[OPINION] The choice to be childless: Being the woman I used to fear and despise
I have become the woman I was warned about in my childhood. I can still remember the things I have been told. I had to be careful with the company I keep. I had to stay away from "liberated" women.
It taught me my first lessons about shame. It made me feel sorry for them, most of whom were close and distant relatives. My young self hid a secret remorse about their "loneliness" and "selfishness." I didn’t wish to be liberated. I despised what freedom meant.
I remember how they talked about childless relatives with a tone of pity. Childless – like any woman without a child is "incomplete." After all, the letter W when put upside down is the letter M. A woman is meant to be a mother, isn’t she? Her womb is designed to fulfill that ultimate purpose.
A woman without a child is "less of a woman." Choosing not to have children is "unnatural." What better legacy to leave this world than to continue one’s genetic imprint?
Those marketers. They would do anything to sell, wouldn’t they? We all see it everywhere. Women should buy this and that. Women should do this – not that.
I am glad that in these modern times, though resistance is still present, the situation is much lighter for women without children compared to how it was before for us. I consider myself fortunate to be living in an era where there’s less stigma on the growing number of women who choose to live child-free. I am glad my parents let me be myself. We had disagreements but they were never too strict with me as a kid. (READ: Why I am never having children, and that's okay)
I prefer to use "child-free" to refer to women like me whose lives are not bound or limited by the responsibilities of caregiving and childrearing. We should know that women like us lead this kind of life either by circumstance or by sheer choice. I am still undecided if I want to be a mother (biological or not). I have an understanding that when my answer is “I don’t know,” then the answer is “NO.”
They say I still have time though. It’s running out. Tick tock.
Certainly, being a mom is the most important job in the world. Nine grueling months of pregnancy and a life- and body-changing, soul-gripping labor pain, followed by months of sleepless nights. And most of all, the lifetime sacrifice and liability over one precious, innocent, and helpless human being. (READ: Why I don't want to have kids)
How precious are those new lives! That’s why we need good mothers. The problem is, those who seem unable to take care of even just one child have 6. (Lack of information for proper decision-making or family planning? Yes. Poverty is a vicious cycle.)
Most of these kids will most likely grow up malnourished, lacking the many great opportunities to make it in the real world. And to add to that, these kids will become members of the voting population, and here we are hoping NOT to repeat history by giving undeserving and corrupt officials a seat in Congress or the presidency. A poor kid who grows up to be a hungry man without access to the proper facts will most likely vote for a politician who gives him a day’s or a week’s worth of money.
Also, as someone who is pro-environment, I support the idea of having smaller families so that societies avoid producing, consuming, and depleting a lot of the world’s natural resources, to keep up with the increasing demand of a growing population.
At 18, when I lost my father, I remember writing him a letter expressing haphazardly something about my future children. So many years have passed but where are they? If I truly wanted them, I would surely have them by now, wouldn’t I?
Time is running. Tick tock.
I understood now that at 18, I was too young to realize I had a lot of time to change. I remained contained in my own uncertainties and insecurities until “the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” So I learned to tone down the echoes of long-time tradition and the loud influence of the people in my past. I learned rather to listen well to the soft whispers of my own voice and trust that this path that I am leading is as self-fulfilling and happy as the other paths. (READ: My life, my choice: 'Why I chose not to have children')
I look back and see my young self who was afraid of freedom. And I look at myself now reveling in the freedom that I used to fear. If I choose to have a child, then may it be for the certainty of wanting it and not because of the people in my past who told me I am supposed to want one. Motherhood is not something that JUST happens. A woman has to want it for herself. It has to be a complete and irrevocable choice. Otherwise, how horrible it would be to bring forth a child into the world only to regret it.
I want to be the one to choose to be a mother and not some stranger I happened to talk to on the train, or my well-meaning relatives who visit once in a while to lecture me about the responsibilities of an adult and the joy and importance of raising my own family – like it was a liability I was forced to sign once I took my first breath.
Bringing up a child is the biggest responsibility OF ALL. So we need the best parents in the world to care for the future. May these parents (biological or not) be the right ones and may these innocent new lives be lucky and happy to have them.
I am grateful for good mothers (including my very own mom, my mama Tim, aunts, sisters-in-law, friends, colleagues).
And to those who are celebrating "otherhood" like myself, I am also proud of the women that we are.
That woman I was warned about as a little girl?
She is me. Liberated, independent, true, and free. – Rappler.com
Lot Ramirez is storyteller who walks her talk. She is a dreamer who explores the world and cares for the things that matter.