A recurring conversation that seems to consistently come up as of late is that around the question of having children. In the past, asking someone if they ‘wanted’ to reproduce would be null and void. It would have been a no brainer and not a question of if, but when. What I have noticed though is that of my friends, peers and co-workers who are of a similar age, those who express the willingness unquestioningly to have children are those to be found in the minority. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority do not directly desire to ever have children per say, but instead express a sense of uncertainness about this and therefore acknowledge that in future, it could really go either way.
The significance of all of this has not escaped me. When considering if this would be a conversation between late 20 something’s in the generation just past, it struck me that it would definitely not have been the norm. In the grand scheme of things the pattern is usually that you meet someone, get married and have kids; in that order and directly one after the other. So what’s changed in all of this? I mean, the women around me still express a desire to share their life with someone but it doesn’t represent the conventional norms which have been the go-to life mould in the past.
What has changed in this equation is that of choice, and not just of the generic form, but more significantly of a woman’s active right to choose and decision make in line with what happens to her body, her life and her future. In days past, marriage and kids were a package deal, and arguably THE package deal that young women best aspired to. What’s shifted in part due to women’s rights movements and the fight towards equal pay has not only been an increase in opportunity in the workforce, but also allowed for an attitudinal shift where women have been able to prioritise their careers and invest in the pursuit thereof, putting the immediate need for childbearing in the background.
But in all of this, the women that expressed ‘not being sure’ still seemed to sheepishly convey it in a tone expecting judgment and ill will as a response. Should we be ashamed to openly say that as women of a possible child bearing age, that we don’t actually want to reproduce? Is it societally incorrect to say that we are simply unsure and that investing in our career is the top priority of our lives? It sure does make people uncomfortable but perhaps the bleatingly obvious double standards that exist between men and women in this circumstance are what we should in fact be ashamed of. At the end of the day, in a just and equal society a women’s right to choose is what should be the unquestionable norm. I for one will continue to wield this right unapologetically regardless of how uncomfortable it might make society as a result.