Clarifications is a column featuring raw, unapologetic commentary on all things gender. From women’s rights, to dating culture, enjoy as Claire VanValkenburg discusses the topics everyone is afraid to talk about.
According to a Pew Research Center study, one in five American women won’t have a child before menopause, a statistic that has doubled since 1970. People with uteruses cite lots of reasons for not wanting children: financial anxiety, overpopulation, the overmedicalization of childbirth, and concerns about passing on genetic conditions are only a few.
But I don’t think I owe the world these reasons. It’s my choice whether I bring a human into this world, and asking me to explain myself is saying that people with uteruses are a means to an end. My ability to have children does not mean I should feel obligated to have one.
Thus, I think the conversation around choice in childbirth needs to shift from one of “Sweetie, why?” to “whatever is best for you”.
My mother had children (obviously), but from a young age I’ve known it wasn’t for me. She has always been supportive of my childbearing feelings, so I was excited to tell her I was writing a piece about changing the conversation around having children. Her response shifted my focus from running around shouting “Come at me world! I’m never having kids!” to a much subtler issue. An issue of maturity, recognition, and self-awareness.
“There are children in the world, and there will continue to be,” she told me. “Every adult should work to better the world for children, whether you have your own or not. That’s being human.”
Struck, I sat back and took in her motherly wisdom. Memories of working with children of all ages at my summer camp job rushed through my mind, and finally I figured out why I loved kids but never wanted them.
We will always have the next generation, and it will always be the previous generation’s responsibility to run the world in a coherent way so that we pass it on in one piece. And it matters not whether you have an heir or a family, it’s simply human nature to yearn for life, in any and every form, to keep living.
I don’t feel it is my duty to create human life, but I do feel it is my duty to care for our Earth and the beings within it, children included, so we can collectively work together to progress societies worldwide.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the world to raise the next generation. And the thing is, whether you feel you want to participate in raising the next generation or not, you are. Every action you make, every word you speak, is a blueprint for the little ones who come after you.
Mothers and fathers are aware that their every decision, from the politicians they choose at the polls to the garbage they throw in the bin, has an impact on their children, and their children’s children. So regardless of your family choices, I would beg you to consider how you are affecting the life around you, whether or not you create it.
Now, it’s up to you whether you care about the perpetual advancement of our world. But next time someone says I’m selfish, suspicious, or wasteful for choosing not to have children I will ask them this: “Did you have role models when you were a child? Were all of them your mother?”
By Claire VanValkenburg