It is with immense interest that I’ve been following the conversation that has developing around what is being coined “non breeders,” women my age who have decided not to conceive, or have set out to explain why they are not conceiving. From Meghan Daum’s book Shallow, Selfish and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids to , the conversation has been both deep and contemplative about a new generation of women who are not having children. I respect every single one of these women’s decisions.
As the mother of a 10 and 12 year-old, I have taken great interest for a few reasons. For one thing, no one was having this conversation when I had children. Not that it would have deterred me, that is not my point here in any way. It just wasn’t happening. I had friends who felt this way at the time, but they kept mum out of fear of being questioned. That line of questioning has dissipated today except for possibly aunts, uncles and grandparents who have more traditional points of views.
With the burst of blogging and social media, women are more outspoken than ever before about wanting or not wanting children. It’s perfectly acceptable for women to announce their lack of interest in pursuing children or to explain their reasons for not having children alone. Today I read a piece in New York Magazine called “I Was a Proud Non-Breeder. Then I Changed My Mind.” by Michelle Goldberg. In it she discusses her initial aversion to children that she documented proudly in Salon, which then inspired an anthology titled Maybe Baby. It was divided into three parts: “No Thanks, Not for Me,” “On the Fence,” and “Taking the Leap.”
She and her husband enjoyed their jet-setting lifestyle, She wanted to author books. She didn’t want to interrupt her goals. But while reporting on posthumous reproduction in her 30s, she had a change of heart:
The idea of having kids to stave off the horror of death never resonated with me; I don’t see how you’re any less dead just because your DNA lives on. But children, I suddenly understood, would hedge against the unthinkable fact of my husband’s mortality. Not long ago, I learned the Arabic word Ya’aburnee from a friend’s cheesy Facebook graphic. Literally, “you bury me,” it means wanting to die before a loved one so as not to have to face the world without him or her in it. It’s a word that captures exactly my feeling for my husband. Part of the reason I didn’t want kids was because I feared they’d come between us, but if he were gone, I’d be frantic to hold on to a piece of him. Grasping this didn’t make me want a baby, exactly, but it started pushing me from “no” to, well, ambivalent.
The reason the piece prompted my reaction tonight is because like her, sometimes I feel, when reading these very strong feelings by women about not having kids, that I must defend my own choice to have had them. Like Goldberg, I loved to travel before I had kids. I loved my career. I loved my city existence. I was young, in NYC terms, and I somehow didn’t give as much credence to how much my life would change after having kids.
And it did, I will admit.
But I think that as much pressure as there is on women to have kids and for women to take a stand on the subject, there is as much pressure on women who have kids.
And now there is as much discussion reporting on this subject as the other. Bill de Blasio is proposing national paid family leave. Social media is being used as a place to discuss breastfeeding with hash tag #normalizebreastfeeding.
All I know is that no one was talking about any of these subjects when I had kids and I felt so very alone. I suddenly found myself living in the suburbs with two babies and felt out of my league. Had I had social media and a place to hear how other women were handling their new chapters with children, it would have been so different.
Yet now with social media, sometimes I do feel like a minority. I’m not that mom who finds everything about motherhood easy and hunky dory, but I’m also not that mom who has ever regretted having kids – not even for a minute.
As with everything today, it’s important to remain true to ourselves. To remember why we made our choices. Choice – that is key to everything.