So my doctor asked me today if I’ve given any thought to having kids, and that lead to an interesting discussion on the topic. One of the things I told her (nothing like getting a full physical to make you want to chat instead of thinking about a quasi-stranger doing creepy things to your body) was that it is really starting to bug me when people say “when you have kids…” to me. There’s this underlying assumption, as if there’s no choice involved — or if there is a choice, they know what my decision is. Gah!
When I was young people usually said something like “if you have kids someday…” but at some point it changed. I’m not sure when. No doubt it was a gradual fade and not a sudden shift.

The shift probably results from attitudes about age and child-bearing — teenagers Aren’t Supposed To Get Pregnant. I had that drummed into me — kids are a huge responsibility, they’re a pain in the butt, you’re too young to deal with them, blah blah blah. But somewhere along the line you get old enough that you are now Supposed To Have Kids, and expressing any reservations about the concept of any kind usually results in (at best) a sad face and a “ooooohhhh” or (at worst) a lecture on the evils of not making babies.
Surely, with the world overpopulated as it is and more people breeding every day, expressing a desire not to rush into having children is a good thing? Okay, if everybody didn’t want kids the species would die out (though you’ll have a hard time convincing me that this is an entirely bad concept), but the chances of that are slim – most people have a pretty strong reproductive urge. Just look at how many kids need adopting.
But somehow those of us that don’t feel the need to have a baby Right Now are defective. Weird. I mean, it might have made sense back in the day when a woman’s job was:

  1. Be marriage material
  2. Marry an elegible man
  3. Present him with heirs

But nowadays? Shouldn’t that have gone away along with Jim Crow laws and Victorian sexual mores? If you want kids, go for it. But they’re not required to be a Real Woman any more than a husband is. It really bothers me that women I know, feminist women, are frequently the ones giving me a hard time about having kids. Doesn’t feminism say that our gender doesn’t dictate our life choices? That we don’t need to be a traditional woman if we don’t want to be?
Regardless, I don’t want to discuss my opinions on the subject of reproduction (which are pretty complex and not really suitable for small talk) with my coworkers, random people I chat to during the day, or … well, anybody but my very close friends, so I would really appreciate it if people stopped making assumptions about such a personal decision.

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5 Responses to When/If

  1. Rich says:

    This is just not a female thing. My coworkers also say to me “when you have kids.” That seems like a huge assumption.

  2. jackdaw says:

    Children are optional. I’ve never regretted not having them; it’s more than enough that I shepherded two step-kids through adolescence, and, now that they are both parents themselves, they’re still giving me fits. Ohio is about to start issuing “choose life” license plates, but has refused to offer “pro-choice” plates as well; this reminds me of the German women who were encouraged to bear as many children as they could for the Fatherland, during the Forties. Stick to your guns; you know you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your choices.

  3. Ealasaid says:

    Wow, Rich, that intrigues me. I’m kind of glad to know it’s not just me, though. :)
    Jackdaw: As usual, your comment makes me nod in agreement. You and me? Same wavelength. :)

  4. Sarah says:

    Where as having children is definitly optional it might not be a bad idea. (not meaning any pressure or anything) Definitly don’t do it if you’re not ready, but I hear so many well educated inteligent people deciding not to have children I worry about our gene pool. Until such time as stupid people can be convinced to cease reproducing I almost feel an obligation to the futur to do so myself.
    This might explain the change, as teenagers we’re all variable no one can be sure how we’ll turn out.

  5. Ealasaid says:

    Sarah: yeah, I can actually see the point of the gene pool argument. The down side, of course, is that along with my well-educated intelligence, I also have genes for things like chronic asthma, bipolar disorder, chronic dysthemia, etc etc etc. So… yeah. *shrug* I tend to figure that it evens out.
    Maybe I’ll donate eggs or something.