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Women in Focus

Not wanting kids: one of the last taboos

by Marie-Sarah Published on December 17, 2015

Emmanuelle, 34, is in a good relationship and has worked at a job that she loves for the past five years. She bought a home two years ago and has a healthy bank account. So Emmanuelle must be planning to have her first child, right?

“No,” she replies when people ask, a glint of defiance and annoyance in her eyes because she is asked the question practically every day. Many of the people around her simply can’t comprehend why a woman in her thirties who can bear a child wouldn’t want to have one. The very notion is taboo, one of the last in a long line of taboos that our society has moved beyond when it comes to the way we view families.

After all, we live in an age where “modern” families come in all shapes and sizes: common-law spouses, single-parent families, gay parents. Nothing shocks us anymore because we’ve become so open-minded that we no longer have preconceived notions of what a “normal” family should look like.

We give ourselves a big pat on the back for being so evolved about our modern families...except when it comes to families made up of a couple that chooses not to have kids. This, we still judge and these judgements are tinged with sexism given that far more women than men are condemned for this choice.

There are many reasons that explain this persistent taboo/double standard, the main one likely being that people feel more validated in their own decisions when others make the same ones. So if you’re a parent, you’re more likely to second-guess or judge peers who choose not to have kids and are free to come and go as they please.

But those who judge this choice fail to consider that there are many ways to support, help and contribute to the lives of kids without having your own. Many childless people have jobs where they help kids every day or play the role of doting aunts or uncles.

There’s also this generalized assumption that taking care of kids and putting them first is somehow proof that you’re a selfless, altruistic woman and that those who don’t want this lifestyle are simply selfish. To which many would respond that, on the contrary, the women who choose to have kids but lack the financial and emotional resources to raise them are the ones who are really selfish.

Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is that even in this modern age, women are still pressured to have kids and for many, the common belief that you have to have kids to be truly fulfilled is enough for them to lead a life that may or may not be right for them.

As for Emmanuelle, when asked why she doesn’t want kids, she turns the question back on the person and asks: “What makes you think I should want kids?”

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