Miss W was talking to a friend on the phone the other day and I mentioned someone I have known for a very long time, and I said, actually, we’re not so close any more. My friend asked me why, and I responded, actually, because this girl had a baby, and when she had a baby her whole world changed. My friend kept prodding me and telling me how she thought I should have a child too, because otherwise, as they say in Spain, se te pasara el arroz, which translates as my “rice would go off”, read as my ovaries will shrivel up, turn black and and I will be too old to have children.
My friend and I then started discussing how we knew quite a few women like this. I really like children, and I would eventually like to have children myself, but I get quite indignant when other women feel the need to tell me that I should have children just because they have recently had a child and they are very happy. I totally get that they are happy and they would like other people to share in that happiness and feel the same way, but my life’s purpose is not to reinforce anyone else’s decisions by copying them.
I think there are several reasons for this change when women have children. First of all, when a woman is pregnant her whole body is taken over and absorbed by the baby inside her, of course, it is natural that they will think of that above all. Then when the baby is born you suddenly have this tiny human that depends on you for everything, and of course that takes centre stage in your life.
Although I do want to have children, I know a few women who actively don’t want to. They tell me that they are often hounded and made to feel guilty by women that do have children. The thing is, having a child nowadays is a choice. Long gone are the days when you had to bring as many children as possible into the world to toil on your farm and support you in your old age. Actually, in many Western cities having children is a luxury, or a struggle, depending on how you view it. I would definitely have to earn a lot more than I do to compensate having a child in London. Why should women even be asked whether they intend to have children or not? and why should they be made to explain when they say they don’t want them? A woman should not have to justify her decision not to have children. I know another woman who is adamant that she doesn’t want children and yet, her whole circle insists on saying, “you will one day”, “you’ll change your mind”. Well, what if she just doesn’t want them? Why can’t childless be a choice? It feels like if a woman doesn’t have children she hasn’t achieved her full status as a woman and a human being. Why is woman still synonymous with mother?
My previously good friend lives in a small village in Spain, and although I’m sure she finds other things to enrich her life, there are few precious distractions, so maybe it is easier to have children earlier. I sometimes wonder whether she tried to pressure me into having children just because she can see the difference between her life and mine. I don’t mean to suggest that travelling and spending my money on whatever I please is a better choice than raising a child, but for now it is my choice, and I don’t expect that to be challenged. There are other things that can give meaning to your life besides having children, like extended family, your passions and hobbies, travelling or your career.
I don’t think children should be used to fill your life if it’s empty, or you’re bored, or you want a cute mini me. Sometimes it seems to me like having a child is the ultimate act of narcissism; I want something that is a part of me, something that I can inculcate with my beliefs, and mould to be the way I want. When there are so many children out there in the world that are in need of a home why do we still feel the need to create more people?
I also get a bit angry when all the websites I visit start bombarding me with IVF and baby adverts just because I am in the child-bearing age bracket. I understand the biological need to have a child before your body gets too old and is physically incapable of having a child, and believe me, at 30 this is constantly at the back of my mind. It is also interesting how people who don’t even know me sometimes take it onto themselves to question why I don’t have children yet if I am already married, oh, and I mistakenly thought it was a personal choice?
Whenever I have children I want to be ready, I don’t want to feel bitter towards them for having intruded on my life too early or feel like I am missing out. I don’t intend to change my life much just because I have a child. I know that my priorities will probably shift, but I want to retain my identity and not just become someone’s mother.
This not an attack on mothers, or women that want to have children, as I do myself one day, but it is definitely a critique of those who pressure childless women, or try to push their choices onto others. I am glad that my friends who have babies are happy, and I adore their babies, but I am not in that place yet, and I don’t want to constantly be pushed towards it. So please don’t ask me when I intend to have children, or ask me whether I have thought about it.