I was born and raised in a country where there is a well-founded expectation that once a couple is married, they should bear children. In the first few years of being married to my husband and the first few times that I went back and visited my place, many people known and less known to me would ask me how many kids we’ve got. And when I counter “No, we don’t have one” or “we don’t have any plans”, I would be thrown in a wall where they would open fire me with machine gun of intrusive questions, foreboding and even unsolicited unnecessary advice.
“Why? That is so selfish! Why don’t you share your blessings!”
“Do you have a problem? You know I can recommend my doctor. I once struggled to get pregnant but lo and behold, I now have three bunches of joy.”
“God will never bless you if you don’t procreate!”
“You are not getting any younger. Have kids so you’ll be happy!”
“What do your parents say? I’m sure they do not agree with your decision!”
“Have kids even just one, so someone will look after you when you get old and frail.”
To opt out of parenthood is a choice my husband and I made. It was a decision sealed conscientiously and more than eleven years later, that decision still stands firmly. No, we don’t have animal pets either.
Our society has made a huge progress into accepting gay rights, same sex marriage, feminism, freedom of speech and other issues that decades ago would nail someone to a spot of perpetual condemnation and punitive measures once found committed. However, progress seems to be quite slow when it comes to understanding that parenthood or natural motherhood for that matter is not a mandate, social or otherwise. That some women may not have the maternal instinct or even if they do, they made a conscious decision to keep their bodies from serving as a vessel for another human even with a properly functioning reproductive system, thus posting a no exit sign to their gene pool.
The reason can be varied and highly individualized to personal beliefs, experiences and preferences. There are those who choose not to reproduce because of the marked influence of less than desirable family dynamics. Some want to focus on their careers and build wealth and believe that they can do these if they are not bound to major domestic obligations. Others unflinchingly suppose that our biosphere is already suffering from the inflictions caused by population explosion, to such a degree that they don’t want to count up to its carbon footprints. A few refuse to become reproductive prodigies due to medical conditions. And some just simply revel in their autonomy from children.
The reasons are positively personal but are absolutely not short of logic and sensibility. And it is as normal as the rationales of women who are inclined to be pulled into a maternal magnetic field.
Normal as those on the other side of motherhood fence may assert, being childfree is still viewed by many with moral outrage. The society’s attitude towards the deliberate nonbreeders can be too condescending to emphasize that the choice is morally wrong, thus charged with selfishness and sentenced with unhappiness beyond reasonable or should I say, unreasonable doubt by a handful of people. More so, they are unwarrantably accused of utter insensitivity by a few of those who have strong desire to bear their mini mes but sadly, have weak reproductive capacity to do so.
Personally, I feel sympathy for those people who yearn natural parenthood so strongly that it is impressed in them that this is the absolute purpose of their existence, however, the potential to do so may either be too slim or completely absent. That is in all respects heartbreaking. Some may feel that life may be too cruel and unfair to snatch from them the only thing that gives essence to their being. I can fathom the depth of their griefs. Nonetheless, for some who take offense and get infuriated in knowing that there are other people who are biologically equipped to reproduce but commit themselves to childlessness, is also cruel and unfair. The latter is sometimes subjected to brutal criticisms and comments to mean that their decision magnifies the former’s anguish and despondency. This is preposterous and irrational to the core.
One time, a friend blatantly commented that I fall short of comprehension of the sacrifices parents make for their children because I am not a parent. We were talking about her child throwing tantrums then. I am still a child to my parents and I fully understand what they had to give up for me and my siblings.
While it is literal that I am not a biological parent, I have my fair share of parenting to some of my nieces and nephews. I have changed diapers. I have bravely faced the giant poop attacks and projectile motion of pees targeting my face while changing their nappies. When they were left to me a few times so their parents can have a brief respite, their cries in the middle of the night became my alarm clock that it was yet again another feeding time. At times, I woke up in the morning with their feet on my face. I took them to their favorite kids restaurants and chased them around while apologetically asking a waiter or a waitress not to collect our foods yet. When they were sick or hurt, I got worried sick too. True, happiness is multiplied… and so is the pain. I have loved them like my own. Should I add, I take pride and joy to be called “Nanay” (mother) by them.
To not meet the conventional expectation of our society regarding procreation does not breach social norm. Deliberate nonbreeders just created a different path and made a different choice, a choice that is prudent and equally purposeful as those who choose to have children. Once that choice was precisely calculated, carefully thought of and willfully executed , potential regret is unquestionably out of the equation. That choice should be respected.