Deciding whether or not to start a family is a personal decision, so why does it seem to be everyone’s business?
I have always wanted children, and a little over one month before this article was published, I had one. Having a baby was the greatest joy thus far in my life. I also, however, was prompted to think about the debates about whether or not people should be having children. This is a debate I have had with many different people, and each debate has a unique outcome.
One of the main arguments I have heard from women who do not want kids is that choosing to have kids makes you a product of the patriarchal society. I find this frustrating because it removes the agency of women who make the choice to have children willingly. I do understand that in certain situations, there is a lot of pressure on women to have biological children. I know that in some families if a woman doesn’t produce a child it causes a lot of conflicts. That being said, I don’t think it is fair to paint this with a broad stroke. I think each woman’s decision should be accepted, and we should embrace that women are in a position to be their own agents in decision making.
Overpopulation and the environment are two other reasons why women say they are opting to not have children and I can understand the concern. I have heard the conversations about there potentially not being enough food to feed everyone. So, I can see someone choosing a childless life in light of this concern. I can also see how someone who is environmentally cautious and wants to reduce their perceived negative contributions to the environment might feel that having no children would make the most sense.
I have wanted children since I was about 16 years old, and so ten years later, I chose to have a child. I remember even growing up that there were debates about this subject. I grew up with two siblings, and in an Italian family, so having children was kind of a rite of passage. However, my desire to have children wasn’t from my family directly. I wanted to have a child that I could take care of and see grow. I think this should be respected.
Something I think is missing from the debate is the fact that men aren’t questioned about this topic in the same way women are. Men don’t have to answer why they do or do not want to be a father. I think that in order to come to a solid conclusion, the debate needs to have more balance. The reason I say this is because the debate around having children seems to just be another way for women and their bodies to be policed and judged. I also think it is easier to ask women the question because they will be the ones who are carrying the baby.
The justification process for either decision is one that makes this debate so heated. It seems like women are pitted against each other for whichever decision they make. I think the justification process, which I have gone through, is what makes this debate the most challenging. It seems that no matter which choice a woman makes, there is something wrong with that choice. Whether or not a woman wants children should be respected. I don’t think it’s up to me, men, other women, or society at large to police whether women do or do not have children.
Graphic by Lily Cowper