Let’s say you have a house with a kitchen (a fantasy millennials can only dream of achieving.) In that kitchen is an oven, as one would expect because, well, it’s a kitchen. You don’t really use it, nor do you plan to, because you don’t bake, which is fine. Interestingly enough though, it’s something everyone seems to comment on whenever they come to visit.
“What do you mean you’re not going to bake anything?” Your guests say. “Why would you not use your oven?”
You explain that you’re just not a person who’s interested in making bread or anything like that. This is apparently an unreasonable course of action even though it’s your house, your kitchen, so you should be able to decide for yourself whether you want to use your own oven. Who are they to barge into your house and demand you use your kitchen appliances. It’s not like you asked to move into a house with an oven, they just tend be pretty standard in kitchens.
“Some people don’t even have ovens,” They argue. “They want to bake bread and they can’t. You should be grateful with what you have. You should use your oven.”
You remind them that if they really want bread that badly, they could just go to a bakery or something, they don’t need to bake the bread themselves. Also that this is a really weird conversation to be having regardless of whether it works as a metaphor.
If you haven’t grown up dreaming of one day starting a family of your own, you’ve probably come to realize just how much pressure there is to have children. There’s an overwhelming sense of expectation for everyone to have children. This comes in the form of comments, typically from family members, along the lines of, “You’ll change your mind. Not having children is a big choice to make, you just haven’t thought this through. That biological clock is ticking. What if you decide you do want children later? It’ll be too late.”
I’d like to comment that there are plenty of other options, such as adoption, should someone change their mind later in life about wanting to have children. Also that although not having children is indeed a life changing decision, so is the decision to have children. No one asks whether a couple has really thought about whether they want to have kids, what if they change their mind later? Why then, should I be forced to provide an airtight defense against the onslaught of questions every time I uncomfortably let slip the idea that I might not want to have children of my own?
People my age make equally impactful life decisions all the time, such as whether they plan to attend college, and which school to choose and what field of study to enter should they do so. These choices all significantly shape the direction of our lives, so why should this be any different? My opinion now shouldn’t be discounted simply because of my age.
I understand that oftentimes, these comments aren’t meant in a harmful way. Your grandparents and parents are just trying to convey their support of procreation. They want you to have the experience of raising children of your own and definitely not because they want to live vicariously through you now that their own children are fully grown adults. They probably don’t realize that many of their comments about “wanting grandchildren soon” sound suspiciously like “YOUR UTERUS BELONGS TO ME.”
All that I ask for is, as with everything else in my life, the freedom to make my own life choices without being repeatedly told it’s the wrong one just because it may be different from what is typically expected.
It’s not just relatives though. There are dozens of plotlines in movies and books about how having children is the best thing that could happen, stories about high powered women who did not want children needing to have their mindsets “fixed” or inevitably regretting not having children when they had the chance. I can’t even watch Jurassic World without being preached at about the joys of having children between shots of raptor fights. It’s true that some individuals have chosen not to have children, and then regretted doing so later on in life. That doesn’t necessarily mean their decision had been the wrong one, or that everyone will feel the same way. It’s unrealistic and limiting to continuously push the narrative of the unhappy couple as the only ending.
And it doesn’t stop at just one child. Let’s say you’ve finally caved under societal pressure and decided to have a child so your mother can finally stop trying to claim ownership of your uterus (which, incidentally, should not be the only reason you’re having a child.) You would think that everyone would be satisfied, but instead you’re in for a rude awakening.
“Won’t the child be lonely? What if they don’t learn how to socialize properly?” People ask. Child culture is so pervasive that one child isn’t enough anymore. Now you have to have at least two. Great.
Having asked some of my friends who are only children, none of them have felt as though they were “missing out” just because they didn’t have any siblings. Classmates and friends helped them learn how to interact with others just fine, and they aren’t any noticeably more awkward, withdrawn, or socially incompetent than those with siblings. Also, I know plenty of awkward people who have siblings.
Not everyone wants to live a certain lifestyle, and not everyone is equipped to do so. I don’t inherently dislike children or people who want to have them, but I resent the implication that I am making a mistake if I do not subscribe to motherhood. My choices and opinions should be respected. At the end of the day, it’s my oven, and my choice to do what I want with it.