10 February 2011
Babies, babies, babies...
I hate when magazine’s rag on Jennifer Aniston for being childless. Stories are fabricated, week after week, for no other reason than to point out that she‘s strayed from the norm. She’s 40, not married and child-free - it’s like the trifecta of failure, according to some. And to others, it’s considered the biggest act of selfishness. Uhh, what?
Thankfully, a blog that circulates via Bitch magazine (best magazine in the world) shares the same 'how does being child-free make me selfish?' sentiments...
You can read that piece of wonderfulness here!
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Over the past few years, I’ve started questioning two very large, overwhelming concepts. Marriage and Children. Both of which go so easily unquestioned because of their deep internalization as something that just is. Something that we do, just because we do it. It‘s a natural stage of life. A rite of passage... or is it? I would venture a guess to say 65% of people enter these stages of life without questioning what it would be would like if they did, in fact, question them.
I simultaneously have one ear on Access Hollywood and wouldn’t you know it, Jennifer Aniston‘s 42nd birthday is fast approaching. When will Jen finally have a baby, asks the consistently intrusive Billy Bush. Aniston grapples with the idea by saying that she thinks "people want to see me as a mom and married and barefoot in the kitchen..." A-ha! Regardless of how she even feels towards having children- on her own, with a man or however she pleases, she knows that it’s what people want to see. Alright, sidetrack over.
For reasons beyond this post but for the sake of at least acknowledging its ties, I should probably share (for those interested/not already in the know) that I do not want to get married. Yes, I want to share my life with someone but I don’t think the institution of marriage is for me. Cliché and lame, I know. Let me explain (although I’ve learnt it’s not so easily explainable)...
I don’t exactly warm to the history of marriage...the ceremony for starters (an exchange of women between two men...as in ‘who gives this woman away?’ The father. 'To whom?' Ohp, another man.) Call it a superficial reason and one that can obviously be revamped in any ceremony ('Nikki, BOTH your parents could walk you down the aisle!'), but this is an image that legitimately frightens me because it remains a part of so many weddings today, hundreds and hundreds of years following its origin. Coupled with this, the obvious exclusion of rights is another big one - a set of written and unwritten laws and rules that have transcended through time, producing the most damaging effects (in my opinion) on the female psyche throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s (so perfectly portrayed by the one and only Betty Draper).
Look at those empty eyes!!
Need I continue? It’s not for me. Of this I am sure. Another post entirely...
Spending my life with someone doesn’t need to be bound by a legal document. I think if you’re meant to be with someone, that someone will share the same values, and marriage thus becomes obsolete.
So like marriage, it took a lot of questioning these deeply embedded social codes to come to the realization that I don’t actually have to have kids just because I’m probably physically capable of it.
And it’s not even like I don’t enjoy them - the exact opposite is true. I never in my life thought I could love anyone the way that I love my niece. She’s the reason I moved back to Canada, a large part of my weekly routine, and I genuinely cannot imagine life without her. We talk about Strawberry Shortcake, what she had for dinner, why she likes my hair (because it‘s long and pretty), why she can only jump on my bed and nobody elses... She can cheer me up at the worst of times and I would pay good money to find someone who knows a 2 ½ yr old with a sharper sense of humour. And to top it all off, the girl’s got Beiber Fever. BIG TIME.
The thing is, I always assumed I would have kids. I had even shortlisted several names. I still sometimes find myself thinking, ohh, that’d be a nice name...that's how deeply embedded this idea is- that sometimes, I just forget! But then again, I also always assumed I would get married. Realizing that I actually have a choice in these matters was a huge wake up call.
I realize the most common argument is that becoming a mother is meant to serve as the pinnacle of any woman’s life, the moment her existence is defined- where something deep within her brain shifts because of an experience that will irrevocably glue her and another person’s body and soul together.....well, yes, obviously. It doesn't take decades of research to figure that out. But is it really necessary to treat motherhood as the only experience single-handedly causing a woman to self-actualize? The only event capable of defining her purpose on this planet? Honestly, think about it. Can you think of any other experience that gets treated with the same importance? I can't. And it's kinda shitty.
I sincerely, and with the the utmost respect to any mother reading this, don’t think it’s the only way a woman can, will or even should self-actualize and come to understand her existence and/or purpose on the journey that is life. Yes, it would change my life forever - yes, I would do anything in my power so that child never felt less than adored. I’m not discrediting motherhood - but I really think, as human beings, we are capable of being satisfied and finding purpose - real purpose, with things other than reproducing children. Couldn't I also feel the same feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction spending my life with one person, a person who is also happy to not have children? Couldn’t I also be fulfilled, satisfied, proud, and full of purpose when I have the letters P, H and D after my name?
There are a lot of things I want to do with my life - and I trust that I will have human experiences, connections and relationships that are just as rewarding as reproducing children, without actually reproducing them. Because as my life takes on different meanings through different experiences, having a child falls lower and lower on my list of priorities. And there's no changing that. It's how I genuinely feel.
And I know some of you reading this are thinking that I just haven’t met the right person yet, that I'll have trouble finding someone who feels the same, etc etc. And you know what? Maybe you’re right. But I have it on good authority to think I’m capable of making this decision if these thoughts have been at the forefront of my mind for quite some time now. I will put stubbornness aside and say FINE, I’ll never say never, but come on...give me some credit!
It’s true though, I don’t know many girls my age who feel this way - and it usually surprises people (even good friends) when I tell them it‘s something I‘ve seriously been questioning. Do I think it'll be tremenously difficult to meet boys who feel the same? Absolutely not. The few that I do know who share these sentiments are great. Wonderful even. I should hope to know more of you.
So should I reproduce solely because I’ve been saturated with the idea that I should? Certainly not.
Am I really to believe that I will only self-actualize if I produce minituare versions of myself? Good God...
Is it really that selfish to not want kids? Couldn’t we say the same about someone with 19 of them?
The greedy Duggars.
Joking aside, I certainly don’t think it makes me selfish. I think it defines me as assured in knowing life offers varying ways in which we are capable of finding happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment. I don’t need to be defined by my ability to reproduce. And this doesn’t mean I think those who choose children are succumbing to some ridiculous notion of conformity. I think that it’s a set of unwritten social codes that require questioning- and I think more people should be questioning them.
And as for Jennifer Aniston...whether she’s ever barefoot in the kitchen, baby on hip, husband at her side, I have to say that I may be a bit disappointed. But if it’s her choice to do so, then by god woman, run with it.