Opinion | Some women don’t want children and that’s valid

By Anna Fischer, For The Pitt News

If I polled the general population asking what the greatest part of a woman’s life is, the top answer would probably be motherhood. I know for a fact that it’s what my own mother would say — granted, Mama Meg was made to be a mother. Me, on the other hand? Let’s just say the apple falls just out of reach from the tree.

I promise that this isn’t my anti-natalist manifesto. Whereas anti-natalists believe no one should have children, I believe that motherhood — for women who want it — is not only an amazing feat of nature, but also incredibly admirable. But for women who have decided they don’t want children, be prepared for a lifetime of people telling you that you’ll “change your mind.” 

Constantly telling women who don’t want to have children that they will change their mind just reinforces the idea that a woman’s main role in our society is to be a mother. This expectation is outdated and ridiculous because, believe it or not, women are independent and worthy human beings regardless of whether they have children.

You may be thinking, “But, Anna, it’s the 21st century, it’s totally okay for women to focus on their careers.” And yes, you may be right. But there is a caveat — it is totally okay for women to focus on their careers, but they are simultaneously expected to rearrange and interrupt their careers for their children. There is an expectation on working women to have children while pursuing a career that, frankly, men just aren’t subject to.

In the United States, the median average length for maternity leave is 11 weeks — which is far too short, but that’s an entirely different column. Paternity leave averages a single week. In addition to physical recovery, women are given a longer leave because women are still expected to be responsible for caregiving and childrearing, even when working full time. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2020 71.2% of women with children under 18 years old participated in the labor force, compared to 92.3% of men.

Women are expected to raise children and work, and for some women, pursuing their careers just isn’t plausible while raising kids. Simply put, women are expected to be mothers in a way that men are not expected to be fathers — even though, by my calculations, both are required in the equation of conception.

Ladies, it’s okay to not want to have children. There are plenty of valid reasons for not wanting them. First and foremost, they are incredibly expensive. The average cost of raising a child in the United States until the age of 18 is $230,000. If that isn’t free child-rearing deterrent, then I don’t know what is.

Also, for those of us women with climate anxiety, we are not strangers to the correlation between population and climate change. If we don’t change our current methods of sustaining the world population, an increase in population will cause an increase in land ravaged for agricultural use to feed the growing population, ultimately increasing the rate of climate change. It is not wrong to not want to contribute to the growing population in the name of the environment. The United Nations predicts that with the current rate of population growth, the world population is expected to rise from 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050. If women don’t want to contribute to two billion more people on the planet in the next 30 years, that’s valid. If women simply don’t want to raise children in a rapidly deteriorating climate, guess what? That’s valid.

Additionally, there are many women who feel that the world is “too irretrievably f–ked” to bring a child into it. With the unignorable progression of division — both politically and otherwise — it is not surprising that some women believe that this is simply not the world to raise a child in. And that’s valid. 

Every day it feels like new discouraging headlines are released. Here are the top headlines that I just happened to read while writing this piece — “Global supply chain problems escalate, threatening economic recovery”, “As Brazil passes 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, vaccines offer hope worst is over” and “Federal appeals court temporarily reinstates Texas’ 6-week abortion ban.”

While some of these headlines leave a bittersweet taste in your mouth — the relief of vaccine availability in Brazil combined with the horrific realization that more than 600,000 people have died in that country alone — most of them just leave me with the sense that the world is so messed up that I think I would feel guilty for bringing a child into it. I mean, the majority male United States government is still arguing about whether or not women have a right to have a child or not for God’s sake. If the way women regain their bodily autonomy is deciding not to have children at all, that’s valid.

And finally, the most valid reason of all to not have children — you simply don’t want to. It is okay for women to do things, or not do things, because they just don’t want to. Women shouldn’t have to list a million reasons to not want to have children, or write a 5,000 character column, to validate their decision not to. Simply not wanting to is reason enough.

I may or may not change my mind about having children. If at some point in my drowning-in-college-debt life I can afford it, if rampant overpopulation slows, if the world somehow appears to get even minisculely better — but that’s a big maybe. But, ultimately, that is the woman’s decision to make. So, when a woman says that she doesn’t want children, the response should never be “you’ll change your mind.” The response should be, as I’ve said many times in this article already, “Okay, that’s valid.”

Anna Fischer writes about female empowerment, literature and art. She’s really into bagels. Write to her at [email protected]