Tag Archives: women’s rights

5 Reasons Why I Say I Don’t Want Kids

Babies are everywhere these days. The ubiquitous mini-humans are all over my Facebook feed; the mall is full of strollers; my friends talk about their conception windows. Here in Colombia, baby season (roughly 9 months past Carnaval) is upon us.

What is it about being a young female that people look at you and think, “she looks like she’d love to wear maternity jeans!”? The pressure multiplies when you hit your mid-twenties, regardless of your marital status, your economic fortitude or, you know, personal opinions.

Suddenly, the all-consuming question is, “When are you going to have kids?” 

It’s a common icebreaker, considered within the appropriate range of small talk. And in some cases, it can be. But it shouldn’t be an assuming, leading question that frames the concept in a “not if but when” format.

This has got me thinking. Why do we think it’s okay to ask women this question? No one asks my male friends when they’re planning to procreate.  They get asked about their careers and their cars.  Especially here in Colombia, where women struggle against the prevalent machismo culture and teen pregnancies, I feel that it’s important to present an alternative view to the assumption that “women are for making babies and keeping house.”

I used to laugh it off, but lately I am more likely to challenge the idea. It usually starts a conversation where I can voice these opinions and try to broaden perspective on the issue. So sometimes I say “I never want kids” just to rebel against the assumptions.

“I don’t want kids,” I’ll say.

“Never ever?” they ask incredulously.

“I have other priorities,” I declare.

Now, let me clear. I don’t actually know whether I want to have children. Maybe so, maybe not. That’s for a private decision in the distant future. And furthermore, I am not advocating against having children, or criticizing well-meaning, curious small-talkers. Nor do I want to detract from the absolutely beautiful concepts of motherhood and building families. This isn’t an argument for or against having children, or wanting children, or even liking children. It’s simply an argument against the subliminal underlying assumptions of this question.

So I am going to challenge the basic presumption of “When are you going to have kids?” until we start asking the questions that matter. And on that note, here are five reasons that we should stop asking that question.

1.Being a mother is not my raison d’etre

Despite the fact that we live in the 21st century, society’s treatment of motherhood continues to be archaic (see also: outrage at breastfeeding in public; anti-abortion laws).  This extends to society’s ideal of what womanhood is about. Let me start by saying that womanhood and motherhood are NOT THE SAME THING. Not being a mother doesn’t make me any less of a woman.The assumption that a woman’s highest purpose in life is to procreate is, simply put, sexist. It suggests that her value is not measured by her intelligence, her creativity, her strength, her compassion and her unique human spirit.

When a woman becomes a mother, something I’m told is life-changing and intrinsically beautiful, she adds a new, intimate relationship to her existing plethora of experiences. She grows as a person and develops new perspectives and wisdom, but she doesn’t become valuable for her new role in society. She is already valuable.

2. I want to be remembered for my work, not for my offspring.

From what I can tell, having children has biological and evolutionary importance. Historically, biological offspring are a way to carry on one’s legacy in the gene pool. The more children, the more allies; the more DNA you spread, the more likely you can dominate and ensure survival. Luckily for me, I’m not a cavewoman. Hear that? My survival isn’t determined by physical tribe-on-tribe battle. My legacy gets to be something else. Like whatever I want. So there.

I don’t want to detract from the obvious benefits of a genetic legacy. It must be beautiful to see your own DNA duplicated in a mini me. Children can carry on your family name and values. However, I’d prefer to define my legacy by things that I’ve done. In particular, I want my words and experiences to be my legacy, and whether that’s by writing them down or by telling them to offspring is up to me.

3. I don’t want to define my success based on other people’s standards.

My  goal in life is not: “get married, buy a house, have kids.” I see that our society still defines success as having a family (especially for women.) You haven’t reached success until you fit that standard. It is disgusting to see the amount of pressure that society uses to teach women that their purpose in life is to have children, whether it is through subliminal gender messages in the media and toy store or well-meaning but insulting comments that seem to say, “I know better than you what you should do with your life.”

4. Having kids isn’t on my priority list.

People used to say, “oh, but just give it a few years! You’ll come around!” Yet here I am at 25 years old, and I still don’t see them in my 5- or 10-year plan. The truth is that while I love kids, I can’t imagine them in the foreseeable future. I see many other priorities.

One of my priorities is to further my education. I am heading for my master’s next year, then I’ll probably pursue a Ph.D. sometime after. I love to learn and analyze and teach, something that won’t likely change.

Another goal is to work in a field that continuously challenges me and brings me close to people and places where important things are happening. I love to be close to the action, and I love to be part of the difference being made.

I have so many other dreams and visions and goals and for now, children would just be an obstacle to accomplishing what I feel I’m setting out to do. No one should have kids unless they are ready for them. They’re not on a to-do list.

5. I don’t feel any need to say “yes” to satisfy societal pressure.

I am sick of people asking when I’m going to have kids. Why don’t they ask if? I understand that it’s a common thing to do, but it’s not fair to assume that just because everybody else is doing something that I should, too. Don’t teach me to think for myself, then tell me to follow the crowd. You’re being inconsistent, society.

This recent article in the Huffington Post, about talking to little girls, shows the powerfully deceptive ways that gender roles are perpetrated.  The author made me think about how we phrase our assumptions in the form of a question. When we ask the question a certain way, we’re suggesting that the answer fit the same format. So if you say, “When do you want kids?” I can’t answer with a “yes” or “no” or “maybe.” It has to be a time frame. And that’s not fair.

Ask me another! 

I am speaking up for my fellow women who, whether or not they have or want children, are worthy of their dreams and goals. I am writing for everyone who has felt pressured to fit into a societal box or to fulfill “a biological paramount.” I am standing up my right to say, “if” or “never” or “ask me a better question.”

Let’s try to empower women for their abilities instead of reinforcing their stereotypes.  Here is what to ask next time:

Q: When are you going to have kids? 

Q: What are you passionate about? What are your dreams?

Many young women are doing exciting things and have unique perspectives to share about their passions, their interests, their dreams. Take that as a conversation starter and see what you can learn!

So, the next time someone asks me, “When are you going to have kids?” I have my answer ready: “I don’t know if I’m going to have kids, and that’s okay. Ask me about my dreams!”

Advertisements

Girls Leading Our World: Camp GLOW in Colombia

GLOW_2015 1452
Camp Glow 2015: 37 Colombian teenage girls from across the Caribbean coastal region and 13 PCVs pc: Richard Grijalva

Summer camp…

Singing songs around the campfire.

Hiking and friendship bracelets.

New friends and wind-up cameras.

The idea of camp always energizes me. As a camper, then a counselor, wrangler and finally director, I’ve seen summer camp from every angle.

And from every angle, the camp experience continues to be unique, unforgettable and powerful, with the potential to be life-changing and to act as a catalyst for learning and growth for all the kids involved.

image2
A camper helps pick up trash with a positive service attitude.

Camp and PCVs  One of the most rewarding project opportunities for a PCV is to bring that once-in-a-lifetime experience to the kids we  serve.  Continue reading Girls Leading Our World: Camp GLOW in Colombia

“I was mother and father to my kids” // “Yo fui padre y madre para mis hijos”

 

Elisa

Author’s note: Elisa is a very special person in my house here in Colombia. She and my host mom have known each other for 20 years, sharing a friendship in addition to an employer-housekeeper relationship. She is a positive and patient presence in our house, teaching me her delicious cooking techniques and telling stories about her grandchildren. She is a perfect exemplification of the beautiful strength and endurance of Colombian women. This is her story. 

I left my village, Momil, displaced by the injustice

Momil is a town in Cordoba province
Momil is a town in Cordoba province

and violence. They killed a lot, seizing peoples’ homes and terrorizing everyone. People lived in desperation.

Continue reading “I was mother and father to my kids” // “Yo fui padre y madre para mis hijos”

On Sparks

Today, I was reminded of the spark. You know the spark–that little thrill you get when you do something you’re passionate about, for a cause or a reason or a person. In this case, it was the spark of excitement I get when I work in fundraising and grant writing (if I just lost you, reader, I understand.) It was a reminder that I have a skill set that I carefully cultivated, currently enjoy, and am able to offer to a willing audience at my NGO project.

Just in case I haven’t mentioned the project much before, four of us trainees are volunteering at a local non-profit called CEDEsocial, which focuses on women’s rights, reproductive and sexual health, domestic violence victim assistance and a variety of other related topics. One trainee works directly with the beneficiaries in a safehouse; two girls split time between workshops with children and translating materials in the headquarters; I work in fundraising, marketing and event planning for an upcoming forum on sexual and reproductive rights in Colombian legislation.

These tasks line up perfectly with my skill set and experience: I just finished an internship in fundraising/grant writing and another in policy, following a few odd jobs in marketing and communications. Best of all, they line up with my passion! As mentioned, I get the spark when I get to work with an organization with a great cause and active staff!

Today, I met the fundraising professional and found out that there are all kinds of great opportunities to streamline the donor solitication process, which could make it easier and faster for her to build donor relationships. There are also options to build relationships within the cultural context, which will be fun. Most interestingly, the culture of philanthropy and giving is very different here, so I have a lot to learn and some unique challenges. Sounds fun, right?? Are you feeling the spark yet?

Regardless of your ‘spark’, it’s important to find one (or two or three.) There are all kinds of studies and opinions and debates about finding jobs based on loving the stability or loving the work, but one principle stands: the more you are passionate about the subject matter, the less it feels like work. So go find a spark, and put it to good use!