The Today Show recently (7/26/11) had a segment on something that really stuck with me. They called it, “Today’s Women: The Choices We Make” but the video of the same segment available online is called, “Is it wrong for a woman to not have children?” What a strongly worded video clip.
This segment stuck with me because it has been an ongoing conversation within my family since I can remember hearing my older sister be asked that early on. My sister has always said, “no.” Everyone else always shook their heads and smiled, “oh she’ll grow out of it, I was like that too.” But my sister is married now and soon to be 30 years old. She is still saying no. But now, everyone else’s reaction is more confused and negative about her and her husband’s decision. And I’m thinking, why is she getting such shit for thinking things through and making her decision based on an honest view of herself and her life-plan? She has based her decision on logic whereas too many people base it on very little logic and little planning.
This segment on the Today Show left me with mixed feelings. “We have all met people who maybe shouldn’t have become parents. So maybe we should rethink how much we pressure people into having children.” I really loved what Ann Curry had to say about rethinking the pressure we put on people to have children because I couldn’t agree with her more. I think it is very much related to the idealization of marriage by focusing on "the big day!” instead of the actual marriage and commitment part. It’s also tied into the pressure to be in a relationship.
It’s all around us, around you and around me! Specifically those in relationships feel it. Can this Today Show segment and conversations like it, help stop the old generation questions from nan, “So do you have a boyfriend? Are you getting married? When are you going to have children?”
Sometimes I think it’s just a go-to question when people don’t know what to say or are just trying to be polite. Perhaps they don’t realize how it might come off. I’m already sick of it and I’m not even in a relationship!
I realize that the norm is to get married and have children. I’m not naïve enough to sit here and say why is everyone thinking this is odd? They react to it because it is different, because we need people to reproduce so that our species can continue and this urge to reproduce is instinctual. I realize that, but I don’t accept that just because something is different, it needs to be seen as bad.
The other thing that really gets me about this segment is how Sarah Brokaw still frames the conversation on her end by reiterating the stereotype that women are born nurturers and men are not. “It may not be about mothering but it could be a calling that’s related to children. That could be being a teacher, social worker, congresswomen, nurse practitioner, physician. – I think there are other ways that women can relate to children but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be moms.” I wish she hadn’t. I was going along with it and then THAT. Basically she’s saying, you don’t have to be a mom yourself to do mommy things so it’s all okay in the end, the norm continues.
Instead, she could have gone along the more mature and well thought out route that Laura Scott did, “Motherhood is a role, its not a being.” “Motherhood is not the only path to adulthood, maturity, fulfillment, and a purposeful life.” I love that! Because I believe it to be true.
She said something I have been feeling for as long as I can remember, birthing or adopting children of your own is not the end all be all way of having a purposeful and good life. It definitely is a role though sometimes it is more of a fact, like when a child’s mother does more harm to the child than good or when they are just absent from that child’s life.
So, how is it selfish to pause and reflect on one’s life and decide if parenthood is part of that life? I’ve heard people say it’s selfish to not bring a child into a happy and healthy (financially and emotionally) family, but is it?
I feel like the reasoning here is flawed; like your mom or dad saying to you as a kid, “eat all your food, think of the starving kids in China.” It’s not like the starving kids in China are going to instantly receive the food you left behind on your plate. They are starving regardless of what you do or do not eat on your plate as a child.
There’s the adoption argument to think of too. Still all too often people think of the adoption of children as a last resort. Why? If these are the same people saying that it’s selfish to not have children, why do they not instead advocate for adoption every chance they get?
I think it’s very selfless to say, "I want kids and I want to make this world a better place for them. I'm going to be the best parent I can be." Or "I will adopt a child in need of a good home." I just wish more people did. I wish people like me, members of the GLBT community, were able to fully adopt children into their family without jumping throw a variety of legal hoops and perhaps moving to a different state just so that they can have a family, which is a pretty traditional thing, by the way. But that’s another subject, I suppose.
I would venture to say that it is more selfish to get pregnant and have children because the people want someone to love them or want someone who looks like them or they just want to feel what pregnancy feels like.
Pregnancy is a big deal. Motherhood is a big deal. Parenting is a big deal.
My wish is for women to not criticize one another for not being on Team Mommy right away and instead commend those who self-reflect and think it through. If more people and couples talked about reproductive decisions together, I think we would all, and our offspring, be better for it. Furthermore, any and all reproductive decisions should be well thought out and private, unless one chooses to make them public. Well… should, would, I wish…