Do we have an obligation to reproduce or is it okay to not want kids?
The choice to live your life childfree is still surprisingly taboo, even given the modern propensity for contraception and increasing reproductive freedom. It’s got to be said, there is a clear distinction between being childless and childfree. Whilst the former would like to have children but cannot, be it due to infertility or illness or whatever, this issue is one that deals primarily with the latter – the childfree, those who are able but choose not to procreate. The choice to not have children often shocks people and the proclamation is, more often than not, met with insidious comments like “there must be something wrong with you,” “that’s just selfish,” “you were a child once,” and worse “you’ll change your mind when you get older/meet the right man/your biological clock starts ticking”. It’s surprising, primarily, because in an age when we pride ourselves on freedom and choice, we still ultimately put an obligation on reproduction.
The ‘unnaturalness’ of it all
As anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy points out, women are associated with the ideals of nurturing and child-rearing and so, when a woman decides that she wants to remain childfree – or worse, declares that motherhood was a mistake after the fact – they are seen as unnatural, as though something is wrong with them. Jessica Valenti argues that all women are separated into two distinct categories: mothers and non-mothers and in this way, parenthood defines us. Not whether we are or are going to be good parents of course, just whether or not we are parents – and the idea that we will be, and that we want to be, is still seen as our ‘default setting’.