Yesterday I was looking through some of the links my friends put up on Facebook when I came across a rather interesting link from Slate Magazine. The article is titled ‘I Don’t Want Children’, but what showed up on my tab was, “Child-Free women explain themselves.” While the article itself is great, I couldn’t help but be bothered by the tab header. Not that I would be offended by the notion that a woman might not want to have children; after all, I don’t have kids, and I’m 35. No, I was offended by the idea of someone feeling the need to ‘explain themselves’. I know about this, because I’ve been there.
Don’t get me wrong-I love children. In this post, I even talk about possibly having kids. I enjoy playing with my nephews and friends’ babies every time I see them. However, I also enjoy giving them back. Sometimes I think I want to have a child, and my husband and I have thought of adopting at some point. I would be more than happy to give a home to a child who needs one, especially if I can help them in ways other foster parents couldn’t. But what bothers me is how some people have asked if I have kids and, upon hearing my answer, say something like ‘you’d better get started!” Now, granted, some people have thought that I am older than I am because of my prematurely-graying hair. If I don’t dye my hair, I have more grays than some people twenty years older than me. I know they mean well, but the implication that I’m not ‘complete’ without a child or that something is wrong with me because they can’t hear my biological clock ticking is rather frustrating. It’s none of anyone else’s business. I guess it bothers me so much because there is a damned good reason I haven’t reproduced, and that is because I can’t at this time. Well, not really.
If you want to know (at least, partially) why, read this post down to about the middle of the page. In a nutshell, I was hit on the driver’s side by a Dodge Ram and broke my pelvis. After a month in the hospital and extensive physical therapy, I can get around and do most things, but there are still some lingering problems I will need surgery to fix. This is incredibly embarrassing to admit but, due to some of the after-effects of the wreck, I cannot do what it takes to have children. No intercourse, no baby. Such comments about how I’d ‘better get started’ add insult to injury, literally.
Once people hear about my accident and my bipolar, it’s usually understood how these things could affect my ability or willingness to become a mother. While there is a pretty good chance I might pass the disorder on, I’m not all that concerned about that because it might be a blessing in disguise. My own mother had problems with depression and, as much as I hate that she had to deal with that, it made her a huge help to my sister and me when we began to have our problems. You can know whatever medical jargon you want but, until you’ve actually experienced something like this for yourself, you never quite ‘get it’. My father tried, he really did, and I’m grateful for that. I know my husband understands very well because he has anxiety issues and his mother has bipolar, so he would probably be a wonderful help in that way to any child we had.
The fact is, I think I would like to be a mom. I think I’d be a damned good one too, God willing. But sometimes it seems like it’s ‘expected’ of a woman of a certain age to have had kids when it’s not necessarily so for a man. No one ever tells my husband that he’d ‘better get started’, and random people in the mall don’t ask my brother-in-law if my twin nephews are the result of fertility treatments. And yes, someone actually did that to my sister! If I decide that it’s not worth the risk for my husband and I to have kids or if we aren’t able to for some reason, that’s not for anyone else to criticize. I know they mean well, but things like this are very personal issues and not something to bring up casually.
I consider myself a feminist, albeit not a “typical” one. The way I see it, feminism isn’t so much about bucking traditional gender roles as it is about choices. If someone wants to be a stay-at-home mom then, by all means, but she shouldn’t feel forced into that role. She shouldn’t be made to feel like she’s ‘damaged goods’ the way I do sometimes. Like I said, I know most people mean well, but sometimes a little conversational ‘filtering’ goes a long way.
I’ll stop ranting now. There’s a pint of chocolate chip mint ice cream calling my name, and I’d better go answer it! Goodnight!