Childless by choice
I found this interesting article about childlessness by Amy Leask through Philobiblon, and it got me to thinking about my own experience of choosing not to have children and how it really differs from Leask's account, which seems more in line with how most women experience social disapproval for not having children.
I am, you see, childless, not because of any misadventure or ailment, but because I simply haven’t had any children. Nonetheless, I’m confronted with this fact on a fairly regular basis, at the most inopportune times, in the strangest places. I am faced with a steady stream of “Why not?”
I've had people grill me on why I'm not married sometimes, and occasionally about whether or not I intend to have children. But it would be dishonest to say that I'm the victim of constant hectoring on the subject, and this got me to thinking about why it might be that I'm mostly spared. A few things occured to me. For one thing, I'm officially The Weird One in my family, so they don't bug me about shit anymore because they don't really want to know what kind of odd answer they're going to get to their inquiries. Also, I'm not in my 30's yet. In most of Texas, being 27 and childless is still cause for alarm, but in liberal Austin, it's pretty much the norm for women to put off child-bearing. I imagine in a few years I'll get a few more nosy questions.
But then another possibility loomed in my head as I read this part:
Perhaps it’s a matter of politics. My partner, although he does what he can to defend my honour, is never subjected to the same scrutiny. It isn’t us who should be thinking about babies, it’s me. In the estimation of others, life will go on as usual for him, while I consign myself to diaper duty. My career, my ambitions, my interests, and hell, even my sanity seem to be worth less than his.
Ah yes, the man factor. I had never considered it much before, but my man is quite opinionated on the subject of children, and his opinion is that he dislikes them and will never have any, thank you very much. He tolerates our friends' children, but that's it. And most people I know accept his anti-child attitude without question, and certainly I've never heard anyone suggest that it's un-manly somehow to dislike children.
Which makes me wonder--do people leave me alone because they think that the decision to have children has been made for me and therefore there's no reason to question it any further? It makes me distinctly uncomfortable to think about that, and I'm sure no one consciously thinks it through like that, but there is the lingering possibility that this is, in fact, the case. People feel free to pester women about these things when they wouldn't feel comfortable pestering a man. In other words, am I inadvertantly using a man's authority to justify my own decisions?
Well, even if this is the case, there's really nothing I can do about it. It's not like I'm telling people who ask me, "Oh, he doesn't want children so I can't." It doesn't even get to that point, since I'm rarely asked. But could people be leaving me alone because they think that's the answer they are going to get anyway?