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Monday Postcard #180 – Questions about Children

Monday Postcard #180 – Questions about Children

Monday Postcard 180 Children

For today’s Postcard, I chose a very personal and rather delicate topic. It is the question about children. Frankly, this Postcard has been saved on my laptop for a while, but only now do I feel it is the right timing for me to write publicly about it. Today I finally published it and – spoiler alert – this Monday Postcard is quite a long one as well. 

As a woman in my mid-thirties, it seems that family planning is the only thing which should currently be on my mind. Forget about your business, your career, your interests. You are only a full person – or rather woman, because men are never cornered about that topic – if you reproduce.

I sometimes feel that women cannot seem to get a break. When we are single, we are asked “But why?!”, or we get a pitiful face telling us that “the right one will come for you too” (once you pass the age of 30, it is only the pitiful face). Once we are in a relationship, the question is when we get married or why we have not gotten married yet. (If it is the latter, it comes with the added comment that “maybe HE has commitment issues”.) Once we are married, the pressure is on for children – because, let’s be honest, why would you get married in the first place? And once we have one child, the question about the next one is already asked while the first one cannot even walk as yet. (Because “an only child will have issues”.)

I personally find these questions and comments very intrusive – and so do most women I talk to. I assume (or hope) that most people ask these questions without the intention of violating privacy. It is just accepted by society to ask these questions, it is “normal” to ask about it. In Austria, it is an etiquette faux-pas to talk about money or ask your counterpart for which party they voted in the last election. But it is perfectly acceptable to interrogate women (and I explicitly stress women here) about their private life – whether it is in the private or the professional environment. How is this possible?! 

First of all, it ultimately is a private decision made by a couple and whether they decide to have children or not, this decision does not affect anybody else. Secondly, I wonder if the people asking these questions think about how hurtful it can be: It is not only judgement of somebody’s life choices but can also be extremely hurtful for those who cannot get pregnant. Imagine you have been trying for some time and it does not work out? Imagine, despite miscarriages, you are still not giving up hope and trying. Yet, the pressure does not stop and other people remind you every day that it has not worked out yet.

I am being very honest with you here: At the moment I really do not know if I want to have children. If I mention this in conversations, I usually here a version of the following:

“But you may/will regret it later.”

“You will be lonely when you are old.”

“You will change your mind once you have one.”

“Every woman wants children, that’s just the way it is. Something is wrong with you if you don’t want them.”

And the omnipresent reminder about getting older: “Your biological clock is ticking.”

I have never been a woman who was obsessed with children. I think I just do not have these motherly feelings which are very normal for other women. When I was in my twenties, I thought this may change. Maybe later, I would feel this wish to become a mother. But up until now, it has not changed. I think it is OK. I actually do not put pressure onto myself about this topic. I know a lot of women who felt or feel the same. Some of them had children and they are amazing mothers, others decided not to have any and are happy as well.

And this brings me to the reason why I am writing this Postcard: Whatever a woman chooses, it is ultimately HER choice (naturally, also the one of her partner). And for those who still try to convince me that women have to have children to be complete: No, it is perfectly fine not to have them.

I have gotten used to people not understanding my lifestyle choices – whether it is about my career, my relationship (yep, inter-racial relationships cause way more controversy than you may think, even in 2021), or the question about children.

If I say that my partner and I may not have children because we want to have a life which involves a lot of travel and we both want to have a career, we are called “selfish”. Why is this selfish? It just affects the two of us. There is no one else who has to suffer if our plan does not work out. And why are there so many emotions about a topic which – I reiterate – is a private decision? Interestingly, I see that women react way more negatively to this than men. (I have no idea why, maybe it is because some try to legitimate their decisions by convincing others to take the same path?)

I have written about a beautiful love story in one of my previous Monday Postcards. The couple I referred to had no children. Yet when I think of couples who I admire for how they treated each other and what they experienced together, they are among them.

“You may/will regret it later.”

It is not “selfish” to choose a different path. And yes, the risk is there: I will get older, and I may even regret not having children. But even if this happens, it is MY problem. And guess what – maybe a woman/couple does not regret not having children. Maybe they would regret putting their dreams back just for the sake of coming up to the expectations of society.

“You will be lonely when you are old.”

Do I really need to elaborate on this? If it is selfish not to have children, how selfish is it to have them just that you are not lonely when you are old? Furthermore, I know plenty of families who had fights and where children are not in touch with their parents anymore. Just putting a life into the world, does not mean everything will work out as planned.

 “You will change your mind once you have one.”

What if I do not? What if I am just not meant to be a mother? What if this just does not make me happy? It is not that I do not like children. I think I am a great aunt (no self-praise here but my presents are amazing 😉 ). I am just not sure if I want children myself.

I am not insulted if someone tells me they could never live in a city like Bangkok, because it would be too “hectic/noisy/dirty/hot/…” for them. I understand it. It is a personal choice. But please also do understand that I would not be happy if I had never left my hometown, had children and that was it. (I stress it again – I do not judge here. I am just comparing how it would feel if I made the same judgemental remarks about what is considered “normal”.)

See Also
Monday Postcard 150 Letter to My 20 Year Old Self

“Every woman wants children, that’s just the way it is. Something is wrong with you if you don’t want them.”

Well, I am sorry to break it to you but there are many, many women who just do not want to have children. There are also studies which show that couples without children are happier.

Furthermore, men are celebrated if they are single and have an interesting life and career when they are older. They are called “eligible bachelors” – it is implied that they chose this “heroic” lifestyle. But when women do the same, they are frowned upon or it is implied that “no man wanted her”. In the workplace, our performance is measured with the same key-performance indicators (KPIs) – very often putting women at a disadvantage. But in our personal life, double standards are still the norm. Why not applying the same standards?

Whatever studies may say or whatever society deems “the right thing”, happiness is a subjective construct. Everyone has their own definition of happiness. For some, it is to have children, for others it is to live in multiple countries, others decide to be single, others just want a relationship without children. Whatever you choose, it is perfectly OK if it is YOUR decision. 

Every life and every relationship is different. I do not know how I will think about this in a few years. Let’s just see what happens. But I would like to share one idea or a piece of advice here: Next time, you ask someone such a private question, put yourself into their shoes. Would you like to be asked private questions in a nosy way? Probably not. There are so many interesting topics to talk about, I am sure we can talk about something different, something which does not pressure others or makes them feel uncomfortable.

How do you feel about this topic? What is your experience and how did you deal with it? I am curious to know and happy to discuss!

More Monday Postcards

Monday Postcard #179 – Edible Memories

Monday Postcard #178 – Two Worlds, One City

Monday Postcard #177 – Running a Business Pandemic Edition 2.0

Monday Postcard #176 – Are We Really More Connected than Ever?

Monday Postcard #175 – Please Don’t Call Me Sweetie, Darling or B*tch

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