Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Motherhood Paradox

I have a question, hive:

Why do we still shame and question childless women?

We've come a long way, baby, but while some things have become more acceptable in our festering cesspool of a society, the notion that a woman is childless still draws ire and judgement. As Amy Sohnn has pointed out, "These days, it is no longer taboo to be gay or unmarried, but if you don’t want (or don't have, for whatever reason) kids, everyone looks down on you."

Explain yourself immediately, young/old lady!

This week there have been many discussions around the tables, in rooms, about where we have been, have come, and where we will go as women. The surge of positivity and energy I have felt coming out of this year's International Women's Day has been like no other. I feel hopeful that it will only intensify and that women are mobilizing, uniting, and are ready for a fight like no other time in our generation.

We do, however, still try to fit in boxes, and society still pressures us to fit the molds that have been created for women for centuries. As I sat at a table this week, discussing our lives with a group of powerful women, many were discussing parenthood, all with children of varying ages. As I looked around, only two of us were childless.

And then the statement came: "I don't know why you don't have kids!"

I do. And it's none of your business. I am not, as some might suspect, a Succubus who feeds on the souls of children, nor do I hate the little people created by the women whose wombs lack tumbleweeds (like mine must have!)

Motherhood is a loaded question for many. Those who drop the bombs are often unaware that many women feel death by a thousand cuts every time our value and purpose as women are put on display simply because we have not given birth.

Our (in)voluntary decisions often come with feelings of being betrayed by our own bodies, by the puzzle pieces not falling into place when and how they should, or we simply make the choice to not be mothers.

And this is okay.

The judgement, however, as well as the side eye and pity-laced facial expressions all seem to amplify as a woman, and her god-forsaken, barren womb age.

The minute you say you are childless, the reaction is often textbook. We get bombarded with questions by those who come at us with the firepower of a thousand suns. It is best described as Suzanne Condie Lambert said: "Think Transylvanian peasants with torches. Or “Dr. Phil” audiences when the topic is “Sassy 14-Year-Olds Who Think They’re Smarter Than You.”

"You don't know what you're missing out on!"
"Your biological clock is ticking."
"It seems selfish!"
"Who will take care of you when you're old?" (Because all of those folks in nursing homes are childless! Who knew?)

"What is wrong with you/her?"

There is moral outrage targeted at those of us who have not ticked off this very necessary and obligatory piece of a woman's uterine to-do list. Indeed, "Over 200 introductory psychology students at a large U.S. Midwestern university agree: People who don’t have children are not only miserable, but deserving of our moral outrage. That is the result of a new study that found that deliberately not breeding makes you look like a bad person who lives a purposeless life devoid of real joy. Bonus finding: Men and women without kids were equally despised, proving that there is no gender limit to our disgust toward those who do not procreate as directed in the handbook Being a Correct Adult" (Moore, The Real Reason why Society Hates You if You Don’t Have Kids, 2017).

Imagine! Here we are, living our lives and not knowing we are miserable, unfulfilled in our lot and being smug assholes.

News flash: your judgement is best packed away in the boxes you feel we should fit in, the ones who set out the guidelines and necessary characteristics of how to be a purposeful woman in this world.

Many of us do not choose to be childless - our bodies and/or life circumstances decided that for us - and many of us do choose to be. Neither is anyone's business. The questions, the judgement, the guilt most often evoke a response in ourselves where we do, indeed, question if we have failed and measure our worth on the yardsticks placed by those who tell us what our roles as women should be.


Childless women have a myriad of reasons why we have not procreated - health, careers, fears, or simply not wanting to be mothers. We owe no one our reasons, and we deserve to not have our reasons and worth questioned.

We are still role models.
We still carve paths for little girls to ensure the world is a better place.
We become the volunteers, the voices, the aunts, the cousins, the friends, the women who have decided that while our bodies might not give birth to the girls we aim to make a better world for we still have responsibilities. We can still make this world a better place.

While many mean no harm when asking a woman's reasons for not bearing children, we all need to be conscious of what a loaded question it can be - and simply realize that no woman is obligated to be a biological mother. This does not, in any capacity, lessen our power or our place in this world.

And, as Radhika Vaz pointed out in Unladylike: A Memoir, “How come when a woman says she wants a baby no one ever asks ‘why?”

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