“You just haven’t met the right man yet.”
“Your clock will start ticking one of these days!”
“I know it seems like you don’t want kids now, but just give it time.”
“You’re too pretty/smart/nice NOT to have kids.”
“Trust me, you’ll want kids one day.”
“You’re going to be such a great mom!”
“Women who don’t give birth have higher rates of ovarian and breast cancer, so you should probably use those organs before it’s too late. You don’t want to get cancer, do you?”
Kind and well-intentioned statements, all, (well, okay, maybe not the last one – and I’m not making that one up, either) that nevertheless have been met with something less than gratitude on my part. I have never dealt especially well with people telling me what I should do and how I will feel, and I am even less happy about the continual insistence that I have virtually no free will on a matter of such import as whether or not to have a child.
When I was 19 and just beginning to discover my identity as a ‘woman’ rather than as a ‘girl’, a man told me that “A woman’s Everest to climb is having children.” A few beats before that, he’d said, “Men choose their own destinies.” Those around the table nodded their heads in agreement, while I sat seething, gnashing my teeth in anger. The implication was clear. Men decide who they are; women get to be moms. My reaction to the sum total of these statements was pretty simple: Fuck. That.
How dare you rob me of the ability to choose my identity? I wanted to ask.
My own personal reasons for not really wanting to have kids are pretty simple, but they’re also personal. What’s astonishing to me is how very few people seem to respect these reasons. How many times have I explained that aside from the fact that I am, plain and simple, terrified of pregnancy, there’s also the added weight of bringing a child into a world that really doesn’t need any more homo sapiens sapiens? How many times have I explained that being a mother was something I never aspired to, a goal in life I never needed, a role I don’t necessarily want to play? How many times have I repeated that while I love kids, I just don’t really see the need to make my own? And how many times have these legitimate justifications been met with the statements I quoted above, dismissing my rationale and acting as though it’s not my choice to make?
It is, I’ll grant, entirely possible that I’ll be a good mom (SHOULD I CHOOSE TO ACCEPT THAT POSITION IN LIFE). It is entirely possible that once I do have kids (SHOULD I CHOOSE TO DO SO) I will be a wonderful, caring mother. It is entirely possible that when I turn thirty my body will magically decide that I must have a baby right then, and that I will decide (EMPHASIS ON MY DECISION) to get pregnant and have a child. Or several. But that is my choice to make. And I don’t need the whole of society telling me that some preordained biological destiny will one day change the entire course of my life.
I mean, hell, wasn’t that the point of most of civilization: to set ourselves above the whimsy of our biology and obtain greater control over ourselves as thinking beings?
It is high time that we acknowledged that it’s no one’s decision but my own. That biology has no say in whether or not I’ll be a better parent than the father of my children. That we acknowledged that society has no say in whether or not I decide to adopt, or make my own babies, or foster children, or decide that the challenges and tribulations of parenting simply aren’t for me.
Until the day I make that decision, my body is my own. Don’t tell me what to do with it, don’t lay claim to my identity, and don’t judge me for the choice I make.
It’s not your decision.