(Side note-I’m playing with the way this site looks. If you have a suggestion, or a thought, leave me a comment. I want to make sure everything is at least readable.)
Over the course of the last month, I’ve heard one question pop up each time we’ve (Ben and I) run into someone from our pasts. It’s the one question that forces me to bite my tongue so hard I’m sure I’ll gnaw right through. The one question that makes me want to smack my head against a wall. And that reaction is ubiquitous (my new favorite word) regardless of intention, identity of the questioner.
So, any kids yet?
Now, the question has variation of course. And some people I just assume ask because I’m a heavy woman. And that is the one case when I’m surprisingly not immediately offended. I get it-I’m fat. I’m not gonna pout about it. But that particular scenario has happened maybe once, so it’s the exception, not the rule.
Seriously though. I know a great many people who are parents-and damn good ones. If that’s the life they choose for themselves, I’m happy for them. But for Ben and I-it’s not the right time. And I know, I don’t have to defend my life choices to you lovely people, but we need to talk about gender expectations and this is one area I am a professional at.
When Ben and I got married (and at a young age), our congratulatory messages on social media were delightful, but several contained the question above. This may be an old story, but it’s relevant, so here goes. A year went by and in class, my professor asked if women in America experienced any pressures to have kids. I told him that the same day I got married, people were asking me. He shook his head and told me that he doubted it actually happened.
And that was two years ago. I’m still getting asked. I honestly don’t think I’ll stop being asked in the immediately foreseeable future. I don’t have to like that for it to be reality. So I try not to let it bother me. But the truth is, it’s demeaning, it’s borderline offensive and it’s not cool. Allow me to explain.
When you ask if I’m going to have kids soon, what you’re really saying is that my only value is in my ability to reproduce. You’re telling me that my marriage is only valuable if I make another human being. You’re telling my husband that his only worth is in producing sperm and that I am only as valuable as the number of offspring I produce. You’re telling me that my career isn’t worth anything, that I’ve wasted my time going to college. You’re telling me that my life ceases to be anything the moment I become a mother.
So let me tell you something.
I have value. As an individual. I don’t need to ever have a kid if I don’t want to. Do you know why? Because being a mother isn’t the only purpose for a woman to exist. I can be anything. I can be a lawyer, or a doctor or a fisher or a crafter or an actress or anything. And do you know why? Because if I want it-I will do it. And none of those things need your permission for me to accomplish.
So when you tell me that you want grandchildren because there are coworkers who talk about theirs and you don’t get to partake in that conversation-I’m silently fuming. You’re telling us that the only reason you want grandchildren is so that you won’t have to be left out? You’re telling us that you don’t care about what we want in life, just as long as you have a conversation starter? Excuse you. (And no, it’s not my parents.)
Let me tell you what I want.
I want to see the world. I want to work in a job I don’t hate, make friends who are loyal and share my interests. I want to go out and try new things, just for the sake of crossing them off my bucket list. I want to pay off all of my student loans. I want to be a member of wine of the month club and perform some more marriages. I want to live in a world where my value isn’t negotiable, my rights aren’t laughed at, my body is not something anyone else is entitled to. I want to live in a country where people are seen as equals-regardless of their skin color, their socioeconomic background, their beliefs. I want to live in a world where people care about one another, protect one another, help out one another.
I don’t want to look at my kid and see nothing but regrets and “what ifs”. I don’t want to be bitter that I never got to do x, y, or z. I don’t want to resent my child because I can’t go to places I’ve always dreamed about. That’s not what I want for them.
And when I cross off all of the things I want out of life, all of the things I’ve ever desired and can offer my everything to my kid-it is then and ONLY then, that I will consider having one.
Because I am not defined by my ability to reproduce. And neither is anyone else.