For many women, the choice to become a mother is an easy one. To these women it feels natural; they look forward to it and, usually, love it once it happens. For other women, the choice is also clear – the choice not to become a mother. For many women, this is an easy choice to make, but not such an easy one to share with their loved ones. After all, we still live in a culture that expects women to become mothers. A girl becomes a woman, gets married, and has kids. A woman who deviates from this plan is somehow “wrong.” Women have fought so hard over the years for equal rights, including the right to make choices for themselves – so why are we still so hard on women who make the choice to remain child-free?
Lately, the ranks of childless women have been speaking up in a big way. They are making themselves heard loud and clear: We don’t want kids. Period. Not, we don’t want kids now, but we realize we might change our minds later. Not, we can’t have kids. But we don’t want them. It is not going to happen.
These women will not be made to feel guilty because so many women want kids but can’t have them. Nor will they buy into the idea that they are selfish or bad because they choose freedom over babies. And they do not accept the premise that they somehow do not understand their own desires or “will change their minds later.” They are bravely claiming for themselves lives of free time, solitude at will, career immersion, or vacations at the drop of a hat – basically, they are choosing to do what they want to do, when they want to do it.
Unfortunately, an “us and them” mentality has begun to take shape around this issue. Moms, understandably, get defensive when they feel like their choices are being disparaged. Childless women feel ostracized by moms. This is a disturbing trend that we should nip in the bud, because women can potentially be such a great support system for each other.
And let’s be honest: the fact of the matter is that no matter what you choose, you are going to be judged for it. You are either fat and lazy or thin and stuck-up. You are either poor and uneducated or rich and mean. You are either a bad mother with too many kids or you are a selfish, close-minded woman with no kids. You can’t please everyone, and sometimes, you can’t please anyone but yourself. So please yourself. Life is short; how you live yours must be your own choice.
As women, it’s time we stop tearing each other down and start empowering each other to make individual choices – and supporting each other in those choices. It’s not “us and them.” We are all still women, with dreams and plans and feelings. Let me empower you: it’s okay not to have kids – and it’s okay to have them. No one can make the choice for you but you.
– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.