The Baby Fever Debacle: Society And The Eternal 'Mom Stamping' On Women
It happens like this: we see a cute baby on Instagram or Twitter, and instantly our ovaries (if we have them) crave a little mini version of us. Our hearts flutter a bit, our eyes widen. It’s customary. It’s expected. Baby fever is a disease many of us just can’t seem to shake. We should want to have children. We should aspire to have children. As women, it’s expected of us to give birth. To look forward to giving birth. What, then, is to be said for women who don’t have these maternal urges? Are they less of a woman because they don’t seek to have children?
While the answer is quite obviously no, the responses these women get to the choices they have about their body is often ridiculous. Quickly, their womanhood is rejected, their femininity annulled. Unsurprisingly, women’s identity is tied to their ability to bear children. Not having them—choosing not to have them—may as well be a crime against humanity. Women have the agency, the right, to choose what they want to do with their bodies in any capacity and having children is one of them.
Often, this choice is quickly discredited by naysayers. If these women are young, they are told this decision is because they haven’t fully lived life as if their age makes their decision less valid. As if, even if their decision does change in the future, it wasn’t valid in the past. It’s ludicrous to believe a woman is simply confused about wanting to bear children because she doesn’t want to. The identity of women is so intrinsically, so thoroughly, linked to motherhood that the thought of breaking that bond is monumentally unheard of. The identity of women is also intrinsically linked to marriage; a woman, as feminist writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stated, is expected to aspire to marry, unlike their male counterparts. Women, when being questioned for their choices, are also asked how they plan on finding a husband if they don’t want kids. Hello! By finding a partner that doesn’t want children either!
TV personality and fashion guru, Jeannie Mai, had a similar fate with her marriage. Despite the fact that she told her husband she didn’t want children, he thought he could convince her. He thought that she would “come around,” that she was young and naïve, that she didn’t truly know what she wanted. But she did! She does! Women do! It is disrespectful to think otherwise. This schism played a major part in the divorce between Jeannie and her husband, but it could have been avoided had he not assumed she would change her mind about something so important.
The ramifications this thinking has on women is heartbreaking. Women consider themselves inferior. They think something is wrong with them, that they are not “real” women. Tying women’s identities to the children they can produce and the man they marry is dated, consequential thinking. It is a running extension of the patriarchal societies we exist in. Women are not mere objects of reproduction. They are not trophies to be shown. They are complex, decision-making human beings that get to choose what they do with their body and how they do it. Their decision to have children doesn’t make them any less of a woman. Just because they don’t hear bells ringing and birds chirping every time they see a chubby-faced baby does not mean anything except for the fact that they do not want kids. It is their decision, their body, and most importantly, it is none of our business.