Over the course of the past few weeks, I've found myself in conversations with other women about the decision to not have children. Or simply not wanting children.
Because it's Sunday and I'm bored, I thought I might articulate the thoughts I have about this aspect of being pro-choice and why it's something that I wish I didn't have to justify.
Most women (and a fair amount of men, I'm sure) can testify about the pressure to procreate. We're sent a message from a very early age that this is what one must do in order to live life completely. And while I understand that there are a lot of people who have children because they genuinely want to be parents, there are also a lot of people who genuinely don't want to be, and for some reason they are often treated as though there's just a switch that hasn't been flipped yet, that once they are just past child-bearing age, that switch will be flipped and they will look back in regret over their decision.
So I'd like to just take a moment to reflect upon some of the questions/statements I get about being childless, and address them the best way I know how.
You would be such a wonderful mother.
I'm a lot less convinced of that than everyone else is. People believe this about me because I am patient and mellow. It's really hard to upset me, to get me to lose my temper. That's a rather low bar for parenting, in my opinion, but I can see where it'd be good for a child to be raised by someone with those attributes.
But who cares if I'm good at something if I don't want to do it? I'm also a really great driver, for the same reasons. I'm patient and it's hard to rattle me. If someone cuts me off I don't give a shit. They just proved they're an asshole and I'll forget about it by the time I get home, anyway. No reason to get upset, right?
But I HATE driving. I absolutely hate it. I can't think of anything worse than being trapped in a car for any amount of time. I hate automobiles. I hate car culture. I hate highways and four way stops and yellow lights and merge lanes. I simply hate them.
So I don't drive. This works well for me.
No one questions my judgement about this. In fact, most people tell me they admire my willpower to live without driving. To me, it's not difficult. It's just something I don't do. And no one pressures me to do it because they know I don't want to.
It's different when it's your child.
I'm still not sure why that's supposed to make a difference to me. I understand that being a mother is entirely different than being an aunt. I enjoy being an aunt. I love it, in fact. It's one of my favorite aspects of my life.
I joke about having the kids spend the night then sending them home on a sugar high so I can take a nap. I know that if they were my children, I wouldn't wake them up with a cup of hot chocolate and a stack of pancakes.
They also wouldn't sleep in a "fort" on my living room floor.
But I like that there's very little structure at Aunt BB's house. They're free to be their own little devilish selves and I just enjoy watching them do that. If I'm their parent, I have to impose different rules for them, and if there's one thing I'm NOT, it's structured or disciplined. I believe that children need structure and discipline. I just don't want to be the one to do it.
So, yeah. It would be different. I know that. So what?
Who is going to take care of you when you're old?
This may be the one that annoys me the most.
The fact is, I don't know. Probably a team of CNA's, NA's, LPN's and social workers. That's reality.
But, having worked in nursing, assisted living, and retirement homes, I know that having children does not insure one against dying/aging alone. The sad fact is that most people who died in those homes died alone.
Some of them were terrible parents and their kids just didn't worry and/or care all that much about them. Some of them were great parents but their kids had a whole lot of other things to worry about. I'll never be able to list all the reasons that those people died alone. But I saw no evidence that having children protected them against that.
And besides, that's a really fucking selfish reason to have children. Why would I want to bring a life into this world just for that?
There are women out there who would give everything to be able to carry a child.
My heart breaks for those women. It truly does.
There is an infertile couple in my family and I know very well how painful that was for them. It was something that took them years to come to terms with. I know how badly they wanted children. I know how frustrating it was for them that some of my teenage friends were popping out kids like it was nothing, and nothing they did could give them a child "of their own."
I can't imagine how painful it must be to women who want to get pregnant and cannot. If I could donate my uterus to you, I would, but I can't, and my decision to not have children won't eliminate your infertility. I'm sorry. It just can't.
Lastly, and finally, this is my choice. This is how I've decided to use my reproductive organs and that is, simply, to tolerate them until they are no longer useful.
I've said often, and I firmly believe, that as soon as we learn to TRUST WOMEN, our fight for choice will never be over.
Being pro-choice, to me, means respecting a woman's choice whether you agree with it or not. I don't like that there are people like the Duggar's, who reproduce at an infuriating rate, but it is their choice, and I respect that.
I don't like that there are women who believe abortion is wrong, so they have children that they are ill-equipped to raise. I have some experience (which I won't go into detail about) with the foster system. I hate that there are children out there right now, as I type, who were and are deprived of a decent upbringing.
But I trust that the woman who gave birth to those children made the best choice that she could under whatever circumstances that she made them.
I trust that there are a lot of women out there who would be wonderful mothers if only they could get pregnant. They choose to not adopt a baby instead of giving birth.
Whatever you choose for your own life, I'm okay with that.
I just ask that you respect my choice, and trust that I've made the best decision for my life.