I vividly remember one summer retreat I went to with my church. I must have been about 15 years old. At the time, I had very clearly defined goals for my life and headed towards them like a torpedo. The “youth group” from my church consisted of approximately 20 youths ranging from about 14 – 21 plus our youth pastor. About half of us went to the cafeteria for lunch one day and sat around a long table to talk. Our youth pastor decides to go around the table and ask each person “at what age do you want to get married and how many kids do you want to have?”
Each kid responded w/ some age range of about 20-25. When it was my turn, I confidently and proudly answered, “I’m not having children or getting married!” All eyes on me widened as the youth pastor gasped and exclaimed “don’t say that! how could you not want kids or marriage!?” The man even asked me if I had family problems or what was wrong in my life that would make me say something like that!
I have to say that at the moment I felt embarrassed and very put down, but a few minutes later when my brain kicked back in I got angry! How dare he! I had spent my life (albeit short as it had been) pouring my heart and soul into academic excellence! I started taking advanced classes in the fourth grade and my hard work had placed me in one of the most rigorous high school programs in the country. I pulled all-nighters with Eastern European history, John Donne, French, German, Japanese, and Jeffrey Sachs. I had bigger plans than marriage and kids. I was going to go to a top-tier University. I was going to go to law school. I was going to travel the world!
How dare he gasp at the thought that a young girl might wish for academic and career success over marriage and children?
I’m not saying that wishing for marriage and children is somehow un-feminist or unsuccessful. I’m also not saying that you can’t have both.
What I do want to get at is why society seems to think that a woman who does not share an interest in marriage and children is somehow unfeminine. That is unfair! It is as unfair as some feminists saying that stay-at-home moms are not progressive.
My life has taken many twists and turns since 15. I am still chasing down academic excellence, with dreams of law school and world travels and I will not cease until I attain all of my goals. I do find myself married now, happily blissfully married. But, I could have done without it. My husband and I were blissful in our relationship before marriage too.
Now that I am a newly-wed, the inevitable question continues to pop up incessantly: “When are you having kids?” as they point at my tummy. “Nope, we don’t want kids,” we answer. And the gasp returns. My mother, as she has always done, acts as though I am cursing myself every time I pronounce those words. My friends laugh it off and say “we’ll see”. It is infuriating. I am happily married. I have goals other than sitting at home with a baby. It does not make me any less of a woman than the lady down the street running behind her four kids.
So to society I plead: respect each individual’s choices. I don’t gasp at stay-at-home moms or ask them if they are unfulfilled. So, next time you meet a woman who proudly replies: “I don’t want marriage or children!” Don’t ask her what’s wrong with her, applaud her courage for going against the grain and respect her goals. Careers can require just as much time and nurturing as a child. Womanhood is not measured by a ring on one’s finger or the ability of one’s womb!