By Callie Gable
Whining. Crying. Asking. Needing.
It. Never. Stops.
As the youngest of four, I never experienced living with a small child. Sure, I had family friends who had kids and have babysat over the years… but for the past few days my cousin and his posse, who roll three toddlers deep, have been staying at my house. Their mother buzzes around like a bee collecting pollen from her little flowers. As I watched her perpetually acknowledge, allay, and acquiesce, I thought to myself,
Why do women want to be mothers?
So I asked her. She said that as a devout Mormon, bearing children is quintessential. Each child is an opportunity to create another Mormon who can then witness to non-believers and promulgate the faith. Each child increases their family’s standing in their church. And because their faith so encourages procreation, each child increases their worthiness to enter the most desirable of three celestial kingdoms. (As an aside, I do not intend to purport that these opinions are true of all Mormons.)
Okay, sure; it almost makes sense.
I asked my mother. Apparently after a few years of marriage, she and my dad decided they were ready for a change. Having kids is just what people were supposed to do. My mom desperately wanted to fulfill her maternal longings; after all, she had always wanted to be a mother.
I hear maternal longings are just lovely, so I suppose this makes sense.
At the gym a few days later, I asked a friend of mine the same question. At twenty, she dreams of sock monkeys, onesies, and the perfect elephant print border from Pottery Barn. She just can’t wait to go shopping for her baby and dress it up and have it photographed. She loves how cute babies are and adores snuggling them. Like a stylish, hip version of my mother, she has a roaring maternal instinct.
This makes perfect sense, as long as you include the prefix “non”…
But the fact that women who aren’t eager to fulfill their maternal longings (or worse, do not have maternal longings at all), are considered selfish does not make any sense; I’m surprised they don’t burn us and our unoccupied uteruses at the stake.
I personally have never heard an explanation like this: I know having a child will be time consuming, mentally taxing, and lots of hard work, but I feel that it is my social duty to bear children as a means to sustain the population. I’m sure that those people exist; however, generally, it seems that children fit to-be parents’ agendas for personal fulfillment. I think that’s great. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing
wrong with wanting a child for other reasons than maintaining human life in the most practical sense. However, there is something wrong with making those who do not seek fulfillment in the same way that parents do pariahs.
Since we’re so modern these days, we pretend like everyone taking the same road in life is obsolete and that individuality is in. And in lots of respects, it is. Wear what you want, marry whom you want, earn a degree in what you want, vote for who you want, live wherever you want… but if you’re a woman, make sure you have a baby along the way.
Even if you have a nanny ‘round the clock and name the child after a fruit, it’s totally cool, because you’ve given birth, and now society can place a shiny gold star in the “Motherhood” column.
My point is, why can’t we be enthusiastic about all women who are fulfilled, whether it is by their children, their job, their marriages, their hobbies, their, pets, their friends, or some combination of the multifarious things that make us happy? It seems to me that selfishness has nothing to do with not wanting children; people sacrifice time, money, and quality of relationships to pursue things they love all the
time with none of the glory that parents receive.
Expressing my desire to pursue a lengthy education over becoming a mother during my “prime years,” or possibly ever, has often left me feeling guilty, selfish, and like less of a woman. I am routinely accosted with the tangent about being created with the ability to procreate, so I must use that ability.
But let me remind you of something fantastic. We were also born with the ability to use our brains and to think for ourselves. so next time you feel the parenthood pressure Summon those abilities and focus on loving your life instead of loving the one other people want you to make.
Callie Gable is nineteen years old and from Southeastern Ohio. She is going to be a freshman at Duke University this fall, and, to the dismay of everyone in her hometown, does not have her sights set on a Mrs. degree. Instead, she wants to double major in English and Public Policy. When she’s not writing, you can find her on a running, on a yoga mat, or devouring a book… along with ice cream directly from the carton. Callie currently works as a lifeguard and swim lesson instructor, but has held many other jobs (one of which included cleaning toilets) to help pay for her education and the not so occasional pair of shoes.
Her fear is that young girls in rural areas will never be able to define the term feminism, or have the chance to define themselves outside of the context of perpetual mothers, meticulous cleaners, and submissive wives