My middle sister is having a baby today and it’s a wonderful, super exciting day and time for her and my whole family. My baby sister has two boys, ages 5 and 3 and I love them to pieces and miss their little faces every day. I think they, my sisters, are both so brave and special to bring little people into this world with all of the challenges and rewards of being a parent. Me, I’ve never felt the maternal urge to have a baby – it’s just not something I’ve ever felt was for me, or as being my path. Even today as I held my new, perfect niece and had nothing but immediate and unconditional love for this sweet little babe, I still knew it was not for me. I am a stepmom, and I do get to experience all of the challenges that come with co-parenting a teenage daughter…. at times it feels so rewarding and at times it feels like being dragged through hell and back. I’m guessing that my sisters, and most moms I know, get all of those feelings as well – as parents. So, when someone tried to explain to me this past weekend, while they also tried to convince me that I needed to have a baby, that I will never truly know what it’s like to be a mother or a parent unless I have my own child…. it really kind of pissed me off.
This is really a thing that women still do to other women? Judge them for their choice to not have children. And maybe “judge” isn’t even exactly the word I’m looking for, but I find It can definitely be interpreted as a tone of superiority – like they hold some secret that unless you have children you’ll never be let in on – or worse, you’ll never know true love or be complete. It is truly mind boggling to me, especially in todays landscape of conversation about women’s rights: my body = my choices. Yet if I decide to not have a baby I am somehow deficient having made that choice? Society in general often does not help childless women, with judgments of selfishness, or cold and un-nurturing, or not liking kids, or broken/barren. And I’m certainly not writing this piece to explain my and my husbands reasons to not have children – that’s our business, nor am I writing it for sympathy or to claim I feel that I am a victim of anybody who would try to tell me that I will never know what it’s like to be a real mother. But I would like to understand why this is still a thing women do to one another. It’s 2017 for crying out loud! Why should I be told I am missing out? Why do I feel I need an explanation as to why I’m not having children? Why do women continue to judge and shame other women for their choices?
And I don’t mean to make this solely about my decision to not have children, I feel like it’s a two way street. I’m sure some of my friends, who are now in their 40’s and just starting families are judged similarly for their choices to have children and start their families later in life, which I imagine to be an equally difficult place to be in. My sister is choosing to have a baby on her own, surely there will be judgement and opinion about that sometime in her future. But really at some point this conversation becomes less about the choices we make, whether not to have or to have children, and more about respect. At the end of the day, are we not all the same? We all work hard at our lives, no matter how they look. We all have to make our own choices and sometimes even sacrifices that shape the lives we lead. We all have different stories. We all have the capacity to love and care for others – to have empathy. So can we just stop judging one another and try to celebrate our differences and the choices we make? Because at the end of the day we are all women – strong women making choices and being the best that we can be at our lives, whether that includes children or not. I love and respect all of you, for your bravery to make the choices that shape you and your life – because you are all damn amazing women.