Definition: Woman; Mother
A true question of the attitude to the 21st-century woman in our society.
I am a mother, I am 31.
According to social norms, I have completed my lot in life. Going by what is apparently a more socially equal world, I am a woman therefore I MUST have a child. So how does society approach those who don't?
Naturally, we question why they haven't had a child
When we get gainful employment, as a woman, our probability of maternity leave and our ages are a factor that comes into consideration in our 'hire-ability.' So, step one in equality is out of the window.
Men are, rightly so, demanding more paternity leave, and men can have children at any age, at any point in their life. Granted their sperm is effected, but they can still procreate for all intents and purposes until the day they pass. And yet their employability is not effected. But I digress.
Regardless of social stance, when women are at a point in their life where they 'would have,' or to some, 'should have' children, as an employee they become a risk just in case they run away to become a baby-making machine. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
Now there is another consideration. What about the women who can't or won't have children? They are still going to be looked at as someone who could venture off to parenthood pastures.
Take for example the women who chooses not to have a child. There are modern women out there who let their career and work be their definition. These women are amazing!
One woman I know has not only been in a relationship for well over a decade; they have chosen not to marry and have chosen not to have children and in a world that still looks at women as the procreator, she is constantly barraged by the questions of "When are you having a baby?" or "When are you getting married?" I know her well enough to say she would roll her eyes and in nicer words, will tell them "do one." She is fiery in her attitudes and contends with the patriarchal attitude that babies are her future and quite frankly, in her line of work, if she was to be halted in order to have a child, then that area would be at a loss because she is a talent and a force to be reckoned with. And people are so used to following their stereotypes of normal, they do not know how to react to her and strong beliefs.
It does also bring into question though how much her other half gets asked these same questions.
In our household, the roles are reversed. I work full-time and my husband is a stay-at-home father, but even on the school run, there are not so many challenges on his child-rearing probabilities. We have three, so apparently that's ok? Or is it just because he is a man? My workplace is majority women, in my particular area anyway. Lots of the women are mothers, but then we also have a large amount of younger women. When we talk to each other, we don't ask them about their future of having kids as a set-up. It's not to say we don't talk about it, but it really isn't the be all and end all of what they are and what they do.
There are more and more women I know who are conscious non-parents, and I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must be. Some of them surely must be tempted to just record their answers and just play it over and over because it it is a frustration saying the same things over and over.
Another angle is the women who are firmly ensconced in their lifestyle and their setup and are so desperate for a child, always praying, reading old wives' tales and possible fertility techniques just to get those two lines on that test, that one thing they feel lost without. Every month breaks their heart when they have that monthly visit.
Once again, as well as miscarriages, struggles to conceive and the barrage of the same questions as those others in the sisterhood. They plaster on their smiles and say not yet as if they hadn't considered the idea at that point when really it becomes such a focus of nothing else.
When you live in a society that tells you your definition is your ability to have a child and you cannot conceive, not only are you having to deal with the loss every time you get a period, you almost grieve for that child you haven't conceived as well that head space telling you that you aren't a woman or you are failing. It's amazing these women can get out of bed let alone fake that smile and say no, not yet.
Why does a woman need to be acknowledged in society as a mother? You don't even get a reprieve when you have given birth. You lay there in your bed, sore, aching, relieved. A little bundle of blankets faintly resembling a miniature person rustling and snuffling in the little plastic cot before drifting back off. Flowers on your bed, grapes and trashy magazines adorn your bedside table. In walk your visitors, cooing for a little over the little one that will soon be the blessing and the curse you hoped for. First question? Will you have anymore? It's a frustration and it's anger-inducing, but at that point you are so exhausted you tell them honestly you haven't thought about it. Never mind the possibility that you had an emergency c-section and you had to have your womb removed to save your life but yes, sure. Let's discuss my procreation schedule right now!
There are so many women in the world that have made a huge impact on the world. Look at Marie Curie and her impact on science! Look at Rosa Parks and her effects on equality just for standing up for her beliefs. So many women out there will be remembered more for their effects on the world; not their ability to have a child.
So next time you see a woman and start asking about her relationship with childrearing, ask yourself what else has she brought to the table? Is that really what matters and actually, is it really my business?