Can We Stop Judging Women Who Choose To Not Have Kids?
Social media celebrity and model Kendall Jenner recently posted an Instagram story in which she can be seen giving a thumbs up, while the caption read “still no kids”. In the background, we can see Jenner’s sisters and their children having fun in the pool. Being the only Kardashian-Jenner sister who still doesn’t have children, the 24-year-old must feel like an outsider in her own family sometimes? But her post also got me thinking of how women without children, both young and old, often face alienation within their circles. And if a woman chooses to remain childless by choice, it only brings unsolicited scrutiny, misplaced sympathy and shame her way. Why are we so quick to judge a woman who chooses to not have children? Why is it so difficult for us to accept that a woman may not want to be a mother? Why must we see her as an anomaly or incomplete for remaining childless?
- Motherhood still defines the existence of millions of women in this world.
- But is it a necessity for every woman to embrace motherhood?
- Why do we see women who don’t do so as an anomaly?
- Why do we pronounce them to be child-haters, selfish and brand their lives as incomplete?
Why is it so difficult for us to accept that a woman may not want to be a mother? Why must we see her as an anomaly or incomplete for remaining childless?
While Kendall is very young, if you think of a woman of that age in India, then the next five years of her life have already been planned for her by social expectations. She is expected to get married and have children. It is almost mechanical how matrimony and motherhood happen to most women in their late twenties in India. So routine is this course of our lives that any woman who challenges it and takes a different path feels like a misfit.
Women who are not intentionally childless and for whom motherhood remains a possibility in the future, experience alienation once siblings, cousins, friends start having kids, and naturally have not much else to discuss. That is what early motherhood does to us; it squeezes your universe, making it revolve around this one tiny human. Women who choose to not have children, on the other hand, are looking at a life-long struggle to connect with woman who have children. They are also seen as the odd one out by society, which feels that it is owed an explanation. With the identity of womanhood tied strongly to motherhood, society still finds it hard to see a woman as complete when she doesn’t want to have kids.
Are we consciously alienating childless women, judging them, thinking of them to be inferior women living a life that seems incomplete to us?
How could any woman not want to experience motherhood – an experience which is touted to change her life, shape her identity and score social acceptance for her? Is something wrong with her? Does she hate children?
But does this mean that women should just go ahead and have children so that they can connect with women of their age groups? Or to fit in better? Certainly not. While as moms we all seek support system to help us through this journey, we need to ask ourselves whether we may have internalised the patriarchal stereotyping. Are we consciously alienating childless women, judging them, thinking of them to be inferior because their choice of remaining childless seems incomplete to us?
Also, as a society, it is time that we change. Give up the stereotype that motherhood is the whole and sole goal of a woman’s life. A woman can choose to marry or not, have children or not, do a job or be a housewife, become a scientist or an artist. Nobody has the right to validate or ridicule her choices. It is possible to live happily ever after without being married or having children, if that is what a woman wants for herself.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.