This past August, CNN published an article by a woman who was “coming out.” No, not about her sexuality. About her decision to not have children.
The 21st century has shown much progress in women’s rights and equality. We, as women, have claimed our independence and can fully support ourselves.
But when a woman “comes out” and declares that she doesn’t ever want children, society takes a step back and criticizes her for not performing her “role.” Where did all the acceptance and equality for women go? While women can be successful and hold the same jobs men do, we cannot escape the image of caregiver. Prevailing wisdom seems to say that because women have the “mechanics” to have children, they should want them no matter what.
That seems utterly absurd. Why is it a woman’s duty to have children whether or not she wants them? Men who don’t want to be fathers aren’t singled out.
There seems to be a double standard in place. Society criticizes bad parents. Some women choose not to have children because they realize the life they lead won’t provide an adequate environment for a child. But when these women freely decide they don’t want children, they are often ostracized by friends and family. How is that logical? Shouldn’t these women be praised and accepted?
Women have climbed the ladder to positions of high authority: doctors, CEO’s, lawyers, senators and even Supreme Court justices. But these fields demand ridiculous hours and stressful work. These jobs don’t allow time to take care of children.
Some couples both work full-time jobs. They choose to send their children to daycare or hire private nannies or au pairs. In this case, the parents aren’t raising their children and don’t devote much time to them. Sometimes society even calls them bad parents.
Then there is the stay-at-home dad, a gradually emerging phenomenon. Some men even take leave from their jobs after the birth of their children. These dads are often criticized for their decision to abandon their role as provider. The stay-at-home dad isn’t seen as having a manly or respected job.
But why is this even an issue? It’s the 21st century. From a young age, we are told that we have a voice. Our future is ours to decide. So if some women don’t want children, that’s how they choose to live their lives. Who has the right to criticize that decision?
I could take us down a slippery slope and bring up the idea of overpopulation. Our planet is already beyond capacity. Fewer women choosing to have children reduces the number of births. That is just a small step towards curbing the exponential growth rate. But that idea is beside the point.
Overall, it is each individual woman’s life. It seems that the traditional maternal role threatens to overpower modern lifestyles in the fight for women’s rights. But we can’t make women have children if they don’t want to. If women don’t see children as part of their lives, then that is their own personal lifestyle choice.
Katie Haggstrom ’14 firstname.lastname@example.org is from Omaha, Neb. She majors in English with a concentration in Africa and the Americas.