Child-free folks keep complaining about all those societal pressures they experience to have children. As a childless person, I have to ask, who oppresses me? Also, can I have somebody come oppress me societally for not having children? It sounds like that would be fun. I totally dig feeling oppressed, especially when there is nothing I need to do to feel it.
Seriously, though, aside from a few comments of the “And why don’t you have a baby?” variety, it’s ludicrous to talk of any societal pressure to have children. What I see instead is a huge societal pressure not to have any.
Imagine sharing during a job interview that you are planning to have a baby within the next year (or three children within the next ten years, or two within the next five). Is such a person more or less likely to get hired than the one who can state they will never have children? Right you are.
Maternity leaves in this country are ludicrously short or simply non-existent. Paternity leaves are simply not there, which is a barbarity of a major order. How many people can say their careers stalled because they didn’t have children? Exactly.
Most job contract specify that you will get between 12 and 15 vacation and sick days per year. If anything constitutes pressure not to have children, this is it.
Pregnant women get hounded with unwanted intrusive advice from the moment they announce they are pregnant. If they don’t feel like sharing the news very fast, they are persecuted with intrusive questions and insistent staring on their bellies. They are questioned and criticized for their choices of how, when and where to give birth. They are badgered right into the delivery room if their choice of delivery method is not the most fashionable one at the moment.
So-called “lactation specialists” hound women in maternity wards and do everything they can to bully them into breastfeeding the “right” way.
Stores and restaurants often turn people with children away. Colleagues raise their brows and emit frustrated sighs when a parent shares that their kid is sick and they won’t be able to make it to the next meeting.
There are no breast-pumping facilities at most places of employment. Daycare costs are ruinous. Diaper-changing stations (especially for fathers) are few and far between.
And have you ever tried dragging a pram into a bus? Have you ever shopped for maternity clothes? If there really existed any pressure to have children, wouldn’t stores be filled with beautiful, fashionable maternity clothing?
All of the things I listed – and many more – constitute true societal pressures not to have children.
Not having children is an absolutely valid life choice. It’s a choice that I have made so far. However, it’s a choice that doesn’t make you particularly brave or non-conformist. Deciding to have children, however, does require courage.
P.S. The next post in this series will contain a list of psychological reasons why people do and do not want to have children. Stay tuned!