All Articles Tagged "childless"
Do women feel more social pressure to become mothers?
According to one recent study, it depends. The study, which was conducted from a national survey of nearly 1,200 American women of reproductive ages, but with no children, says women who choose to be permanently child-free perceive more social pressures to become mothers; however, they are also less distressed about their choice than women who are childless from infertility or other reasons.
Well duh! Did we really need a study to let us know that women do not all share the same goals, values and opinions in life? And better yet, that women who made the choice to stay childless, more than likely won’t feel bad about themselves not being a mother than those women who want to conceive but can’t? Likewise, who are these horrible people knowingly bringing up the “baby issue” with a woman with infertility problems? However, there is one caveat to this study worth noting: Hispanic and African-American women were least likely to be voluntarily child-free and were more likely to have “biomedical fertility barriers” such as infertility. That pattern was the opposite for white women.
In other words, the black and Hispanic women surveyed of reproductive age actually desire children, however because of fertility issues, they couldn’t conceive whereas white women were more likely to voluntarily be childless, thus not concerned about social pressures to procreate. I found this interesting because I have long suspected that black women were more receptive and beholding to traditional gender roles including motherhood.
From my own experience, I do find there to be a kernel of truth to this finding. There is no other deity more revered in the black community than the black mother. If you ask the Afrocentric metaphysic types, she is thought to be the source of life and raiser of the next generation of kings and queens. Thug dudes would probably shoot you dead if you speak ill of her and college educated mommas boys often cite her advice that “Nobody is good enough for my son.” R&B male singers often write songs about her and mom dukes is the first person thanked by male rappers at award shows. And even how we relate to Michelle Obama has more to do with her being a good mother and wife than any of her career and professional achievements. Let’s be real, being a mother is a huge part of our collective cultural identity as black women. And with that kind of social pressure coming from within the community, it is no surprise why motherhood is seen as such an attractive option as well as a dire strait if you can physically produce children.
And as an option, there is nothing wrong with becoming a mother – if that is truly what you really want. I can share from first-hand experience that the suspicious glares you receive once it is discovered that you don’t have baby pictures and tales of bad-a** Kwami to share with the rest of the girl group is enough to send any woman running anxious to the first s***m donor. In fact, that’s almost what happened to me. I was 27 years old at a friend’s family BBQ. The men were outside grilling while we ladies were running our mouths in the living room. As usual, the group of women began sharing anecdotal stories of being wives and mothers. While not being able to totally relate, I laughed and smiled with the rest of them, because even childless and ringless, I can appreciate a good story. Anyway, the host of the BBQ turned to me and said, “What about your kids?” I smiled graciously but told her infatuatedly, “Yeah I don’t have any children. Don’t plan on having any children. Bu I do have a cat though.” My host genuinely looked perplexed. “You don’t want children? And how old are you again?” I told her my age. “Well, I always believed that you can’t trust a woman who doesn’t have any children or a husband.” And I always believed that you can’t trust a woman who doesn’t know how to properly make potato salad. I mean, the potatoes aren’t suppose to be crunchy you know. I didn’t say that because at the time I didn’t think of it, but hindsight always brings out the better quips.
But what I did think about was that if I wasn’t much stronger in my conviction, or had really wanted children but couldn’t physically produce them naturally, this – being shunned by my peers – would probably break me. If I wasn’t strong, I would worry myself sick about why I lacked the maternal instinct to desire the joys of motherhood and make bad decisions with men all in the hopes of fitting in. But fortunately for me, my biological clock never was a loud ticker. In fact, I’m pretty sure it is broken because while most people look at baby pictures and coo, I look at baby pictures and think about the cost of baby clothing and doctor visits and having to come home from a long day of work to make them well-balanced meals, when really I would be content crashing on the couch with a Lean Pocket and a Capri Sun juice box. And I’m pretty sure of that despite the assurance of some distrustful women, who have told me over the years, “You’ll feel differently when you have them.” Yeah, right.
The good news is that there is some change in public attitudes toward childlessness, with 59 percent of adults disagreeing with the assertion that people without children “lead empty lives.” Moreover, the rates of childlessness among nonwhites has been rising, with black women and Hispanic women increasing their childless ranks by more than 30 percent, which probably means that we are exercising our choices to construct our own identities, whether it be as mothers or childless aunties, in our own image without heeding to, or even being distressed over, social pressures of what it means to be a real woman.
With all the talk about people slowing down their baby making because of the economy and the decrease in marriage—and the inherent headaches we know come with child rearing—it was sort of assumed that childless adults are happier than parents but that’s not necessarily the case.
Two new studies presented at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting on almost 130,000 adults, 52,000 of which are parents, shows parents today may actually be happier than non-parents. And even though parental happiness levels drop some, they don’t fall to what they were before having children.
“We find no evidence that parental well-being decreases after a child is born to levels preceding the children, but we find strong evidence that well-being is elevated when people are planning and waiting for the child, and in the year when the child is born,” according to the study presented by co-author Mikko Myrskylä of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany.
So basically having a child doesn’t mean your life is over like some adults think.
Another study had a slightly different finding. Among some 120,000 adults from two nationally representative surveys between 1972-2008, parents were indeed less happy than non-parents in the decade 1985-95, but parents from 1995 to 2008 were happier. According to co-author Chris Herbst of Arizona State University, what’s happened is happiness among non-parents has declined, making parents happier in comparison. Although the evidence isn’t clear as to whether the average parent today is less happy than someone without kids, he says what’s “undeniable, however, is that parents have become relatively happier than non-parents over the past few decades.”
The age you decide to have children has some effect on the level of happiness. Those who become parents at younger ages have a downward happiness trend, while postponing parenthood results in a higher happiness level after the birth—although researchers say that doesn’t mean women should wait until very delayed ages to procreate. The number of children one has may also play a part. According to Myrskylä:
“The first child increases happiness quite a lot. The second child a little. The third not at all.”
So much for the benefits of being the baby in the family.
Are you happier as a parent than you were without kids?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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Ladies! I have a few questions I’d like to ask:
“How many of you ladies have a child or children?” and…
“Do you think it’s selfish for a woman not to want children?”
An article from New York Magazine, by Jennifer Senior, raised some interesting points about parenting. Are all parents necessarily happy to be parents?