This installment of 30 Failures by 30 deals with child-free and pro-choice issues. If you are sensitive to discussion about sex-related matters, you might want to skip to another entry.
This is not a failure. I do not consider my abstention from parenthood itself a failure. It is simply one more example of how choices I have made set me apart from the norm and make socialization a challenge. The decision to remain child-free is still an unpopular one in North America, but my womb is delighted to not be contributing to the world’s population and overcrowded public school classrooms.
That I emerged from rural Alabama without becoming a young mother is a miracle as the penises of young virile Alabama boys are strongly averse to condoms. I don’t know if this is a religious matter or an issue with extra foreskin or the lack of proper sex education in schools. I knew several girls who got knocked up before graduation. Some girls arrived at high school freshman orientation with their newborns. Which seems like an awful lot of work just to get out of writing the “What I Did on Summer Vacation” essay.
I don’t have any gut-wrenching experiences with abortion, miscarriages or pregnancy scares. As miraculous as it may seem, I have reached the end of my 20s without purchasing a home pregnancy test. And yet I am not a 30-year old virgin. Is this a sign of practiced responsibility or undetected infertility?
Over the years I’ve heard the arguments for and against motherhood. I took it all under advisement and arrived at the logical conclusion that I would not be a mommy. In a society that believes an empty womb is a wasted womb, motherhood is an assumed eventuality. Advances in science and modern medicine still leave me prey to older women patting me on the knee and telling me it’s not too late to change my mind and have a little one of my own. A friend of my mother’s once told me that pregnancy increased breast size, as if the prospect of larger breasts would convince me to have children. Um, no. Also, what an odd thing to tell a 16-year-old girl.
Breeders like to accuse non-breeders of being selfish, claiming that we don’t understand the struggles and rewards that come with being a parent. But we do understand the investment of time and money. We see the sacrifices good parents have to make in order to give their children better lives than they themselves might’ve had. We see the mothers on the street loaded up like pack mules just to take one child to the park. We are aware of what it takes to be a good parent and we’re opting out of parenthood altogether.
If I am selfish, though, isn’t that a good enough reason not to procreate? Isn’t it just as selfish to bring a child into this world simply because you want one? “Go forth and multiply” is an antiquated notion. But I recognize that it’s not my place to dictate whether other people should or should not become parents. All I can do is hope that those who have chosen parenthood did so for the right reasons and hope that they’ll respect my decision.
Being child-free by choice means missing out on more social events. If I’d had a child, that would’ve opened up opportunities to re-experience childhood, if only vicariously. Just think of all the toys and events and activities I missed out on that I could share with this new creature! However, I’m not thrilled with the idea of having a kid just so it can do all the things I didn’t get to do. “Look here sonny, you’re going to Welding for Toddlers whether you like it or not.”
Our neighbourhood, once full of aging Polish immigrants, is filling up with young families. Women who might be closer in age are still worlds apart. There is a noticeable social chasm between me and the 20- and 30-something mothers. I cannot relate to child-rearing anecdotes. I can’t contribute to discussions about the latest in baby technology. And no, I’m not particularly interested in looking at photos of babies smeared with food substances.
The price for freedom is loneliness. I am free to pursue endeavors that I couldn’t with a papoose strapped to my back. My boyfriend and I do what we want, when we want without worry of lining up a sitter or obligatory play dates. If I should find myself alone and getting on in years without someone to take care of me, I could adopt a sullen teenager for companionship. Maybe in 20 years, the topic of rejecting motherhood won’t be as taboo as it is today; that the breeders and non-breeders can live in harmony without admonishing the other for their lifestyle choice. Until then, I will continue my streak of not peeing on sticks and sidestep the strollers on the street.