Child­less, not Worth­less

Not be­ing a mother does not make you less of a woman

Style Magazine - - Opinion - BY LEANDRI VAN STADEN

Some women sim­ply know they don’t want to be moth­ers. They have rea­sons vary­ing from scarcity of re­sources, to hered­i­tary dis­eases and over­flow­ing or­phan­ages.

Oth­ers want noth­ing more than to be moth­ers, then find out they (or their part­ners) are bi­o­log­i­cally in­ca­pable.

These women are faced with a whole new set of dou­ble stan­dards and so­ci­etal prej­u­dices.

A woman in her early 20’s seek­ing ster­il­i­sa­tion will prob­a­bly be told things like “you’re too young to make this de­ci­sion” and to “wait un­til af­ter you’ve had one or two kids” by her gy­nae­col­o­gist, par­ents, friends, and even com­plete strangers. “You will re­gret your de­ci­sion,” they will say. “You will change your mind,” they will opine.

Say­ing these things means ques­tion­ing her ca­pac­ity to make life-chang­ing choices, de­spite be­ing an adult.

It pre­sumes that the woman who doesn’t want chil­dren, doesn’t know her­self and doesn’t know what she wants. They seem to think they know her bet­ter than she knows her­self.

It im­plies that a woman who doesn’t want to be a mother, is some­how not nat­u­ral and can­not there­fore be taken se­ri­ously.

“When are you two fi­nally go­ing to have a baby?,” hears the woman who can­not nat­u­rally con­ceive and hasn’t told any­one but her hus­band. She feels be­trayed by her own body, while the world at large asks ig­no­rant and in­sen­si­tive ques­tions, be­cause...“well, you’re mar­ried...why don’t you have

chil­dren?”

“It’s the next step,” they de­clare, as if a woman’s life is set out in a plan she can down­load from li­brary ar­chives.

Not be­ing able to have a child of your own body has some women ques­tion­ing their worth, their mar­riage and their pur­pose.

Con­sid­er­ing op­tions like IVF draws un­wanted, unasked for, and some­times mor­ti­fy­ing, opin­ions. These women have to lis­ten to off-hand com­ments like “you could al­ways adopt” from peo­ple who had no trou­ble giv­ing birth to their own chil­dren and could not pos­si­bly fathom the dis­ap­point­ment.

State­ments like “you don’t know what you’re miss­ing” and “there is no greater joy in life than hav­ing a child”, in­sin­u­ate the life of a woman who doesn’t have kids is some­how worth less. Is some­how less ful­fill­ing. Is some­how tainted and lack­ing.

Not hav­ing a child does not make you less of a woman, and not want­ing one in the first place does not make you a mon­ster.

In a TED Talk pub­lished on De­cem­ber 7, 2017, Chris­ten Reighter said: “I’ve al­ways be­lieved that hav­ing chil­dren was an ex­ten­sion of wom­an­hood, not the def­i­ni­tion.”

You can­not be a mother without also be­ing a woman, but you are a woman re­gard­less of whether you are a mother or not.

Your wor­thi­ness and iden­tity as a spouse, an adult or a woman, is in no way tied to your uterus.

So­ci­ety will one day catch on and re­alise a sin­gle fact: whether a woman wants a child or not, when a woman will have a child or not, and how a woman will have a child or not, is ab­so­lutely up to the woman con­cerned and is not up for dis­cus­sion, un­less that woman asks for an opin­ion.

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