You’ve heard of the mommy wars, right? That’s when moms get into heated debates (and sometimes even physical altercations) over silly things–like working vs. staying home with kids, marriage or not, bottle or breast, extended use rear facing car seats or not–the list goes on and on.
And you’ve heard about the whole mommy-stigma thing. This is when a woman is assumed to be less capable, intelligent or otherwise valuable because she chooses to be a mother (and, in many cases, how she prioritizes that role in her life.)
But what about women (and men) who choose not to have children? Have you ever thought about the fact that they, too, are highly criticized?
While some percentage of “non-parents” is made up of those who wanted children but couldn’t have them, either because of physical limits or relationship status, the rest of them are made up of people who just decided not have kids.
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard other moms say things like “It’s so sad that they decided not to have kids,” and even “How could they be so selfish?” when someone says they chose not to be a parent.
The fact is that 81 percent of men and 87 percent of women will become parents in their lifetimes. This means that we are almost expected to do so–and that many people in society actually criticize those who make an intentional choice not to have kids. This is especially true for women, but it also affects men.
Having Kids Changes Everything
If you’re not ready to completely revamp literally every single aspect of your life, you’re not ready for kids. Your social life, your sex life and your personal life will be completely changed when you make the choice to become a parent. Your priorities will change in such a way that nothing else will be more important than your children. Your career, your friends and even yourself are all suddenly less important than they were pre-kids.
We all know someone who has children but shouldn’t. Whether their children are being raised by a nanny or a grandma or aunt, or they’re just being severely physically or emotionally neglected, some people just aren’t parent material. This doesn’t always necessarily mean that they’re bad people–just that they’re people who shouldn’t be parents. Maybe they’re too selfish or too immature or simply don’t know how to be parents. In any case, they chose to have kids, but they’re not following up on the responsibilities that go along with it.
Why You Should Respect ‘Non-Parents’
First of all, I don’t think that anyone should be criticized for making a choice not to have children. Though I, myself, am a parent who loves her children with every fiber of her being, I am also a logical person who realizes the profound effect having kids has on one’s life.
People who choose not to have kids aren’t being selfish or immature–they’re being smart. If a person knows herself well enough to understand that she doesn’t want to be a parent, and makes the choice to remain kid-free, she’s doing herself and her potential kid a favor. Kids who aren’t wanted know they’re not wanted–and parents who don’t want to be parents feel restricted and oppressed by the job, even when they’re good at it.
It’s bad energy on both sides, and it’s not good for anyone.
The Argument Against Parenthood
“I think women are afraid to say that they don’t want children because they’re going to get shunned … I have more girlfriends who don’t have kids than those that do,” actress Cameron Diaz told Cosmo magazine back in 2009. “And honestly? We don’t need any more kids. We have plenty of people on this planet.”
Diaz isn’t the only one who thinks this way, either. USA Today reported in 2009 that households with children had reached an all-time low of just 46 percent–that’s less than half.
And, contrary to what many studies tell us, being a parent does makes life and relationships in general just a little bit harder.
“Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers,” says Florida State University‘s Robin Simon, a sociology professor who’s conducted several recent parenting studies, the most thorough of which came out in 2005 and looked at data gathered from 13,000 Americans by the National Survey of Families and Households. “In fact, no group of parents—married, single, step or even empty nest—reported significantly greater emotional well-being than people who never had children. It’s such a counterintuitive finding because we have these cultural beliefs that children are the key to happiness and a healthy life, and they’re not.”
Bottom line: Being a parent is hard, and it’s not necessary to be a parent to feel fulfilled in life.
Why I Chose to Be a Parent
I never thought I wanted kids. My plan was to be a globe-trotting journalist who later settled down in Maine to write the great American novel. But things happened, circumstances changed, and I’ve got three kids (and don’t live anywhere near Maine.)
With my first child, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but the truth is that I, like many new parents, was completely clueless. I did a lot of reading and researching and learned “on the job.” And it was/is the hardest (and best) thing I’ve ever done or will do.
But, when I found out I was pregnant with him, I knew two important things: I wanted him and I wanted to love him.
Once he arrived, I learned very quickly what my priorities were–and today, three kids later, I have absolutely no regrets. I love my kids, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I don’t mind that I’ve had to make major adjustments to my life plan–I feel like it’s all worth it. But that’s my choice–and I won’t judge you if yours is different.
Though being a parent is the hardest job you’ll ever have, it’s also one of the most rewarding. And if you have chosen to take on the task/gift of being called “mom” or “dad” (titles that are earned rather than assumed), then you already know what I mean.
It’s all worth it, if you want it. It’s the indescribable sense of wonder that children make you feel, the way they look at you with such trust in their eyes–the way they believe that you can fix everything that goes wrong. Watching them sleep, seeing them succeed, being their biggest cheerleader–that’s what it’s all about. Watching them grow up is a sad and amazing experience all at once–sad because the older they get, the more independent they become–and amazing for the same reason.
But when all is said and done, there should be no arguing involved. It’s a very personal choice that only you should make. If you want to become a parent, then do it. But if you’re not “parentally inclined,” don’t allow yourself to be pressured by your family, your friends or society. Follow your gut, and you’ll end up in the right place, one way or another.
What do you think? Have you judged (or been judged) because of parental status? Tell me in the comments!
I think that as we attempt to make changes physically, we also need to be focusing on the inside. We need to decide that we ARE worth it, and do whatever is necessary to help us learn to accept ourselves for who we are, for what we want to become. We need to learn to love ourselves. This is something I’ve worked hard to instill in my three children, and I think my boys are well on their way.
I feel a different sort of connection with my daughter, who is also on her way, than I do with my boys. Not any stronger, or more significant, but different.
I’ve always read to my kids, even as little babies, and during a discussion with my daughter, I read her this poem I’ve always loved, by Maya Angelou. I found the poem in a book of Ms. Angelou’s poetry that I bought on a women’s retreat several years ago, and it’s since been my very favorite one. I think that most women can relate to it, I am dedicating this particular blog to the women in my life.
I want to teach her how amazing and special she is, and I don’t want her to ever doubt it. I realize that is a lofty goal, and I also realize that it’s something I won’t always have control over. But I will tell you this: somehow, through all the years of self-doubt I had, I always knew that I didn’t have to put up with certain things in relationships–no man has ever hit me, I’ve never tolerated cheating, and I certainly wouldn’t put up with my husband hurting my kids.
I always knew that I deserved to be treated a certain way, even if I allowed myself to be treated otherwise briefly. I have to credit my parents with instilling some level of self confidence in me, and some level of understanding that I am worth more than I gave myself credit for in the past. I am re-learning that now, and I want to be sure to instill this in my daughter, as well as my sons.
Ladies, we have to realize how amazing we are. I know, I know it sounds like I’m just blowing sunshine up your butts (lol, that’s a term my dad used when I was a kid), but the truth is, we as women are truly unique and beautiful. I challenge you all to make a point to find something beautiful about yourselves today, and to look at the people and things around you, and notice their beauty. You will be surprised how this can change our attitudes.
I want to share the poem with you all, and I hope that you read it and REALLY feel it. It has always made me feel, well, phenomenal. I hope it does the same for you! Share it with your mother, your daughter, or any other woman you think needs to recognize how amazing she really is. And while you’re at it, recognize the same thing about yourself.
The Secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, nor to anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.- Buddha
How often do you find yourself living in the past? Wondering what might have been, or even regretting the choices that brought you to this point?
Every single person in the world has felt this way at one time or another at some point in their lives, but it’s how you choose to deal with these feelings that makes or breaks you.
I know, it sounds very dramatic. And, truth be told, it is.
The fact is that when we focus on the past and dwell on things we can’t change, we are cheating ourselves. And, when we worry about the future, we cheat ourselves. When we’re so concerned with what was or what might be, life passes us by.
It all sounds so simple: just live in the moment. And it should be easy…but as it happens, life can occasionally throw you a curve ball. How can one live in the moment when so many difficulties present themselves? How can one avoid worry and stress?
Maybe you can’t avoid everything, but remember this: life is all about perception. So, for example, when you get out of bed and trip over the cat, you might think, “Oh great, the whole day’s going to be bad.” And, you can bet that it will.
But if you laugh it off and think happy thoughts instead, you’re more likely to have positive experiences.
Even if you don’t believe in the law of attraction, I think we can agree that it FEELS better to be happy and to have a positive outlook. That alone should be enough to give today’s challenge a shot. 🙂
So, bottom line: live for the moment. Feel good. Think happy thoughts!
1. When you find yourself imagining fearful scenarios ask yourself, “Is this the only possibility?” Search for what else could be true, rather than what you fear.
2. Remind yourself that worrying about the future or regretting the past isn’t going to change what has or is going to happen.
3. Do you have a fundamental trust that whatever happens you’re going to be ok? Can you find times from your past that serve as evidence that this is true? If so, draw on that experience.
4. Are your basic needs met, does your life work? Often we move into the future because we think it will be better there. Consider addressing what ever is not in balance so it will become desirable to be more in the now.
5. Practice the power of the present. Focus on something positive or beautiful right here and now and breathe it in. Let yourself fully feel it.
6. Then, be willing to let go of that too and move on to the next moment.
Today, I challenge you to live for the moment. Just for today, look around you and find the beauty and wonder that is in your every day environment.
Breathe…appreciate life…and think happy thoughts.
Want what you’ve got, and you’ll always have what you want. It’s all about this moment, right here, right now.
Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? What’s it all about for you? Be it, do it, have it.
I leave you with a final thought, a quote from Henry Drummond.
“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.
As I have gone through the journey to create my best life, there were a few bumps and bruises along the way, such as the time I found out I had sleep apnea due in part to the extra weight I was carrying around at the time. The following is a post I wrote back in 2006 regarding the way I felt about myself and my life. So much has changed since then!
I am 31 years old. I have two beautiful children and a wonderful husband. We aren’t rich, but we manage to get by and even have a few luxuries.
I feel like I have “it all”, so to speak. I can’t really complain too much. Of course, there are things that I want, but most of those, I could give to myself if I just got off my butt (literally and figuratively) and worked hard.
I want to be a successful writer. I could be if I worked hard at it. I want to be healthy so I can live to take care of my kids. I could be if I worked hard at it. What else? Not much, really. I’m very satisfied with most of my life. So what is stopping me from achieving those two not-so-tiny goals?
Pure laziness, pure exhaustion, plain and simple. I know what to do, and I even know how to do it—but I am constantly exhausted. I barely have the energy to do what I have to in order to take care of my family.
So, Wednesday, I had a minor procedure to remove an errant IUD. That might help a little. Then, yesterday, I went to the doctor to find out that not only do I have high blood pressure, but I also probably have sleep apnea—which could be causing my exhaustion.
Hmm, imagine. So I have to go and get a sleep study done, and will most likely be expected to sleep from now on with a machine on my face. Okay, I pretty much already knew I had sleep apnea but had no idea it could be causing so many of my other problems.
So I am going to look at this as a good thing. Perhaps I will gain the energy I need to meet my goals and to be a better mom and wife. To be a better me. Sounds perfect.
Well, here’s the bottom line. I am learning (the hard and painful way) that if I don’t take care of ME, I won’t be around much longer to take care of anyone else. So I am committing to that, today, right now as I’m typing this.
I will start taking care of ME. I will work to get healthy so that I can accomplish my goals and dreams. If I don’t do it, no one else will do it for me. It’s time that I take a stand for myself, and do something to improve the quality of MY life, and in so doing, the lives of my family. Okay, I’ll get off the soapbox now.