You can have it all, but do you want it?
I was in a Pilates class one morning with nine other women when my instructor asked who here already had children. Two women in their 50’s proudly but politely raised their hands. Of the remaining eight of us, she asked who here wanted children. Not a soul raised their hand; I think someone may have even shouted, “no, thanks!”
Call this is a sign of the times, or a reflection of metropolitan cities, or even the Carrie Bradshaw effect of making it okay to unashamedly say you just want it to be you and your partner and that’s enough, and dare I say… complete. This is not to say that having children isn’t something sought after, but maybe we don’t have to seek it out just because that’s what is supposed to come next. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to not have children.
It’s long been socially acceptable for men to not have children, but for a woman to make this decision there was an underlying or perhaps not so underlying idea that there was something missing from her. She lacked a compassionate gene, hated children, or was selfish. On a side note, and correct me if I’m wrong on this selfish comment, but isn’t the whole point of having children so that you can have a mini version of yourself? Or else there would be a heck of a lot more adoptions if this were a truly “selfless” act.
What amazes me is the shift in thinking on this whole issue over the last few decades. Maybe Working Girl spurred this trend, but in the 90s I feel like women became expected to do it all. They were expected to be mothers, wives, lovers, executives, friends and PTA members. Now, I think it’s becoming more socially acceptable to just pick a couple you want to stick with. I’ve chosen the childless route so far. I change my mind incredibly often, so if you see me in five years pushing two strollers with another one running rampant through the isles of the supermarket, forgive me. But as of today’s date, I’m happily childless. Happily childless, that’s a concept, isn’t it?
As I’ve gotten older, I feel myself governed by logic more and more, and actually working around my emotions. I’m not sure that is necessarily a good thing, I think a nice balance would be healthier, but the shift in my own thinking seems to be happening whether I like it or not. As a result, I sat down recently and logically listed the reasons I could think of to have children, and here is what I came up with:
- Continue the human race – I think we’re all set here.
- Tax deduction – Since the average parent spends $221,000 per child over their lifetime, I’m not sure that makes sense anymore.
- Reduce your risk of cancer – Relevant reason, but I’ll just eat a few more antioxidants.
- To secure a caretaker in your old age – If you’re not of Asian descent, you’ll most likely end up in a nursing home anyways.
- Continue your last name/heir to the throne – I’m a girl, and that seems to be a more compelling reason for men.
Of course, I’m not listing the more maternal and lovey reasons one might procreate, but in a strictly science textbook sense, this is what I’ve got.
In my case, I honestly just never wanted to be that woman. I don’t want to bombard my friends with pictures of my child smiling or sleeping or sitting, or whatever else human beings often do. I don’t want to become that woman who forgets herself and is now just “Katie’s Mom,” who never has sex with her husband anymore because her sex drive has deteriorated, who accidently ends up using baby talk around adults, who’s exhausted from driving back and forth to soccer practice, and whose clothes inevitably reek of baby spit up and cheerios. I especially don’t want to be that woman with the crying child on a flight. My heart goes out to those women, because the stress of knowing you’re making a plane full of people agitated is enough to seal my womb for the foreseeable future.
This doesn’t mean I don’t like children, I do. Like people, I don’t like all of them, but I like them. Generally the reasons I don’t like a specific child actually fall upon the part of the parent. Granted, not all children. My mother was a fantastic mother, and yet my brothers were bloody nightmares. This also scares me; it’s a crapshoot with a product you can’t exchange. I enjoy seeing my friend’s children, but when the day is over, I go home and get a full nights sleep.
Due to societal conditioning and the snapshots I see of my friend’s children on Facebook, children have always sounded good to me in theory. I like the idea of “family” vacations, going to my daughter’s ballet recital, purchasing mini clothing, and in general having complete control over another human being. Unfortunately, there is a lot more that goes into parenting than just this. In reality it’s harder than any job out there, and millions of us sign up for it over and over again. I also hear it’s the most rewarding, and maybe childless women never know that sort of love, but maybe we develop the love for ourselves just a little more. Not the arrogant, selfish and self absorbed kind of love, but the sort of love that makes you strive to be a better person, professional, and partner. Can mothers still do this? Of course, but making the time for you will just take a little more strategic planning.
So, can you have it all? Yes, by all means yes. With a little caffeine and a nanny, you can do it. But do you want to? Do you have a desire to have all of those things? Or do you feel compelled to? Maybe you only want to be a mother, and that’s okay. Maybe you only want a career, and that’s okay. Maybe you’ll wake up one day years from now and realize you missed out on the other side of things, but maybe you won’t.
In today’s world, you can make up your own rules, and why shouldn’t you?