Thursday, December 4, 2014

The choice to have children: public opinion or private decision?

I've had a couple different conversations recently about people asking newlyweds (or any couple) when they plan to start having children, or badgering them that "they better start soon," or some other variation. So when I saw this article about famous women on childlessness, I wanted to share it. (Zooey Deschanel's answer is particularly good, but that's for another post.)

Let's start with the issue of privacy. Questioning new couples (or anyone in general) about their plans to have children isn't necessarily taboo in American culture, and most people probably don't think anything of it when they ask. But digging into that personal subject isn't fair to a couple or their privacy. We don't always know what's going on in that relationship. Some couples might be in the middle of finding out they aren't able to have children, and being asked about it over and over again only reminds them of the very difficult situation they're going through.

Other couples might have decided to wait to have kids until later, and I think it is our responsibility — as people outside of that relationship — to leave them alone about that choice. It isn't selfish for a couple to want to spend time together without children for the first years of marriage. This isn't 50 years ago, when women married as soon as they finished high school and stayed home to care for their 5 kids and husband.

Here are some fun numbers for you: My mom was 18 when she married my dad, 19 when she became pregnant with my sister, and 30 when she had me, her fourth child. I am 22, and my grandmas sometimes like to say, "You know, I had two kids by the time I was your age. Can you imagine that?"

The answer is no — I really can't imagine having kids right now, when I still feel like a kid myself sometimes. When I was in high school I decided I would never have kids. I wanted to focus on having a career and building success, I thought the world had enough people already and plenty of kids need good homes — and did you ever watch one of those labor videos in health class? No thank you.

Now that I'm at a more realistic age to be thinking about my future, I've decided that I absolutely want to have children (You were right, Mom). I have no idea if that will happen, or how it will happen — only God knows those answers. But I would hope that regardless of what happens I won't be judged for it, and especially not by those people closest to me. And I also don't want people to expect it of me. I don't have to want kids.

Some people — like the women featured in the article — choose not to have children. And they have the right to make that decision without others commenting on it. Kids aren't for everybody; people should place their focus on what they love most and what makes them happy, and if that's a career without a big family — why is that anyone else's business?

I think this quote sums it up:
2. "I'm completely happy not having children. I mean, everybody does not have to live in the same way. And as somebody said, 'Everybody with a womb doesn't have to have a child any more than everybody with vocal cords has to be an opera singer.'" —Gloria Steinem, Chelsea Lately, October 2011
Well said, Gloria.

What are your opinions on this issue? Is it even an issue? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Related: different last names and using pet names.

(Photo via Kate MacPherson)

1 comment :

  1. What about that one line from that one book that says, "Be fruitful and multiply?"


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