This is a phenomenon that isn’t really limited to “accomplished women”. I’ve heard this story again and again from people who have chosen not to have children- whenever the fact of your choice comes up, expect to be dismissed, scorned, told that “you’ll change your mind” and have the rest of your life pushed into the background by people who think that the fact that your own choices differ from theirs somehow invalidates their life.
That sounds like most of mankind. “You didn’t make the same choices I did? You must be a lesser person and not worth my time.”
I have friends that do MLM (think Amway only different companies) and their postings on FB always seem to have a taint of ‘You won’t be a person unless you buy into this garbage’. Sad.
Been there, done that.
As someone who has a kid I can’t understand how parents look down on others for not having one…it’s like they have Stockholm syndrome and forgot about the 3 hours of sleep spread out over 24 hours, the poop, the feedings, I mentioned poop right? Not to mention the fact your life has fundamentally changed for the next 20+ years.
If you don’t desire to have kids, or don’t feel prepared for it, then by all means don’t. Sure they are great, most wonderful thing that will happen to you or so they say, but for all the ups there are lots of downs.
I believe that recent studies have supported the conclusion that people with children are generally less happy; drastically so at first, and slightly less so on average.
Sadly, talking about that in public is still taboo; even you had to preface the quote above with a paeon to how amazing children are.
I think this issue contributes to the overall issue of women and fertility, i.e. “why would women choose not to have kids if they are so manifestly amazing? She doesn’t hate children does she?”
Af a fundamental level, the questions regarding choices to not have kids should never need to be asked, because they answer is obvious: they are huge financial, emotional, social, resource, and time sinks and an immense source of stress. Getting women to say that in public is like a big game of “Gotcha!”.
I think that part of the reason for the unhappiness is that there is so much more expected of parents now then there used to be. If you don’t breastfeed to 2 years (at a minimum), use eco-friendly cloth diapers, feed them organic whatever when they start eating solids, give them only artisnal toys that will stimulate their minds, take them to yoga, get them into the best pre-K, etc, then you’re a shitty parent. But if you don’t all that (and this is the expectation of the mother), then you feel bad, like you’re depriving them or giving them a bad start in life, and if they fail it will be all your fault. But you can’t do everything. You just can’t, especially if you have ambitions outside of being a baby feeding machine.
So true. And it’s women who often put pressure on other women, in part because they feel nervous about their choices. I’m kind of sick of the whole “holier than thou” attitude from other women either way.
I agree with the post; I have only one complaint:
“I was interviewed onstage by a woman with a plummy, fluting accent.”
We shouldn’t be critical of people for their accents, whether lower or upper class, standard or non-standard English. Criticise her for the question, not the way she said it.
I know a woman with just such an accent. It’s not surprising because she is indeed upper class and was married to a senior Army officer. She is also an extremely kind woman who has spent time in the Middle East and Northern India and takes everybody as she finds them. So let’s not reinforce prejudices ourselves.
I don’t find I get a lot of pressure myself, but my wife complains quite a bit about the idea that women can’t have it all (which she also mainly gets from other women). On the one hand there are the mothers who think it’s sad that she can’t just give a morning to a craft activity our mother child breakfast at the kindergarten, then at work you get the women with no children who don’t get why she doesn’t want to take on more responsibility and would often rather go home in time to see her kids rather than take up the evening doing voluntary overtime. It’s not that working and having kids is impossible, it’s just that you’re supposed to do both like the other doesn’t exist.
Yeah I remember all that and while being a dad is awesome and I don’t regret it, never ever again and MrsTobinL remembers all the bad things about the birth as well. Really once was enough. We would get the same looks when asked if we wanted another kid and were like NOPE!
YES. And Rebecca Solnit is the shit. I love everything I read by her.
I’m with you. I love children. I always wanted to be a mother. I’d have liked to have more but medical reasons prevented it. But seriously, there’s 7 billion people in this world. We really don’t need everyone to have kids.
I just don’t get why people deride the child-free. Look, that’s more resources for your children. We should be thanking them!
When we had children the pressure was indeed much less (and my wife took years off to bring them up, which was possible in those days). I now look at our children trying to do all the things you mention and it just seems an appalling rat race. What I cannot really get a handle on is whether all the effort works, and whether it is necessary. I’d also like to know the extent to which social media are to blame by allowing an outlet for the OCD sufferers to impose their obsessions on others.
I have a feeling that the most important thing in children’s upbringing (after food, water, sleep and non-exposure to drugs and unnecessary hazards) is interaction with adults, directly, later through books as well. Children don’t give a poo about artisanal yoghurt or whether theit t-shirt was ethically sourced; but they like talking. The people who take their children round the supermarket and make a game out of checking the prices, reading the tins and so on, are probably doing more for their long term development than any number of regimented out of school classes. But I am on my hobbyhorse…
Anyway, yes, I think we need to be much less judgemental of parents who are not actually failing in any significant way, and not judgemental at all of people who choose not to have children. But to make this happen will be difficult while we have things like Facebook; it’s become a social control mechanism almost like the Stasi in East Germany (which in some ways it resembles.)
An’ it hurt no other, do as thou wilt.
Traffic is bad enough without me adding to the problem by creating more drivers.
Oh, yeah, I think that social media doesn’t help at all. When you read someone’s feed, it’s only really a snapshot of their lives. It’s not like most people are talking about their problems with the kids (or anything else) or their struggles. You often get the impression that they are killing it, because they only post the good stuff, the little moments of perfection. But we all struggle with raising kids. And social media only makes it easier to negatively compare ourselves to others (not just in child-rearing, but across the board).
But, yeah, I think the Stasi comparision might be kind of apt, huh. I feel like I should write about that!
I don’t have kids, but I see the amount of pressure on those around me who do, and it’s horrible. Even the people who admit there are areas where it doesn’t work or is counterproductive feel like they have to pay lip service or be ostracized.
For example, I think it is now pretty clear that trying to control everything a child eats to that degree leads to a higher rate of allergies and intolerances.
I apologize, as my spawn is currently working on turning my hair gray with her learner’s permit.
I think the societal pressure to have children is a cultural throwback, to the time when food and medical science wasn’t keeping so many people alive.
When many children died young, and many hands were needed for labor, having lots of children was good for civilization.
Now, with overpopulation an ever looming issue, choosing not to have children seems a responsible choice.
Edit: I don’t mean that having children is an irresponsible choice, just that it is less essential for everyone to procreate.
I was nervous teaching my nephew to drive, I can’t imagine how much scarier it is when your own child is learning to drive.