As we age past our prime childbearing years, self-reflection becomes inevitable. Have we made the right choices for our lives? Does our family status stack up to what we dreamt it would be? Most importantly, are we happy?
Since I was young, I’ve heard a non-stop stream of encouragement for me, as a “modern woman,” to take charge of my own life, live independently, and chase my dreams. This seems like the obvious advice we should give children, except that many people spent so much time chasing their dreams and creating their bespoke lives that they forgot to have children.
While growing up in the suburbs, my post-scholastic dream did not consist of finding a partner and having babies. I wanted to see the world, experience many cultures, and live without having to worry about caring for anyone else. I ended up in a fast-paced career with a propensity for hard partying, late hours, and a taste for travel and luxury.
As years ticked by, I assumed my perfect life would simply fall into place when I was ready, my career would steadily improve, and I would be swept off my feet by a perfect man. I had many friends with the exact same expectations for their lives, and today, we are pretty much all still single and childless.
We set our expectations so high that we never achieved them. We dated people with the same hope for impossibly perfect lives and moved from city to city, hoping we could achieve a greatness that was not to be.
Every year I grew older and saw my career ebb and flow, but never quite reach the level I fantasized about. As I added yet another number to my age, I began to wonder when or if I would become a wife and mother, or was destined to end up living alone with many cats. Motherhood was always part of my long-term plan, but as things around me evolved and people in my life changed, it didn’t seem so inevitable anymore.
I’m at the age now that people often ask if I have children. When I say I don’t, I am usually asked “Why not?” I have been conditioned by life to answer confidently that I am not ready, or have lots of things I want to accomplish first. The truth is that now I am finally wise enough to know that becoming a mother is the accomplishment I’d like to achieve the most.
Each day I hear more and more women declare proudly that they are childless and happy. For some women, this may be true, but I suspect that a great number of women have seen their window for childbearing close, and do not want to accept this as a disappointment. They seal off with defensiveness, claiming they never wanted kids, never liked kids, and now they are free to live without the burden of children.
More and more, this has become an anti-child society. It is commonplace for young women to state they do not want children because they think the world is evil, and wouldn’t want to bring a life into it. Sometimes the excuse is that the world is too populated, so why procreate any further. Yet like all of the world’s developed countries, the United States is experiencing the lowest fertility rate in 40 years, and it is a direct result of encouraging women to live the opposite life of their baby-booming ancestors.
Liberal feminists widely consider it to be morally wrong to have children in your twenties, or to have more than two children, or to continue any unplanned pregnancy. As a species, shouldn’t we want to reproduce? If we continue to reinforce the idea that having kids is a taboo choice, how long will it be before there are no children?
Many of the women I went to primary and high school with never left our little hometown, and now have their own children in the exact suburb I couldn’t wait to get away from. In my twenties, I pitied them. How could they be so uncurious as to never leave home? Weren’t we all raised to believe that women had choices now?
In fact, we were all raised to believe we had a choice, but I and many others defined that choice as a mandate to live our wildest dream. Choosing to live life without having children may be a valid choice for some people, but it is not the only choice to have a fulfilling life. I wish more people would have said that when I was younger.
My friends who have kids complain all the time, but I have never heard that they regret having children. The love that a parent has for his or her child is unlike any other love. Parenthood should not be looked at as a life sentence in which you will no longer have adventure, but perhaps as one of the greatest adventures you can have.