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:
- Be marriage material
- Marry an elegible man
- 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.