As a woman in my 20s, it is not uncommon that I’m asked the question “so, when are you having kids?” or am told “oh well, when you have kids…”
Now, I can’t speak for all women, but I can speak for myself when I say it’s really fucking annoying. It gives off this archaic notion that to be a fully functioning woman I must have children. That I will have children because that’s what women are designed to do.
And quite frankly, it’s bullshit. Some women want children, and that is great, and I applaud them for that and it is a wonderful thing to produce small humans and adapt to that physically and mentally.
However, that is not the path that all women want, or can achieve.
We might want to focus on our career, or enjoy a child free life and have a spa weekend every weekend followed by espresso martinis – but regardless we, like men, have choices and opportunities and passions. So attitudes need to change.
It is a topic that is brought up all the time, but I felt obliged to voice my thoughts on the topic because I’m sick of being asked when I’m having children like I don’t have a choice.
So here’s somethings to remember…
Understand that some women do not want to have children
I personally fall under this category. I am the youngest of 6 children. Four of my siblings have children, and to be honest I think they have always wanted children. One of my siblings cannot have children and wasn’t really fussed. And then there’s me.
I get comments such as “oh yeah, but you don’t really like kids”. Which angers me as much as being asked when I’ll have them; because I do like kids. They are cute (sometimes) and have an amazing perspective on the world that we as adults do not, they are not yet tainted by the stresses of life.
I am also often called selfish and whilst it is partly an insult, I can admit I’m selfish and I’m happy with that. But it is also more than selfishness – I want more. I want to travel, I want to do amazingly at my job, I want to enjoy freedom and embrace the foodie in me. I like to be free, and have options and I just don’t have that desire for children that some people have.
Yes, I might change my mind. But equally, I might not – and that’s my business. I don’t feel sad or guilty for not wanting kids, I know what I want and what I enjoy in life!
I like to do my own thing and have moments of peace and quiet. This is my solace from growing up with a massive and chaotic (but amazing) family and from poor mental health.
Which brings me on to my next point…
Some people have psychological reasons for not wanting children
There is a condition called tokophobia, which is defined as a dread or intense fear of giving birth. For some women this is very real, and can make them feel physically anxious when faced with the thought of having children – although it can be overcome with therapy and support from doctors.
Then there is the issue of the fact that our bodies change, and our lives change. I have seen my siblings have children and I know others who have had children… I have seen the swelling bodies and achy feet and scarring. I have heard about the pain, the changing in bodies, the fact that a woman’s body can be physically ripped, and that sex may hurt for years after for some women.
I have heard the laughing and the joy and the fun, but I have also heard the screaming, the couples arguing and seen the immense amount of yourself and your life that you sacrifice for the lovable little humans.
Yes, childbirth is natural and amazing. Parenthood is hard but rewarding. But for some people, that just isn’t an appealing prospect.
And then we have other fears, which are less related to childbirth and more related to our own fears about ourselves…
I have had severe depression, and consequently I can’t even remember some of 2013/2014 because my brain has now blacked it out due to it being a period of immense pain. Even now, I still get triggers and days where I really hate the world and will just lock myself away a bit.
So for me, the thought of changing my body and giving birth (terrifying, and no thanks after I’ve worked this hard to almost get abs), and then also having the possibility of post-natal depression is absolutely terrifying and not worth it for me. It is quite a common thing, and many women get it after giving birth for a short period – but for those of us with previous mental health issues, there is a fear that it will lead you somewhere you cannot go again.
Understand that some women cannot have children
Not every woman can have a child. Some women develop infertility from a young age and can’t conceive, some women can conceive but then suffer from miscarriages and the trauma surrounding that.
Some women have ovarian cysts, endometriosis and other illnesses that make getting pregnant more challenging; especially for those that are desperate to have a baby of their own.
And this for a woman, feels like the ultimate failure and ultimate heartbreak – as Elizabeth Day touches on in her book How to Fail.
Whilst yes, we need to have these discussions about our bodies and about things that happen to them, it is not for others to ask a woman “when are you having children?”
That women might have been told at 17 that she is infertile and can never have children, which can impact her mental health and also any relationships for the rest of her life.
That women might have gotten pregnant 3 times over the course of many years, and each time been left sobbing into her partners arms as she’s told that she has miscarried again.
So please, stop asking women when they are having children
Whilst it is an honest mistake to make, we need to change this culture that women are here to make children. We have evolved and we have grown, and we are all individuals. We no longer all fit into this old age image of being baby machines.
I am tired of having to justify to people why I don’t want children. Or being told “oh well, you’re female, you’ll change your mind” as though it’s a given because that is what society thinks women should do. And I tell you what, too many people have kids because they should, not because they want to.
I might change my mind, I’m only 24, but that isn’t for someone else to tell a woman as though they know her better than she knows herself.
Instead of saying “when are you having children?” to women we know or meet, how about we start asking them “do you want children?” instead?