Rachel Munford discusses the pressure on young women to have children and the negative reactions she has had from family and friends when she says she wants to adopt rather than have her own
This is a guest post by Rachel Munford, who tweets here.
Recently I have been thinking a lot about babies. Currently my cousin’s partner is pregnant, and one of my female cousins has a 6-month old, so obviously babies seem to be the main focus of conversation at family gatherings. This is a somewhat boring subject for me as a 17-year-old student (who is much more interested in reading books and sleeping), but it has brought up some issues which I have been facing for at least 2 years. I don’t want to have my own children, which seems to be considered a problem.
Let me clarify, this does not mean I don’t like children or that I have something against giving birth, but it’s more of a moral choice because I want to adopt. I have never thought that adoptive parents were any less parental than those who are biologically connected to their children. I guess it’s because I have a grandmother who isn’t related to me in the DNA sense, but I love her just the same as any grandparent. I know there are some people (a very small minority) who may consider that view to be wrong, and I would consider that awfully close-minded. Someone doesn’t have to share your DNA to be your family. I think many people would agree with me.
Anyway sharing my viewpoint on not having biological children with others has drawn something very disturbing to my attention. It appears that not wanting to have children of your own or even at all is considered strange, others may view this idea as a crime against nature, you’re told you’re fighting your body’s natural instinct. When did it become okay to tell me how my body feels? When did it become acceptable to convince young women they should be having children no matter what else they want to do in their life?
Instead of encouragement, my opinion on children is received with pity by some (although not everyone sees it that way; some people are very, very supportive). To me, this seems very like a step backwards. We’re told that women can “have it all”; you can go to university and have sex with anyone that you want; you can travel the world and have a brilliant fantastic career and you can also settle down and have children. In fact, you should settle down and have children. But why do we have to have it all? Can we not have some of it, whatever bit we want, instead of all of it?
I know that children are necessary for the world to survive but that doesn’t mean everyone has to have children. Yet you would think they did the way everyone goes on about it. Parents always bring up the topic of grandchildren whenever their grown-up children bring home a girlfriend or boyfriend, or at least that is what the TV would have you believe.
There are many women who are child-free and living perfectly happy guilt-free life, giving me hope that I won’t have to feel alien because of my choices. In an online blog article, “Direct and Subtle pressure to have Children – how can a childfree wannabe cope?“, Ellen Walker, writer of the book “Complete Without Kids”, states that there are many pressures from very different places on a “childfree wannabe”, which in my opinion is completely true. I think the first time I experienced this pressure was when I told my mother I didn’t think I would have my own children but I would adopt instead, and she responded rather dismissively with a comment along the lines of “you’ll change your mind when you meet the right guy”. I was very offended by this at the time; she was practically saying that when I met the guy I would spend the rest of my life with I would give up on all my ideas and opinions in favour of his.
I know now that my mother meant this in the best way possible, she meant it in the way she wanted me to live my life fully, in her view. Since then (this happened over a year ago) she has come around to the idea, but some of my friends are far less supportive. I know none of them have children but everyone’s attitude towards settling down is very different. One of my friends just shakes his head and laughs whenever it comes up, which is really supportive.
I may be still very young, I may be considered very inexperienced, but if I’m honest it’s my opinion and it’s my body so how do you have the right to make me feel guilty about not having my own children or children at all?
Photo of a wicker baby’s cradle on wheels by akatrya, shared under a Creative Commons licence.