The Child-Free Woman

Woman looking thoughtfully out the window
Woman looking thoughtfully out the window

Not all women want to or can become mothers. This might sound obvious, especially in this era, but it's a message that needs repeating, and more importantly, needs to be accepted. Unfortunately, our culture treats women who are mothers as the primal feminine individual, who has great life experiences and knows the true meaning of "love" and "happiness."

As a mid-20s child-free woman, whose lab reports recently revealed some potential fertility problems, I've realized that not having children for whatever reason is so stigmatized. Comments such as, "wait until you have kids," and "you don't have kids, you don't understand," are so offensive, as it automatically presumes that someone knows me better than I know myself, or that I don't know how the world works. If you are close enough to a person to be privy to this type of information, you already know their stance on the subject. If you aren't, then why are you being so intrusive?

Based on observation, many people have children because they're "supposed to," or it happened and they went along with it, but it's something they feel they should have done in a different time frame or with a different person. Family, society, and other's own anxieties put pressure on individuals to have children that may or may not be ready for them, can't have them, or even want them. Many people find articles similar to this as irritating, and seem to think they put one side against the other.

Now, don't get me wrong, being a mother can be a miraculous gift, and my mother certainly sacrificed a great deal for me. I understand parenting can be complicated, yet wonderful, challenging and exhausting, and heartwarming and heartbreaking. In addition, the thought of becoming a parent or not, can also be utterly daunting, and surely, the comments, judgments, or assumptions by another certainly don't make either route any easier.

Maybe I'm being over-sensitive, but I find it incredible an acquaintance or worse, a stranger, thinks it's fine to probe another's ability or desire to procreate. For I'm certain the same people would never consider of asking a woman how often she has sex, her salary, or religious beliefs. So, why is fertility or infertility fair game? Do these individuals assume this might not be a sensitive issue? For all they know, she could be trying to conceive for years, suffered miscarriages, had a child that passed away, or simply, conceiving just wasn't in the cards for her. Alternatively, it's possible that a woman wants a child, but her partner does not, or cannot.

At the minimum, if a woman just doesn't want a child or cannot have a child, why should she have to explain herself or make excuses for her child-free state? Those with children must live in a child-centric world and it seems to be an automatic question to inquire about another's fertility. I suspect life isn't necessarily better or happier after having children, although most mothers will swear up and down that it's the most fulfilling thing they've ever done. Of course they say this, it's our biological imperative to have children, and survival of the species, but that doesn't mean procreating makes you superior, or gives you the right to look down or differently on those who haven't reproduced.

Most importantly, don't judge the child-free women harshly. Their feelings are valid, and if you notice one leave the room quickly when a baby is present, cry during a scene with a baby in a movie, decline a baby shower request, or not spend enough time praising you on your little pride of joy, know that she probably love babies as much as you, but is simply dealing with the situations they way she best know how.