When a woman is dating, she is often asked by friends, family, and the occasional innocent stranger, “When are you going to get married?” When a woman gets married, she is often asked by friends, family, and the occasional innocent stranger, “When are you going to have a baby?”
The person asking the baby question is most likely expecting to hear a response such as “Soon,” “In a few years,” or “When we are financially stable.” He or she is typically not prepared to hear, “Oh, we don’t want children—we aren’t having any.” Because this is not the usual and expected response, two results usually occur. The person asking the question either becomes quiet, with a cold stare of disbelief (“What do you mean?”) or he or she begins a barrage of questions and retorts, such as “Why don’t you want children?” “You will change your mind,” and/or “How can you not want children?”
We have all felt the pressure of society’s “shoulds.” You should do well in school and go to college, you should get a good job, and you should get married and have kids. So when you decide to eliminate a “should,” you become an open target for others who feel the need to question your choice and pressure you to get back on the road of “shoulds”.
More often than not, the questioning of a woman’s choice to not have children sends the childfree woman into defense mode—or, worse yet, to feeling misunderstood and judged. Many childfree women in this type of interaction often wonder, “What is this person thinking of me?” “Does this person think I hate kids?” “Does this person think I am selfish?” or “Does this person think I am damaged?”
These are typical misconceptions of the childfree woman. While there are several myths about her situation, let’s take a look at some of the more common ones and see why these conclusions are often wrong.
Childfree women don’t like children.
This is a far stretch to make when a woman decides not to have her own child. She may be a loving and attentive aunt to her nephews and nieces. She may work at a school as a teacher or guidance counselor, or she may be a child psychologist or daycare worker. Deciding that she does not want to be a mother herself does not make her a child-hater. While some women may not like children, this is an overgeneralization and often not the case.
Childfree women are selfish.
This myth suggests that the childfree woman would rather run around town spending her “excessive money” on clothing, travel, and frivolous luxuries (another misconception) than take time to think about or take care of another human being. Believe it or not, some women decide not to have children because of environmental concerns, such as overpopulation and reduction of the carbon footprint. Other women believe they may not be good parents or feel they are not financially able to care for children properly. Concern for the environment and the well-being of others are actually some of the most unselfish reasons.
Childfree women are cold and not nurturing.
Many childfree women are extremely loving and emotionally present in their romantic relationships. They are generous in their friendships and offer their time and resources to others in need by volunteering in their communities. Many childfree women own pets and shower endless love and resources on their fur babies. And the childfree woman oftentimes nurtures her own physical and emotional well-being.
It is often said that the more people love their choices, the less they need other people to love them. As social creatures, however, it is human nature for individuals to desire acceptance and approval from others, especially from friends and family. When this does not happen, a person can begin to feel very sad, anxious, and even angry.
Mental and emotional well-being involves learning about yourself, accepting yourself, making changes as needed, and loving yourself. When you accept who you are and make lifestyle choices that are good for you and make you happy, your happiness will radiate out toward others and contribute to a more loving and peaceful world. If you live your life to please others, however, you may find yourself feeling unsatisfied and resentful.
It is my hope that those childfree women who have remained silent because of fear of judgment will begin to find the courage and strength to share their feelings and stories. Childfree women continue to be a misunderstood group in our society, and this honest communication can only raise understanding, acceptance, and respect for this life choice and shatter some of the misconceptions people have about women who aren’t mothers.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson