On Not Having Children, Being Fruitful and Being a Feminist
*Disclaimer: The following is in no way my announcement that we have decided to never have children….Mom.
Let’s start with some adequate background knowledge, because any teacher worth their salt will tell you to always start with what you know. You should know that I am almost 29 years old, have been married for close to six years, am a (mostly) Evangelical Christian, a feminist and currently childless by choice.
So in light of this information, I’d like to comment on statements and questions I have personally received or heard.
1. “But the Bible calls us to be fruitful and multiply, so you aren’t in God’s will if you choose to not have children.”
Mmm, no. In the Old Testament, after God destroys the earth by flood, He tells Noah to go, be fruitful and multiply. This makes sense in the story and in the context. Pretty much the whole human race was gone, so, uh, go have some babies to replenish the supply. In the words of my husband’s former professor, “I think we’ve done that.” As for the “God’s Will” part, that’s another topic altogether.
*I actually had a pastor tell me I wasn’t in God’s will if I didn’t have children. So, Mother Teresa, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but ya weren’t following God.
2. “You don’t have children, so you don’t know.”
Maybe I don’t know what it’s like to go through labor, breastfeed, and live on such little sleep I start hallucinating, but having a child and having knowledge of parenting aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve spent the past ten years working with kids of all ages, seeing first-hand, day in and day out the effects of poor parenting, no parenting, and exceptional parenting. Because I truly love my students, I “parent” them. I know what works for Juan and what doesn’t work for Layla. I cry with them, I laugh with them, I pray for them, I hurt for them. I have spent sleepless nights worrying if they are safe. I spend more time with them than their parents. So when someone tells me that “I have no idea,” it’s insulting to me as an educator and surrogate parent. Also, I was a child who was parented, so by default I do know something on the subject.
3. “Women who stay at home are somehow anti-feminism.”
I really thought the whole point of feminism was that women should be able to do whatever they want and not be limited with their life choices because of their gender. So if I choose to be a corporate lawyer without children, then it’s my choice. If I choose to be a stay-at-home mom, then it’s my choice. I personally think it takes great courage and self-sacrifice to stay with your kids if at all possible. And for the record, mothers who work are not automatically bad parents. Maybe they know themselves and know they are a better parent because of some time to themselves. Maybe there is simply no other choice. Maybe they are doing the best they can and we should all stop judging them.
4. “Why don’t you have children?”
I don’t think people mean to be insensitive with this question, but it is. Let’s start with the fact that the person being asked may be struggling with infertility and they desperately want to have children. And then you up and come along with your question and remind them, yet again, that they do not have a child. Also, how is this anyone’s business other than your own? People don’t go around asking, “How come you HAVE kids?” because it would be rude. Consider that asking why someone DOESN’T have kids is equally rude and insensitive.
5. “But having children is so fulfilling” (translation: not having them means an unfulfilled life)
I truly believe that having children is a wonderful, and in most cases, fulfilling thing for a couple to do. I also believe that one can lead a vastly fulfilling and meaningful life in the absence of children. Take for example, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Oprah.
6. “Not having children is selfish.”
selfish: concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare
Sure, not having children might very well be selfish, because it’s what you want to do. However, having children because you want them, can also be selfish. Just a thought.
7. “They let a woman with no kids teach a class on marriage and family?!”
I don’t even know what to say on this one. It’s even worse that a woman said this. Way to support each other sisters. Way to support.
You can read more from Adrienne Davis on her blog.
Feature image via.