Women Who Do Not Choose Motherhood

Is motherhood mandatory for personhood? It kinda looks that way, according to the Jezebel article When Motherhood Never Happens.

Social pressure is one of the problems with this phenomenon. The author notes: “Women are flooded with mommy propaganda, whether it be celebrity-oriented Unsolicited Uterus Updates and ‘baby weight’ progress stories or Facebook feeds filled with ultrasounds, baby bumps, infant photos, toddler videos and report cards.” If you’re a woman, it’s hard to escape the prevalence of motherhood stories, images, and marketing campaigns. It’s even harder to block out if you’re a woman who’s not planning to have kids, due in part to well-intended questions from everyone, ranging from random strangers to family members.

The implication underlying all of this is that if you’re not having kids, there’s something wrong with you. As the author writes, women more than men receive mixed messages on this front: “You’re meant to make something of yourself, work hard, contribute to society in a meaningful way. And once you fight tooth and nail to establish yourself with not just a job but a career, you’re chastised: What, no kids?”

There doesn’t seem to be a parallel for men who choose careers over family; they get questioning looks and nagging interventions from family, no doubt, but not the same barrage of accusations of selfishness that women do. Women who choose not to have kids – or delay the decision long enough that it ends up becoming a decision – are a largely invisible population, deemed to be inscrutable, self-centered, or even unnatural. We should respect everyone’s reproductive choices, no matter what they are, and recognize the agency of people who want to live their lives with or without children in the picture.

Thanks to @lindajeanlee for linking me to this essay.

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About Jeana


Jeana Jorgensen, PhD recently completed her doctoral degree in folklore and gender studies at Indiana University. She studies fairy tales and other narratives, dance, body art, feminist theory, digital humanities, and gender identity.

  • http://twitter.com/foxyfolklorist Jeana Jorgensen

     I agree that the social pressure can bite both ways: it’s horrendous for people who don’t want kids but are pressured to, and it’s painful for those who want kids but cannot have them for whatever reason. And yeah, we should definitely respect everyone’s individual choices (I think we agree on those of those issues, and I would respond more, but the fact that your comment was one long sentence made it hard for me to tease out the nuances of what you meant).