I recently read that great article: “By the way, you do not have to breed”. It addresses the issue of women who choose not to become mothers. In fact, it provides strong support for them. Usually, only childless women themselves understand and support other child-free women. But this fine piece was written by a mother of two! Hey, finally, a parent is openly saying that parenthood is not all sunshine and rainbows and that not having kids is an understandable and legitimate choice. A brave message indeed, because raising doubts about the holy beauty of child rearing is taboo. Unfortunately, not all readers enjoyed that message, and immediately put the author away as a “hysterical and angry woman who doesn’t like being a mother”. I mean, of course she is, but I guess every mother has those moments or is my own mom the only “hysterical and angry” one?
Here is the key thing: The author gives an explanation for negative judgments about childless women by referring to the panic that emerges every time we are confronted with somebody who made a different choice than we did. People who are tired from diapers and baby screaming want to discredit other people’s preference for child-free travel or focus on work as selfish. Maybe that makes them question less their own choice to become parents. The underlying drama is that you cannot undo parenthood - you can just be good or bad at it. The evidence for this mechanism is the fact that negative judgments of child-free women mostly comes from those who are mothers.
I don’t understand the motive behind hiding the cold, hard truth of parenthood. It is like thinking that PMS is really a great run-on-the-beach-in-a-white-dress experience, as tampon commercials show it, while reality is bloody different. At least, my own mother was always open about the mess and hustle that come with being a parent. As a matter of fact, in one of our serious conversations she advised me that if I ever change my mind about not having children, I should only have one. Needless to say - I am her second.
Despite the fact that the majority of us have the qualifications for motherhood, which is mainly having genitals, not everybody has to apply for it. It is okay if some women choose not to apply, the same as it is perfectly fine if other women want to do just that for their whole life. Not having children doesn’t make a woman more or less of a woman. At least, ladies, be honest, would it make a man less of a man?
Irena Boskovic, PhD candidate at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience