Confession: I don’t want children. Present Continuous Tense. (Actually, I think the proper form of the sentence would be, “I am not wanting children,” but come on, who talks like that?)
This is always a really touchy subject for a lot of people. I’m always told that “I’ll change my mind when I’m older,” or that “I’m too young to make a decision like that.” I have yet to meet a single person over the age of 25 who doesn’t immediately feel the need to argue with me and convince me otherwise.
But it’s true. I might actually change my mind, down the road. When I was 10 years old, I was obsessed with the idea of being a Doctor. I used to say, though, that being a Doctor would not allow me to have children until I was 30-something, and I was sure that wanted my first child at 25, and my second at 28. Minds do change.
However, decisions are not made in vacuums, and some people would find a 10 year old with such ambitions to be “adorable” and “the perfect little girl.” I don’t see it like that. I was taught to prioritize like that, by society, and that is sickening. By 10 years old, my female socialization was so deeply ingrained in me that I was willing to put career and ambition second to child bearing and family raising. No 10 year old boy would ever even consider children or family when thinking about the future.
A lot of the time, we don’t realize how much is expected of us, how little free will we truly have, until we try to break a norm. Women are expected to bear children. It is a responsibility, a duty to society. To defy this, is to be disgraceful, narcissistic, and debauched. It is not a standard enforced on men. It is perfectly acceptable for a man to not want children, to remain a bachelor for his entire life. But not a woman. She’s not a carefree, fun-loving bachelorette, she’s a sad, bitter spinster who couldn’t manage to find a man. It’s astonishing. We are told we can and cannot do certain things, and we are convinced that the decisions we make are ours and ours alone, and above critical analysis.
A small but significant example, albeit American: In elementary school, girls and boys are equally likely to say that they want to be President of the United States when they grow up. Studies show that by the time they are teenagers, there is a huge gap — girls are far less likely to want to pursue politics in general, let alone POTUS, than boys. Not only do they just “not want to anymore,” they are far less likely to believe they can do it.
And what can we blame for this? Surely, it’s not the dolls we give girls to play with, they definitely do not begin to groom them for motherhood as toddlers. The pretty skirts and dresses we force girls to wear definitely don’t inhibit them from exploring, climbing trees, playing with mud. Nor is it the belief that girls simply aren’t good at math and science, this obviously doesn’t lead to teachers being less likely to put effort into ensuring girls understand concepts, because “there’s no point, they won’t understand it anyway.”
Things like this have to change. I know people reacting poorly to me saying, “I don’t want to have kids when I grow up,” may not seem like a big deal, but it truly is. It’s a symbol of a society that is reluctant to change traditional gender roles. A society, that still believes that a woman’s role is first and foremost a doting mother and wife, and that she may pursue whatever career she can fit around that.
I consider myself an individual with a lot of ambition. I want to complete my undergrad, go to Law School, and travel tons, hopefully as an International Lawyer. That’s the dream. Doesn’t seem like it will leave much room for family life. Or maybe it will — who knows? I certainly don’t, at this age. But the point is, if you are offended by me choosing to put my career first, ask yourself why. If you are personally offended by my decision to not have children, ask yourself, again, why. Because it is my choice, and my choice alone — but do ask yourself why you have chosen to be offended.
The easiest thing to do is to critically analyze our own beliefs, our own expectations for what people “must” do, and what “has to be that way.” It’s not easy — it’s just the least difficult, first step to changing the way things are. Well, actually, the first step is accepting that things must change, but I would like to hope that I’ve at least taken a step towards convincing you of that.