You snuggle babies every chance you get, longing for the day when you might hold your own child. Or perhaps you don’t hold babies any more because the ache of wishing they were yours is just too much. That’s the kind of grief and longing we associate with women in relationships who want to have a child and can’t get pregnant. Yet this desire isn’t confined to women with a man in their lives whom they love.
I’ve always felt guilty for how much I sympathize with the barren women of the Bible. As far as I know, I could have children if I found the right guy to marry and it seems rude to compare myself with women who are physically unable to have children. It also seems out-of-order to long for children before meeting the man I’d want to be their father.
I’m not alone, though. A woman I met through this blog while working on The INFJ Handbook shared her desire for children by asking why so many children are born into broken families while we, who would make good moms, are left barren. Since then, I’ve come across other women who feel the same way. If you’re committed to not having sex before marriage and/or not having children without a man in your life, then single women can know the pain of empty arms that long to hold a child.
Longing for children is unpopular in today’s society. We’ve become so obsessed with the fact that women are more than “baby producing machines” that the notion of being a mother has becomes synonymous with female oppression. Instead of seeing motherhood as a beautiful thing that many women desire, we’re told kids should take a back-seat to your career, your other desires, and your empowerment as a woman. And if having kids is actually one of your top life goals? well, clearly you’re still living in the pre-feminism dark ages.
Now, I know not everyone sees things like that, especially in the churches. There are plenty of people who will encourage you in motherhood if that’s what you want. But just look at the back-lash Olympian Kerry Walsh Jennings received when she told NBCC, “I feel like I was born to have babies.” Or when Adele said becoming a parent gave her “purpose.” Or the reaction to Natalie Portman’s comment that being a mother is “the most important role of my life.” Apparently, thinking that mothering your children is more fulfilling than your career horrifies some people. So much for giving women the freedom to do and be whatever they want.
What’s even more disturbing to me is the rhetoric used by many women who choose to remain childless. If you don’t want to have children that’s your choice and people should respect that. But I also think that childless-by-choice women shouldn’t shame and vilify the notion of motherhood. Just because you don’t want something doesn’t make it disgusting.
An article titled “9 Brutally real reasons why millennials refuse to have kids” is a good example of what I’m talking about. While this article and many of the people they interviewed cite several understandable and balanced reasons for not having children, the language used to talk about having children is downright disturbing. Here are a few quotes:
- “raising from a larval stage a human money suck.”
- “violently blast forth from their uteri a living person.”
- “Some women just aren’t into the idea of using their uteruses as a rental property, and they don’t want to be a food source for something that lives inside them.”
- “I see pregnant women and my eye bulges and I feel grossed out by the whole thing. There’s like, a person inside them.”
- “I can’t deal with the reality of a person bursting me open and then sucking on my tits.”
I haven’t any scientific evidence or thorough studies to back this up, but I’m willing to bet the amount of people seeing children as a grotesque parasite leeching off and clawing their way out of a host is connected with movements to legitimize abortion. While abortionists are increasingly willing to admit unborn children are, in fact, human, it’s much easier to justify killing them if you can get people to see babies as unwanted invaders. And even setting aside how this rhetoric changes how we see children, it’s still damaging how women see their own bodies. Was it really the feminist goal to have women looking with disgust at our ability to reproduce?
It’s Okay To Want Kids
In the midst of all this, it’s easy to become discouraged or even feel shame for wanting children, especially if you’re single. But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a mother. We were designed to have children, as most women’s bodies will remind them each month whether we want it or not. Rather than shaming women for wanting something they are uniquely qualified for, we as a culture and individuals should respect motherhood. And we should also respect the choice not to have kids (though we would ask those who are childless-by-choice to not treat babies like a disgusting alien parasite or call our bodies gross).
It’s also okay to grieve if you don’t have kids and want them, even if you’re single. Bethany Jenkins calls this “disenfranchised grief” in her article titled “Turning 40 While Single and Childless.” She quotes Melanie Notkin discussing the type of “grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn, because your loss isn’t clear or understood. But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that are socially acceptable.”
To my dear friends who want kids, are still single, and don’t want to parent alone, I cry with you. To those who are married and trying to have kids but can’t, my heart breaks for you. To childless men who want to be fathers, I apologize for ignoring you in this post (I do know you exist). And to those who choose not to have children, please be kind to us even when you don’t understand.