You know when you’re a little kid and the sight of a baby gets you excited and the whole world stops? Yeah, me neither. I never had that experience growing up and I don’t have it as an adult. While my childhood friends would melt all over babies, raving about their cuteness and excited to babysit these little aliens, I was running far far away from anything goo goo ga ga. I wanted nothing to do with babies. Yes, I did play with baby dolls as a little kid, but the real babies freaked me out. They were All. Too. Real. And that reality never peaked my interest.
As I grew into an adult, I found myself still allergic to babies and children in general. I never wanted children. Like ever. And I still don’t. I’ll spare you ALL of my endless reasons of why I don’t want children, but the top two are that I’ve never had that “innate” desire, and I’ve never liked children in general. A lot of childfree women talk about not wanting children but reassure the world that it’s not because they don’t like children. No, no, it has nothing to do with that. And I believe them. But, emphasizing that their desire to not have children doesn’t have anything to do with their liking of children perpetuates the stigma and taboo of women who don’t actually like children.
It’s not okay for women to not like children in society. Because, well, it’s a woman’s role in life to bear and raise children, right? Isn’t that how “God” made her? There’s the dominant belief that all women love children, that it’s an innate part of “womanhood.” Our beliefs about women needing to like children, whether they want to have them or not, are bound in our essentialist beliefs of who a woman is and what her role in society entails.
There’s a part of me that wants you to know, but, there are some children I like and adore, but this defense perpetuates the whole don’t worry, I’m not a bad person. No, really, there are some children that I actually do like! Women are thought of as “bad” humans if they express a disinterest in children and I want to help deconstruct this myth and end the stigma around it. Honestly, I’ve never felt “bad” deep down about my disinterest in children, but it does, sometimes, arise when I reveal that disinterest to strangers. Maybe it’s because of the raised eyebrows or blank stares I receive when I express that part of me. Thankfully, I haven’t received more than facial expressions reflecting confusion, but I think that’s because people are stunned that a woman would have zero interest in a child or a baby. This stems from the unconscious beliefs we have about women and what defines a “good” woman.
Women who don’t like children have been portrayed as “bad” witches who bake children in the oven. This is, also, problematic because witches are misunderstood and see as “bad,” but a big part of what makes them “bad” is their dislike of children. These stories of the “bad witch” get passed down from generation to generation sending us messages that women who dislike children are “bad” people.
These essentialist beliefs are deeply ingrained in us, and even women perpetuate them with other women in everyday life. This essentialism gets perpetuated daily when we make the assumption that women want to have children or even like children. Friends and strangers assume that I will “naturally” find pleasure in their children, especially their babies. But, I don’t. And I don’t show a false me in order to please someone else. I don’t find babies fascinating or cute. While there are exceptions, I generally do not want to spend much time around children. Society tries to tell women like me that there is something wrong with us because we don’t want or like children, but there is nothing wrong with us. Being a “woman” does not automatically equate to reproducing babies, being a parent, or possessing a “natural” desire for or draw towards children. These beliefs operate within the straight, gender binary system and dismiss queer narratives.
We tend to assume that women are the only ones that can reproduce when, in actuality, plenty of cisgendered women are not able to reproduce and many trans and non-binary gendered persons can reproduce, thus challenging our essentialist beliefs about women and “womanhood.” I love that society is moving towards embracing more than two genders more and more. This means that the expectation of childfree women to have or want children will be less and less. I imagine a world where women are not expected to like or have children, where they don’t get asked “when do you want to start a family?,” where strangers stop showing off their babies to me in public assuming that I will find joy in it, and where non-binary and trans persons are acknowledged as being able to produce children. We can begin by dropping our essentialist ideas about women and gender, and respect everyone’s choice to be or not be childfree. We can also respect that babies and children are not every woman’s cup of tea, and that assuming so connects back to our unconscious essentialist beliefs about women.
Can you relate? Does this resonate with you? Are you an unapologetic childfree woman? Do you unapologetically dislike children/babies? I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below and share your voice.
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