Some people have time, some people make time, and some people are short on time. We are all bound to an imperfect life because we don’t have the time to do everything we’ve ever been told to do. We have to balance our playtime with work, our family time with friends, and our lifelong dreams with a shorter bucket list of practical activities.
I was thinking over this when I came across this article in Time Magazine. The title, Having It All Without Having Children, explored the issue of non-motherhood in the 21st century, seemingly as shameful as a scarlet letter was in the 20th. The article explained that the American birthrate is at an all time low and that United States culture seems to dictate that womanhood is motherhood.
While everyone has a “choice” in Western culture, we are not blind to the social pressure that we get from family, friends and even media sources. A typical day in the life of a single or childless married woman consists of talking to an agitated parent, gossiping with friends about their children’s accomplishments, and at the end of the day, watching TV only to find a slew of commercials targeting parents with children, highlighting the joy of quality diapers, of Smartphone plans for the whole family and of great deals on SUVs.
As a feminist, I have seen a growing evidence of sexual equality and progressive workplace equality. Yet, I’m sometimes the only person in my peer group that sees a social stigma attached to childless families and single women who shy away from motherhood. Occasionally, I ask someone who teases me about when I’m having a baby why this is so important to them. Their answers range from self-indulgent emotional (“Well, it’s brought meaning to my life, so maybe you should try it…”) to a more rational worldview (“We’re going to go extinct!”).
The article in Time Magazine went on to quote a study from a 2010 Pew Research report that said from 2007 to 2011, the fertility rate declined 9 percent. Childlessness has actually increased among all racial groups adding up to about one in five American women who never have kids, compared to one in ten that was being reported 40 years ago.
And no sooner had I read that article than I came across the usual slew of paranoid overpopulation articles. Contradiction among scientific minds?
I know that I personally have chosen to live child-free because I have too much respect for motherhood, and this is contrary to the view that we childless women don’t like children. I do love children and yet the idea of bringing a child into this world is troubling to me. I don’t want to bring a child into this world if I’m not truly prepared for it and I know in my heart that I’m not. I might never be ready, because as an artist I have different priorities, a different time table for what I want to see happen in my life.
Being Latina, my decision to be childless has not been easily accepted by a few family members and I get it. I understand the traditional Latino viewpoint, which is closely associated with Catholicism and the patriarchal view of family.
We are a people who take pride in our culture, in our family closeness, and in our family name. It is a wonderful thing when a woman has a baby and the whole family becomes part of that experience. However, that viewpoint is about “child-raising being the meaning of life,” when my outlook is slightly different.
I don’t believe you have to be married and reproducing, nor do you have to be in trouble or sick in the head just because you’re 30 and single. Women have come a long way and we are free to explore all our options, our creativity, so as long as we’re happy. And we are happy. I know my legacy is my art, what I want to contribute to the world as a person—not simply to multiply my own genes and fill the world without actually changing it.
I have also seen the struggles of a single mother firsthand from my own mom, and from cases I’ve worked on involving family law. I don’t have the power to change anyone else’s life—just my own. Even in a perfect scenario, with lots of money and a Downton Abbey house-full of love, I would hesitate at the idea because I don’t trust this world. I think there is so much corruption, so much injustice and it’s not the type of world I want to expose to such a young and innocent mind. It’s the type of world my superhero alter ego “Justice Woman” fights against. And really, if I could make the world a safer, more peaceful place for the moms of America, I would trade that for a baby of my own.
I was about 14 when I first realized that motherhood wasn’t a life priority. I was on a plane sitting next to a lady with her baby. She asked me to help her open the baby’s bottle, pour milk into it and close it back up, while she was changing him. I agreed, did it, handed the bottle back and in appreciation she enthusiastically said to me, “You’re now all ready to be a mom!” I kid you not, my heart sank into my stomach, my palms became sweaty and I started to feel anxious!
The thought of motherhood scared the bejesus out of me. At the time, I thought it was normal at my age to feel that way — after all, I was just a teenager. However, now into my thirties, I still feel the same way. I also kept hearing everyone talk about how my clock starts to tick around mid-twenties. Hasn’t started ticking for me yet.
Instead of reminding childless women about their non-existent clocks, I wish more people would thank us for doing our part to keep the world slightly under-populated!
Vanessa Verduga is an American multilingual actress, writer, director, producer, singer and attorney committed to examining social issues for their impact on the underprivileged and disenfranchised. She’s the creator and star of the comedy-drama web series “Justice Woman”, which follows the story of an Assistant District Attorney, by day, who becomes a masked defender of truth and justice at night. Vanessa is also producing “H.O.M.E.”, a feature film that examines the loss of communication told through the immigrant’s perspective, and is in pre-production for a comedy feature film she wrote and will star in entitled “The Implications of Cohabitation.”