Motherhood — it’s not for everyone. Yet we live in a society that pushes it as the one path of femininity and womanhood above all. For women who choose not to head down that road, they’re usually subjected to all sorts of invasive questioning, unsolicited advice, and are generally made to feel as if they’re making a mistake by not having children. To be clear, I’m not talking about women who want to have children but haven’t found themselves in a space to do so, but rather the women who — for their own personal, valid reasons — have chosen not to procreate and raise kids. Women like actress Cameron Diaz.
Diaz has spoken previously in the past about not wanting to have children, but in a recent interview with Esquire, she laid it all out there in a way I really respect:
“It’s so much more work to have children. To have lives besides your own that you are responsible for — I didn’t take that on. That did make things easier for me. A baby — that’s all day, every day for 18 years. Not having a baby might really make things easier, but that doesn’t make it an easy decision. I like protecting people, but I was never drawn to being a mother. I have it much easier than any of them. That’s just what it is. Doesn’t mean life isn’t sometimes hard. I’m just what I am. I work on what I am. Right now, I think, things are good for me. I’ve done a lot. And I don’t care anymore.”
Listen, being a parent is hard, and I appreciate the acknowledgment, but it bugs me that we live in a world where someone like Cameron Diaz needs to couch her life choices in this way. We’ve put so much pressure for women to become mothers that an “us vs. them” mentality immediately springs up when the subject of parenthood arises. And really, there shouldn’t be a competition between women over whose choices made more a more difficult life — and yet, we see that a lot of the time.
Chanel Dubofsky, a writer who frequently covers the topic of being childfree, wrote that she can relate to what Diaz is saying: “I look at parenting and think, shit, that looks really hard. But also, things I’ve been through and parts of my life are also really hard, but in a different way. I think it [parenting] looks harder to me because I don’t want to do it.” I asked Dubofsky — who got pushback after writing about being childfree for this site — how we start to break down the misconceptions surrounding childfree women. “I think we have to remember that everyone is an individual,” she shared. “I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.”
And yet, many people do forget this fact, and feel the need to explain to childfree women what they’re missing out on, suggest they’ll change their minds later, or not-so-subtly suggest that they’re actually sad about not having children but just embarrassed to say so. The simple fact just might be she doesn’t want to have kids. I only have one child (by choice!) and I get enough flack from family, acquaintances, and random strangers about it that I can’t even imagine what it must be like to navigate this world as a woman who chooses not to have any children.
So to have a big name like Cameron Diaz be open and upfront about the topic without being condescending or confrontational? Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction. Then, maybe we can stop being hyper-focused with what some women are doing with their uteruses and pay attention to the stuff that really matters (ahem, like this last season of “True Blood” and ZOMG Jason and Eric!!!!!).
Avital Norman Nathman blogs at The Mamfesto. Her book, The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood To Fit Reality, is out now. Follow her on Twitter.
[Image via Esquire]