Choosing Between Suzie Homemaker and G.I. Jane
By Ashley Withers of The Daily Campus
I have been a nanny since the 9th grade, so over the past seven years I have spent a ridiculous amount of time with kids ranging in age from two to 13. I love kids and I love spending time with them, but I also love that moment when their parents arrive back home and I can hand over the responsibility to someone else.
The lessons I learned as a nanny were invaluable. I learned responsibility, time management and about seeing the world through someone else's eyes, but the biggest thing it has taught me is that I never want to be a parent.
The first time I told my friends that I wasn't interested in ever having children they were shocked. I was having brunch with three of my best friends from home at our favorite cafe. All three of them love children and absolutely cannot wait for that part of their lives.
They were commenting on this adorable baby in the restaurant and saying how much they wanted one of their own when I blurted out, "Ew! I never want to have kids."
Now, I admit that I didn't phrase it in the most respectful way, but they looked at me like I was an alien, like I wasn't even a woman.
However, recent statistics show that I am not alone. Census data from 2010 shows that nearly one in five American women end their reproductive years without a child. In the 1970s that rate was one in 10.
My friends have since come to terms with our distinctly different desires, but they all still adhere to one of society's unspoken rules: at the root of a normal woman's life there must be a desire to get married and have children. If this isn't your underlying yearning, then you are an "other." As a female I have to pick between Suzie Homemaker and G.I. Jane. This hardly seems fair.
What about those of us who fall on the middle ground? Those of us who believe that a woman is still a woman even if she never sees herself as a mother. Those of us who believe that the sexes have different roles in society, just not ones as narrowly defined as historical traditions would suggest.
The more I talk about not wanting to have children, the more I hear the same response from people: "I'm sure you'll change your mind" or, "Give it time."
It's not about time. It's about my ability and freedom to make that choice.
As it is, our society doesn't let any woman make that decision. Look at Oprah Winfrey, one of the world's most successful women. She created her own brand, hosted a top-rated television show and ran her own magazine all at the same time. All of this success, but she isn't married and she doesn't have kids, so what do people assume? They assume that she must be a lesbian, because no "normal" woman would want to live her life without a husband and kids.
Take a look at political pundit Ann Coulter. Whether you agree with her politics or not, you can't deny that she is the embodiment of a powerful female. But she is almost 50 years old and still unmarried without children. Though she is one of the biggest champions for conservatism, people in her own political party often point fingers and say that she is not a real woman. According to them, she doesn't have the same "family values" as the rest of the Republican Party.
Deciding not to have kids is an automatic social divider and I am aware that this decision will probably separate me from friends in the future. As my generation grows up, mothers will inevitably replace me with play date pals who are more relatable, and likewise I will seek company with people who have chosen a more similar lifestyle to myself.
Both sides of the decision face consequences. This is not some bash on people who truly have the desire to raise children. I think that is an incredibly noble cause. I am just asking for the chance to make the decision for myself, without becoming a social outcast. I am asking to culturally redefine feminism as something empowering for proudly feminine women.
Now, I am not naïve enough to think we can change this societal stigma overnight. I have come to terms with its implications on my own life and fully accept the challenges ahead. And in the future, I may actually end up having kids, who knows?
But it is my right to choose and in all respects, I will still be a woman for doing so.
Ashley Withers is a senior majoring in journalism and also serves as editor in chief of The Daily Campus. She can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org