I was that woman who, rather proudly, didn’t want children. It was a declaration not shared by all, but one that seemed respected and understood by most. My mom friends were more than happy to support my life decision, and childless friends were thankful to have another willing participant in their corner. I was quickly labeled as independent, self-sufficient, even feminist and downright adorably peculiar.
And then I had a child.
Now it seems that the majority of my time is spent either constantly apologizing for and/or subtly defending my life choice. What was once an assumed necessity in a woman’s life is now a conscious decision, and while that social change is a welcomed one, it seems like more women are having to defend their choice to have a child instead of their choice not to.
The pendulum has swung violently in the opposite direction. Women who choose not to have children are celebrated, while women who have children are judgmentally shunned.
I boarded an airplane with my four month old recently, and was terrified at the thought of his presence negatively impacting the fellow patrons around us. I suggested creating a goody bag of sorts, to pass out to those that may or may night find our company disagreeable. My partner quickly shot that idea down, disgusted at the thought of apologizing for our son. I agreed.
I also realized I wasn’t actually planning on apologizing for our son.
I find myself giving the “I’m sorry” look or the “bare with us” silent plea not because I think a baby shouldn’t be doing baby things: like crying or fussing or spitting up. I’m apologizing, all too naturally, for choosing to have a baby in the first place. People look at me, not my son. They are judging me, not the tiny human who doesn’t know right from wrong, social etiquette from completely inappropriate. I’m the one impeding on their otherwise child-free environment. Because I’m the mom. And moms have children.
I’ve received comments suggesting that I’ve settled. That I’m somehow less driven, my goals thrown out with the bath water, instead of the baby. I mention that I still work at home, just like I did before I popped out a child, but now I’m a MOM who works at home and that sounds too much like a stay-at-home-mom and, by-golly, you don’t want to be one of those. Those women sold their individualistic souls to have children. Everyone knows that.
I’ve been told I’m not a strong woman. That a woman who carries a child, births a child, and takes endless care of a child has somehow lost a part of herself. I can’t be an individual when I’m a mom, or care about feminist issues. A horrid misconception, considering some of the strongest, most feminist women I know are stay-at-home mothers with multiple children.
People assume I can’t be my own person, with desires and needs and wants. The picture painted for most is that of a disheveled shadow of a human, sleep-deprived and miserable, completely unable to take time for herself. I can’t read a book or take a long bath or sit in complete silence because I’m a mother now and mothers have given up life’s sweet minutiae of happiness.
I’m considered “annoying” if I share pictures of my child or videos of his progress, but childless friends can post picture after picture after picture of their dog or cat or dinner and it’s just precious. How dare I share my life. I mean, it has a child in it now. Gross.
When my girlfriends share their goals of one day becoming a wife or a mother, it often comes with a disclaimer. One will say, “I know this doesn’t make me a feminist” or “I know I won’t be considered a strong woman for this”, essentially apologizing for exercising their right to choose. It’s as if having the choice to have children or not is only celebrated when the choice is, well, to not.
So, yes, I was once that woman who proudly proclaimed she didn’t want children. And, yes, I was celebrated for that decision. And while that is wonderful, it’s time we stop judging the women who do have children too. Whether it was their plan all along or a decision that changed over time, a mother is just as independent, self-sufficient, feminist and downright adorably peculiar as the childless women she shares space with.
I was once a woman who didn’t want children.
And then I had a child.
And no, I’m not sorry at all.