Today my maid asked me why I don’t have children, and I told her we are saving money and have only been married for a short amount of time. Then she asked how old I am. 29. At that, she proudly informed me that she had her first child at 18 years of age and was in labor for two days. “What kind of endorsement of motherhood is that?” I wondered as she continued to tell me that I should hurry up and have children before it’s too late. My answer that we’re saving money is like a white lie. We are saving money, but frankly I am not in any hurry to become a mother, and the Baby Momma hype about women who wait to long and suddenly yearn for motherhood is feeding a mythology that erases women like me. Would the world have embraced Tina Fey's "gynocrentric" movie if instead of craving motherhood she went to great lengths to avoid it?
Strangers seem to think my unproductive womb is a reasonable avenue of discourse, though. Last week at the gym I was talking to a Nigerian-American woman on the treadmill beside me, and she asked “Why don’t you have any kids?” as if my lack of procreation was a personal affront. She’s a proud mother of two, and let’s underscore “proud,” but even women I know who don’t define themselves by motherhood have been making unwarranted comments to me. Yesterday at a game of mahjong I mentioned I was making angel hair pasta with artichokes and olives for dinner and the Australian art history professor-turned-expat-housewife quipped “you’re going to make a fabulous mother!” Or perhaps I’d be a crappy mother who happens to occasionally make pasta dinners.
And when I do talk about having children, it makes people uncomfortable. After a certain amount of wine, I will tell you the results of the Punnett Squares I made for myself and my husband. The odds are that our hypothetical offspring will have green or blue eyes, strawberry blond hair, and be average-to-short in height. If it’s a boy, he will go bald, and if it’s a girl she’ll have polycystic ovarian syndrome. What kind of parent knowingly creates a child under those circumstances? I will also tell you I will never breast feed and want a C-section at 8 months so I don’t get fully fat, and if that doesn’t make you start crossing my legs for me, I’ll keep blathering until you’re ready to call social services in a pre-emptive strike.
I am maternal toward my cats, but I shrink from other people’s babies. They say your own are different, but who wants to bet a human life against those odds? Even if I am just selfish and superficial, aren’t those also great reasons not to procreate? If I change, then I might also change my mind. I can’t predict what I’ll feel at 33 or 35, but right now what I want to give to the world I give through teaching and writing. I think the biggest thing I can do to minimize my carbon footprint is not to make another one. And although my reasons and my thoughts aren’t really anyone else’s business, I also think perhaps I should find a way to talk about choosing not to become a parent.