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When I was a teenager, I didn’t want children.
People told me that I’d change my mind when I grew older. They said I just hadn’t developed my maternal instinct yet—which was normal. Frankly, I believed them. I kept on waiting for maternal instinct to develop like a gardener waiting for his plants to grow.
I’m in my late twenties now and the plant hasn’t grown yet.
Ironically, I’m still getting the same comment, “When you grow older, you’ll change your mind.” Year after year, the comments are increasing and the amount of shame I’m faced with is growing. People tell me that I’m being selfish or that I’m missing out on my real purpose in life. Some claim that I’ll change my mind when I meet “the one.” Others tell me I should hurry up because my biological clock is ticking.
You see, I’m not against having a baby. Motherhood is a wonderful thing and I’m totally open to the idea that one day my maternal instinct might surprise me and kick in. But now, in this present moment, I don’t want kids, and I—or other women—shouldn’t be shamed for it.
I have a particular vision about my life for the next five years or so, and a baby simply doesn’t fit into it. I’m not ashamed to say that a baby would disrupt the shape that my life is taking on right now. And I’m definitely not ashamed to admit that I’m not ready to be a mother. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t make me a selfish woman. The truth is, it makes me selfless because I’m considering the baby who might struggle if I have him or her without the readiness to raise a child.
It pains me to say that there are many women out there who have a baby when they’re not ready, or who become parents for all the wrong reasons. Am I doing it because everybody else is? Am I having a baby because I need someone to look after me when I grow old? Am I bringing a human being to life because I feel something’s missing in my own? Women must investigate the motives behind bearing children before getting pregnant because having babies requires awareness and readiness—physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.
They say that the purpose of a woman is to be a mother. But, says who? No one can decide a woman’s purpose in life for her. There are women who made history with their achievements and who chose to pass on motherhood.
Women are free to decide what to do with their bodies and their lives. Let’s stop shaming them for the choices they make. They’re free to choose to have abortions in the case of unwanted pregnancy. They’re free to choose not to get pregnant in the first place. My freedom to choose whether to have a baby (or not) makes me quite grateful. Because the truth is, there are many women whose voices are unheard. They don’t have the power or the freedom to weave their choices into their reality. There are women who have babies due to societal, religious, parental, or marital pressure. There are women who have kids because they were raped and they happen to live in a society where a woman is shamed for having an abortion.
We need to stop judging childfree women. It might be difficult to understand an unusual choice but we need to grasp that not everyone is alike. Thinking that there’s only one purpose that’s created for everyone is quite shallow. Don’t judge them. In fact, celebrate them.
Let’s celebrate all the mothers in the world, but let’s also celebrate the women who are not. Let’s celebrate them because they know when they’re ready to have a baby. They know they can’t handle a baby and they’re not ashamed to admit it.
Let’s celebrate their freedom of choice because many women do not have a choice.
Let’s celebrate their intellectual strength because they know that a woman’s purpose in life isn’t limited to having a baby. These women know that not bearing children doesn’t make their lives any less interesting.
Let’s celebrate the identities they’re building for themselves that have nothing to do with a baby. And whether we know it or not, let’s celebrate their motherhood. Every woman out there is a non-biological mother to someone.
Respect these women and respect their choices.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Caitlin Oriel