Why do you want a child? A question that is rarely (if ever) asked.
As a little girl, I was acutely aware of the presumption that one day I would grow up, meet a ‘nice’ man, get married and have children. “You’ll understand when you’ve got a child of your own.” I remember always feeling resistance towards the notion that this was a foregone conclusion. My young mind puzzled over questions such as:
“What if that’s not what my life is about?”
“Maybe not all girls want to be mothers when they grow up?”
“What if that does not happen for me?”
“Why are boys not asked if they want to be fathers?”
I was drawn to so many different experiences, travel, languages, other cultures and the mystical. Life seemed full of endless possibilities. Having a child seemed like ONE possibility. I did meet a ‘nice’ man (or so I thought). I did get married but still I felt resistance to the expectations from family and friends. It felt like a ‘yeah maybe’, rather than something I had to experience. A molar pregnancy was one of the catalysts for ending the relationship, but that’s a whole other story. What was reinforced for me were many of the realisations that I already had as a young girl.
Marriage is not a mandate. Nor is it proof of your worthiness as a human being. Neither is Motherhood. You do not need to justify your existence. You are enough. You know that right?
Why do you want a child? (if you do). 99% of the responses to this question would undoubtedly begin with “I want”. Yet our society questions what is wrong when women don’t want children. Do we have our priorities straight?
The outdated stereotype exists that if Motherhood is an experience a woman says she doesn’t want, then she must be selfish, lacking, too focussed on her career or she’s had a troubled childhood. If you do want a child then I invite you to take some quiet time and gently ask yourself why?
Is it something you just assumed you would ‘do’?
Are your friends having children and so you feel you ‘should’?
Is there an expectation from your family, that you will provide grandchildren?
Are you in a steady relationship and feel like it must be ‘the next step’?
Have you convinced yourself it’s what you want?
Do you have any niggling doubts – and if so, are you taking them seriously?
Maybe you have clarity that this is the path for you. Take time to question your motives either way. Be honest with yourself. Creating a life is a monumental, sacred experience, but it is not right for every woman or man. If you are 100% certain that yes it is, then wonderful.
If you are not sure, then be patient with yourself and allow yourself to be in the uncertainty. The excuse of ‘maybe I’ll regret it later” is not a valid reason. Try not to allow yourself to be unduly influenced or made to feel guilty, by so-called well meaning family and friends, who may be unconsciously trying to justify their own decisions. If they truly want you to be happy, they will support your choices, as you support theirs.
Even if the act of giving birth was a biological ability for every woman, we can agree that not every woman is a natural Mother. There are millions of children in the world who are starving, neglected, abused and orphaned each day. That is a harsh reality.
Researcher and author of “The Female Assumption”, Melanie Holmes, asks “what if your best friend expressed indifference about becoming a mother? Would you respond in a non-judgemental way and respect her feelings, or would you be dismissive with comments such as ‘but you’re so good with kids’. This undermines the validity of choices by other women. Are we discounting their right to decide what is right for them and their body?
What if you were subjected to what’s become known as ‘social infertility’? Many women would love to be a mother, but have not met a suitable partner, with whom to have a child. Terms such as childfree and childless are used increasingly to describe non-parents. How would you feel about being judged, based on your ability or desire to give birth?
Nearly 50% of women of childbearing age in the US, for example, will never have children. That is nearly half the population of women, but so often their voices are not heard. Why is this? It’s because we are living in a pro-natal society. As women, on a subtle (and not so subtle) level, we have been conditioned to believe that being a wife and mother should be the central focus of our lives.
Enter the words “I wish I had never had children” into Google to see an overwhelming amount of sites dedicated to many who lament their decision. Yet how many times have you heard a mother admit this openly? They fear the judgement they would receive. Too afraid to be honest, they unwittingly contribute to the perpetual myth of motherhood that we’ve all been spoon-fed. Open up a trashy magazine or click on a celebrity site to be bombarded with Hollywood’s glorification of Motherhood. The rose-tinted, angelic version of the blissful Madonna-type paragon of virtue or the yummy Mummy who ‘got back her pre-baby body in 6 weeks’.
Who can live up to these airbrushed fantasies, so far removed from reality? No wonder so many women feel inadequate and unsupported. The actress Jennifer Aniston, is one public figure who is perpetually quizzed about her intentions for her ovaries as though her body is a topic for public debate. Why do we continue to subject women to this type of outdated, invasive prejudice?
Melanie Notkin, author of “Savvy Auntie” and “Otherhood”, uses the word “childfull” to describe the growing demographic of women who have satisfying lives, with happy relationships with children such as their nieces, nephews, godchildren, stepchildren and friends.
Let’s support ALL women (and men) in their life choices and encourage each other to be compassionate and tolerant. There are many paths to fulfilment and this is something that can only be determined by ourselves. In being more open-minded and open-hearted, we create more acceptance of all people. There is no right and wrong. There is only what is right for YOU, so ensure that you are indeed living YOUR life.
Only you can determine what makes your life meaningful. Don’t hand that power over to anyone else. When we allow ourselves to stand fully in our truth and express it lovingly but firmly, we are able to hold this space for others.
These topics and more will be discussed with an array of wonderful women around the world in my upcoming podcast series “Unclassified Woman”. They are not Mothers in the traditional sense but are creating meaningful lives for themselves on their own terms.
If this is something that resonates with you and an area you would like to explore in your own life, then find out more about my Self-love Coaching for Sovereign Women here.
Very interesting and thought provoking article Michelle. Important questions for any woman to consider.
Thanks Louise xx
Michelle x I found this a very insightful and thought provoking read. Having been through grief of my own, I have often been asked why I haven’t chosen marriage and why wouldn’t I want another child. As if both these things are needed for me to have moved on, and forward in my life. And they’re not. In all honesty – I don’t wish or long for either, but I’m not closed these days to these either. I desire a happy and fulfilled life for myself and that may or may not include either of those things – but it’s definitely a “choice” I make, for myself, being true to myself and what’s right for me. There are many women who will benefit from this message you share. The expectation and pressure that they can’t be “enough” without a husband…and a child. It’s so untrue. We are enough and I so hope society will embrace this message more as time goes on. I love that you’re sharing this. xx
Yes so important for all of us to realise that we don’t need to apologise for or justify our life choices, whatever they may be. We can’t know what is right for every other woman or man. I believe this will become much more topical moving forward thankfully! xx
This is a wonderfully rich blogpost and it really sank into my body…into my womb and into my heart. I decided at 33 I needed to have a child and to start trying. It did not work out for me…
These last couple of years I have only just started to listen and connect in to my body and its wisdom ( I am now 45). If I reflect back on my life, at no point did my body really desire children…to my bones. I started trying because I thought I should and much of my grief was around not fitting in with my culture etc. I love children…but I could never quite see myself with them..xx
Thank you so much for sharing that Lisa. Our bodies are inherently full of wisdom and all the answers we need aren’t they? Wonderful that you received that total clarity. It’s so common for so many women to assume it’s the next step if all their friends are having children. It takes so much courage to stand in your own truth and admit that it’s not what you truly desire in your heart love xx
Thank you for writing this Michelle – it was so thought provoking and resonated deeply with me. When my husband and I collectively made the decision not to have children I found it amazing how often I was asked ‘Are you sure?’ but I have never known anyone to be asked that question on making the decision to have children.
And I think that in and of itself says a great deal about societal expectations of women and motherhood.
Thanks so much Julie. Yes it’s amazing how it would never occur to us to ask someone “why do you want a child?” and yet most women I know who have decided NOT to seem to have given the topic a great deal of careful consideration. Yet they can be accused of being selfish when it’s sometimes a decision that they’ve agonised over and are so well intended. Here’s to much transformation in the way this topic is addressed moving forward xx
Very thought provoking article Michelle… I am in the position where I am 100% positive that I’d love to have children… I’d love to create a little life and experience this sacred experience with my husband. Our challenge has been we’ve been struggling with fertility issues for the last 4 years.
I found it really interesting to go through the questions you asked us to consider though. Having children is certainly something I always assumed would happen and I’ve actually been distraught at the thought it might not happen…. In the last few weeks my practitioner have been working with me to look at the benefits of not having children and view life as perfect and complete as it is right now and will be (with or without children). This in no way means I am giving up, just bringing a different energy to my experience.
Thanks for sharing – beautiful post xox
Rachel – thank you for your honesty. Some beautiful women like yourself, are 100% clear that is what they desire. I hope your dreams come true and you can extend your family in this way with your husband. Life is full of challenges that we can’t foresee and I’ve got no doubt that your sharing of your experiences is benefitting other women in more ways than you realise. Best of luck to you love xxx
What a lovely article! I certainly asked myself all of these questions before I had my daughter. Having children wasn’t something I naturally I assumed would be a part of my life. In fact I always assumed I wouldn’t have them. Eventually I came to a stage where I felt that if another being wanted to come and share my life with me, I would be open to that and I could certainly feel an energy hanging around me for a long time that has now manifest as my gorgeous daughter.
I think the sacred spaces where women speak often about these things (with regard to 2nd and 3rd children) are often mothers’ circles. There’s a lot of sharing in those spaces about how difficult pregnancy, labour and motherhood is, whether you would want to have more children, how the experience has either met or not met your expectations etc etc etc. I think it’s invaluable for any mother to have this kind of support. It would be lovely to have something similar for women who choose not to have children – a sacred space to feel comfortable and supported in that choice. Perhaps this article is helping to create that encircling. xx
Thanks so much Samantha. I really want to focus all my attention on this topic moving forward as I feel it’s so important for ALL women.
Really appreciate your comments. Love xxx
As a man now in my early forties who does not want children, this is a great article to read. I don’t understand why women are called selfish if they don’t want them. My reasons for not wanting them are various, but basically I don’t feel like I’d cope that well with the demands of parenthood. I have never googled ‘I wish I had never had children’ as yet .. maybe I will :o)
Thanks Andy, yes it’s interesting the different approach with men and women on this topic. Men are also never called ‘career men’ We have some strange double standards. Thanks for your thoughts.