More Women Are Saying No To Motherhood. Will Society Ever Listen?

“Choosing ‘child-free’ does not equate to a dislike for children.'

16/6/2021 9:30:00 AM

“Choosing ‘child-free’ does not equate to a dislike for children.'

The child-free by choice movement is growing online, but women say they're still feeling pressured in their day-to-day lives.

Research also suggests that parents in the U.S.face the largest “happiness gap”compared to people without children, a disparity that is largely attributed to the country’s lack of family-friendly social policies like subsidized child care, paid vacation and sick leave.

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The abysmal state of child care and paid leave is one of many reasons Helen Hsu, a 47-year-old psychologist who works at Stanford University, chose not to have kids with her husband.Financially, raising kids almost felt like an impossibility, Hsu told HuffPost.

“Who the heck has housing and money for three kids!?” she said. “I think Americans need to get it through their heads how awful the safety net is here: bad health care, unsafe schools and streets, no child care, minimal parental leaves or sick leaves, nor job security.”

Everyone in Hsu’s family told her she’d have a burning desire to procreate once she hit her 30s. “That never happened,” she said.That might be at least in part due to her perspective on the subject as a working therapist: A big part of her job is helping to repair hurtful parenting and family dynamics.

She spends all day nurturing people at work; she’s not eager to nurture even more in her downtime. On a societal level, she’s starting to sense a growing acceptance of her child-free lifestyle.“It’s happening at a snail’s pace, and with fits and starts,” Hsu said. “I think media coverage is slightly better because you have more women telling stories, but I still feel there is still a powerful baseline assumption that the pinnacle of most women’s goals and fulfillment ought to be kids. It’s a strong cultural value narrative in all patriarchies.”

“I am almost 30 and I am still being told, 'When you meet the right man, you will have children,'” one child-free woman said. (Photo: Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images)Jameelah Woodard, 28, who lives just outside of Los Angeles, is childless by choice, too. As the oldest daughter in her family, growing up she helped out with everything around the house: the cooking, cleaning, diaper changes and general care of her younger siblings.

“That kind of life would not make me happy,” she said. “Top that with having a traumatic childhood, and I did not want to unintentionally pass that trauma onto my children.”Even as a little kid, Woodard would talk openly about not wanting to be a mom, much to the chagrin of the women in her family. (Even now, Woodard said her mom regularly asks God to give her daughter children.)

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“I am almost 30 and I am still being told, ‘When you meet the right man, you will have children,’” she said. “I have been told more than once, from men that I have attempted to date, that if a man hasn’t tried to get me pregnant, there has to be something wrong with me.”

For Black women, the pressure to have kids is even greater.After three decades of trying to avoid being railroaded into having kids, Woodard admits she was taken aback by all the recent articles about women happily declaring their child-free status. Maybe for white women, she thought when she read the accounts, but it’s a different story if you’re Black.

“I was actually shocked to see people agreeing with me, that they didn’t want children,” Woodard said. ”As a Black woman in America, it’s expected to have children. It seems like all elders are concerned about our womb room.”While it may be freeing and validating for a white women to talk about her choice to forgo parenting, Black women often struggle to do the same because of cultural expectations, said

Kimya Nuru Dennis, a sociologist who has studied perceptions of African and Black people who choose not to become parents.“Most of these permanently child-free-by-choice news stories, research and social media platforms are based on European-white people,” she said.

“My research highlights how many African-Black people come from traditional and conservative cultures and family backgrounds that are not accepting of gendered freedom, including sexual freedom and reproductive freedom,” Nuru Dennis explained. “It’s very pro-natalist.”

Julia McQuillan, the Willa Cather professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, also isn’t surprised that experiences of women of color are rarely factored into these “why isn’t anyone having kids?” stories.“There is little public outcry when Hispanic or Black women decide not to have children,” she said.

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“In fact I recall the outcry about Black women having children in the 1990s when they were not married,” she said. “Meanwhile, there was little consciousness of the dramatic increase in mass incarceration of Black men that made it very hard for Black women to marry the fathers of their children even if they really wanted to.”

Say goodbye to childless spinster, say hello to the cool auntie.The way we talk about child-free women is changing, albeit slowly. Even the semantic embrace of “child-free” over the far more diminishing “child less” counts as a win. Read more: Yahoo Singapore »

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