My book club recently read Rhoda Janzen’s hilarious memoir, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Janzen is childfree, and in an interview included in the back of her book, she was asked if this was a difficult choice. She begins by sharing that her then-husband’s bipolar disorder was a factor, not only the risk of passing his condition on to the next generation, but also because they felt they “couldn’t provide a stable parenting environment.” Certainly very sound reasoning. Then she took her answer a bit deeper, and this is what blew me away:
You know what troubles me? The notion that we should reproduce just because we can. Seems to me we should be able to articulate some proactive, deliberated reasons for bringing a child into the world. When women cite their biological clock[s], I wonder if they’ve thought that out. Shouldn’t human beings assess their biological urges as well as admit them? What if we’re having babies to feel less lonely, more needed? If so, we’re using someone to make us feel better about ourselves. That’s a little creepy.
I’m one of those women who “assessed” and, for many well-considered reasons, decided motherhood would not be the appropriate path for me. It stuns me that other people, and our baby-obsessed society at large, still frown upon this process, this logic. “Creepy,” indeed.
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.