While modern feminist conversations frequently fall on the topic of choice for professional women – do I choose my career, or do I choose motherhood – the argument generally stops there, and never addresses the choice some women make not to be a mother at all.
American culture praises mothers, and rightly so, but we are also so obsessed with them that more frequently we lean on the topic of the right to choose an abortion or not, therefore overshadowing the other more obvious right to choose to ever get pregnant or not.
Many celebrities, from Oprah Winfrey to Lily Tomlin to Jennifer Aniston, have opened the conversation more publically, which hopefully will help us non-celebs feel more comfortable discussing our choice to go childless too. Comedian Margaret Cho recently spoke out about her right to stay baby-free, mostly because “babies scare me more than anything.” Other celebrities who have tackled the topic of non-motherhood mention other reasons than fear as to why they do not want to have children. Kim Cattrall has said, as quoted in Marie Claire, "I realized that so much of the pressure I was feeling was from outside sources, and I knew I wasn't ready to take that step into motherhood.” Janeane Garofalo has said more simply, “People think that you are a nasty, selfish person if you don't want to have children."
Because of these social responses, women often feel pressure to procreate, despite spending many of our most productive years trying not to get pregnant (at least my friends and I did, through the use of various birth control methods). In addition to facing this pressure and shame when deciding not to become a mother, we also possibly find ourselves being rejected by our partners and peers.
On the popular dating site, “How About We…”, a male blogger covers this topic by telling the story of two couples grappling with the woman’s claim that she does not want kids. The aftermath brought one couple closer together with the woman changing her mind and wanting children, and one couple breaking up because the woman did not change her mind. In the end, the blogger expressed no direct opinion about women who have decided they do not want children, but he did encourage any new couple to remain open-minded when discussing potential future children. The goal after all, for dating sites like this, is to get you to see that you both want the same thing - each other, baby or not.
That may sound really cheesy and romantic as a conclusion, but as a person who has still not decided if I want to have kids, I’d like to think I should have the freedom without shame, to wait and see if I meet someone that I would want to be a parent with before deciding. As Cameron Diaz said, "Having children changes your life drastically, and I really love my life."
Images via myfriendsaremarried and fanpop.com.