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It’s okay for women to not be moms

By Joyce Reyes-Aguila Published May 09, 2021 12:57 pm

“Do you want to have kids?”

What if the answer is a big, fat “no”? Those who still live in ancient times will surely be disappointed. Couples, primarily the women, continue to suffer from the social stigma of being childless.

The voluntary decision of some to not be parents remains a hard pill to swallow to those who expect otherwise. It is a travesty to stray from the plot of getting married before you turn 30, having a child, and ensuring you follow through with another baby or two as soon as you can.

“Motherhood is believed to be the peak of womanhood,” explains psychologist Dr. Nina Q. Era. “Ergo, a woman can only be called ‘fulfilled’ in society when she becomes a mother. Especially in the Philippines, women are traditionally expected to be nurturers. In the family, girls are given the responsibility to care for their siblings or assist the parents with household chores.”

Men do not feel pressure, she says, because they do not have a ticking biological clock. “(Society) does not really equate fatherhood with manhood – the latter being more important for men to prove.”

In front of an entire bowling league once, someone asked us over the microphone if we even knew how to make a baby. It brought me to tears. I stopped watching my husband’s bowling leagues entirely.

Being childless is a choice, a decision, and a right—just like being single, not getting married but staying together, and keeping and raising a baby all by yourself.

My husband and I have been married for almost a decade. The pressure to have children started even before we got engaged. We were a couple for 10 years prior to walking down the aisle. Many said we were losing precious time by remaining boyfriend and girlfriend. Kap, my better half, would patiently explain that he wanted me to accomplish my goals before we got married. We have an almost 10-year age gap and he knew I wanted to finish graduate school, and experience living on my own, before trying the knot.

Well, getting married only further emboldened the go-have-a-baby lobbyists more. Our FAQs: Do you have kids? Not yet. Do you want kids? If God permits, yes. Have you been checked? Have you seen more than one doctor? Have you tried drinking this tea? What if you lose weight?

In front of an entire bowling league once, someone asked us over the microphone if we even knew how to make a baby. It brought me to tears. I stopped watching Kap’s bowling leagues entirely.

“No woman should ever be pressured to become a mother," says psychologist Dr. Nina Q. Era.

My favorite are the judgments. We work too hard. We are prioritizing our careers over building a family. Time is running out. One day, we will regret it all when we are old. We will be lonely. There will be no kids to take care of us. Well, I did not know that the purpose of having children is to ensure someone takes care of you when you are older. One of the worst we heard: That we are being too selfish for choosing not to have children.

When Katy Perry became a mom, she tweeted that, “Mothers are the most powerful beings on the planet.” To which infertility trauma and loss specialist Chiemi Rajamahendran responded, “But not all women are able to be mothers, some have infertility and/or have lost their babies and children. This kind of blanket system about motherhood ‘being the most’ is hurtful.” Rajamahendran is the founder of Missconception Coach and an advocate for women who are trying to conceive and face challenges along the way. I reached out to her to use her quote and she replied, “Absolutely!” 

Remaining childless is a choice for some, a struggle for others who really want kids. The dream of becoming a parent is very much alive for couples like us and women like me. But it is paired with pain when we choose to walk away from people who ask why we do not have kids yet or take it upon themselves to “counsel” and “diagnose” without being asked.

These people were not there for monthly medical appointments when you go for an ultrasound and see the bellies of other women get bigger and bigger. They hear heartbeats, while I wait for measurements to see if the medicine worked and have someone tell me the perfect time to try for a baby. These people never had to avoid the nursery section at the mall or cry at the sight of a stroller. They never had to apologize or cry to their partners when they got their period.

Imagine how it is for people who can have kids but realize it is not for them. They have stories to tell, too. Dr. Era, who is also a professor at the College of Education at the University of the East in Manila, says there are several factors that make people decide not to have children. “This generation is the product of the different issues and dysfunctionality of families now,” she explains. “

This has brought in feelings of fear and doubt on whether they have what it takes to raise children. With the dysfunctionalities in the family now, today’s generation is scarred and scared to start a family of their own.

“Everyone knows kids are expensive, and financial stability is a must if one chooses to have a child,” she adds. “Given the present economic situation, people choose to forego having children.”

Many women feel that motherhood is not just for them.

Do women feel the pressure to become mothers all through their life? “It depends,” says Dr. Era. “Women who lack differentiation and are easily pressured by family, friends, and society are more prone to be affected compared to women who have a strong sense of self-worth and a solid identity. When women are less differentiated, the opinions of others matter so much to the point of sacrificing themselves just to please others, which later can lead to resentments. Moreover, a woman who is differentiated would view herself through her own lens and will not be pressured or dictated upon by others. This kind of woman is comfortable in her decisions and will less likely be affected by the judgment of others.”

Parenthood or motherhood is a choice, underscores the psychologist. “No woman should ever be pressured to become a mother. To become a mother or not is a decision resting solely in the woman. There are people who from the very start believe that parenthood is not for them,” Dr. Era says. “They focus on how they grow as a person, their careers and dreams, what can contribute to their growth. They invest in themselves.”

If the pressure remains, she suggests explaining your decision to significant people, and seeking support. “Stay away from people who make you feel bad about yourself. Do not engage them. Those who love you will understand you.”

Remaining childless is a choice for some, a struggle for others. The dream of becoming a parent is very much alive for couples like us and women like me. But it is paired with pain.

My friend, let’s call her Ann, knew early on that motherhood was not her cup of tea. “I told my mom I’ll give her a house, a car, a trip anywhere, but not a grandchild,” she recalls. “When people ask why I’m not married or why I don’t have kids, my default answer is that maybe it’s not for me. It can be weird if I tell them how happy I am. I feel complete by myself.”

What if you regret your decision and it’s too late? “I sometimes check myself if I have second thoughts, but I don’t. They say you can’t lose what you never had. I really decided on how I wanted to live. I know some feel sad for me because I live alone and that I somehow filled my desire to have kids with my dogs. They don’t know my story. It’s okay not to be a mom.”

We get to be a million other things, anyway.