipe once they come into the world.

Besides, I think everyone on this blog knows a bunch of people who SHOULDN'T have kids. lol.

Dmoe

Latinegro said...

I really do not have much to say on this subject, but I what I will say is that women have the right to have kids or not. Not sure what other people's issues are with this. The planet is already over populated!

Brooke said...

It's funny you say that Ant, because that was one of the issues the panelist brought up. She said alot of people who say they don't want kis is because they're being environmentally conscious and how too many people on the Earth is burdening the resources for those already here. They said having kids is bad for the planet! :)

Latinegro said...

That is excuse made by some pretty dumb people. With all the death that happens in this world kids are the only things that make us hope for a better future.

Brooke said...

I agree. I can see saying using plastic diapers is worse for the environment than cloth diapers - but bad for the planet??? That's a bit extreme :)

Yolanda said...

The one thing I do worry about though is, if I don't have kids, who'll change MY diapers and pay for me to be in a fly senior home when I get old?

Guess I'd better put more $$$ in that IRA.

Brooke said...

I think about that too sometimes, so I hope my relationship with my nephews is so strong that they'll be willing to do that for me as well as my sister and her husband :) LOL!

Vinny C said...

Hey, everyone... I'm Anonymous/Floyd's friend from high school, and that was my wife Laura in the audience. Just wanted to chime in here a bit...

My wife and I have been together for almost 15 years (married for a little over 5), and we declared ourselves childfree about a year after we started dating (at around 19). We've also been involved in the media stuff surrounding the childfree since 2001.

The blogger onstage (Dana) has a blog about motherhood, called "mamalogues" which is hosted on another blog site called "momversation." She's definitely not childfree. The blog post was apparently about her (or someone else) discovering some childfree message boards and websites, and the vitriol that sometimes shows up there against parents. That blog post (I'm assuming) took a couple of shots back at the childfree, and the hate mail that ensued was presumably from childfree women, as a counter-strike.

Since Wendy and Dana both have kids, my wife was contacted to represent the childfree.

You're definitely on-point as to all of your observations. Men don't get nearly the same grief for wanting to be childfree as women do. This includes any attempt to make the decision permanent. It's way easier for a childless guy to get a vasectomy in his early 20s than it is for most childless women in their early 30s to get a tubal. I'm frequently torn between whether this is caused by the strict gender norms in our society, or outright misogyny in the medical establishment.

I've spoken to hundreds of childfree women, and they've heard variations on each of your six myths from other women. That kind of constant judgment is part of what leads to the antagonism towards some parents and what's usually called a "pro-natalist society" on the cf message boards.

Most of the childfree people I've met mostly take a live-and-let-live mentality. Respect their decision to not have kids, and they'll respect someone else's choice to become a parent. Things may start to get fuzzier when it comes to how parenting decisions impact things like taxes, employment benefits, proper behavior/appropriate places for young kids in public, etc., but that's a different topic.

Sorry if this was too long!

Brooke said...

Vinny C,

No, your post wasn't too long, it was great! Thank you so much for stopping by and giving us some insight. I agree that we should have a live and let live mentality when it comes to people's personal decisions to have children...or not. As long as one is happy in their decision and it's a decision they make for themselves, that's all that matters. Thanks again for your comment!

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