When I say I’m a loner among my feminist friends for wanting children, I’m not judging them. I simply cannot relate.
“I love you, Miss Stoddard.”
Those were words I routinely heard during my year as an AmeriCorps volunteer at an elementary school in Richmond, Virginia. They were also words that I routinely returned.
When my first-graders learned to read a new word, I loved them. When they solved a math problem, I loved them. When they drew or colored, I loved them. I even loved them when they fought, punched each other, and called each other names.
They were not perfect, but they were innocent and unique and beautiful, just as children are.
I was 22 going on 23 when I met them, and in my last year of college. Most of their mothers were my age — a fact that regularly reminded me that I was in childbearing age more potently than anything had before. I was in no position to have children then, nor am I, four years later, quite ready for them yet, but AmeriCorps reinforced my desire to one day have children.
That desire makes me an outlier among my feminist friends. Yes, most of my friends are my age or slightly older and yet virtually none of them want children… ever.
They argue that women deserve respect and autonomy over their bodies. I passionately agree. A few of these friends are, like me, engaged or married, but even they don’t want kids. One of my engaged friends says she and her fiancé may want to adopt children later in life, after they’ve had the chance to travel extensively.
I respect my friends’ decision not to have children because I respect their right to choose what they want for their bodies.
Women need more choices, not fewer.
So when I say I’m a loner among my feminist friends for wanting children, I’m not judging them.
I simply cannot relate.
Children make me giddy, whether I’m on the subway or in the park. I relish the chance to play with them at family get-togethers and neighborhood events. I’ll listen to the stories they want to tell me. I’ll jump in on Double Dutch. Kids are cute and they are part of our legacy.
Even when children are cranky or annoying, they’re still sweet, and I’m looking forward to the day when my husband and I welcome our first child. We want to raise a responsible citizen of the planet to share our lives with us and one day help make the world better than it is now.
When my friends and I talk about children, fear usually enters the conversation. Fear isn’t the only reason my feminist friends don’t want children, but it’s often a factor. Though I share their fears, the end goal makes me willing to face them.
One fear is the process of childbirth. I’m terrified of childbirth, but I realize it’s a necessary part of having children. I also embrace it as one of the gifts I've been endowed with by nature. My body's potential to create life is special. Sometimes it even seems magical.
No one should feel forced to fulfill their body’s potential to have children, but we should all respect the power that exists.
I want to experience childbirth, even if I’m scared.
We’re Brooklyn artists making middle-class salaries, but we don’t want standard suburban, middle-class lives. We recognize the limits to the material things we will be able to provide for our kids.
Another fear my friends and I share is the cost of raising children. That’s why my husband and I have started saving for the family we want to have one day. I’m also scared of, as some friends say, “messing up” my kids, but I accept that no parent or single parenting style is perfect.
I will strive to give my children unconditional love and put their wellbeing at the forefront of my mind. It doesn’t mean I always will. What I can do is ask for forgiveness, learn from my mistakes, and truly accept my full responsibilities as a parent.
Yet another fear is the prospect of ruining of our careers.
I know it will be hard to balance motherhood and my professional ambitions, but I’m not expecting these two endeavors to be equally balanced. Sometimes, the scale will tip in one direction. That’s why I’m co-parenting and not going it alone.
I trust my husband to support me as a mother and as a professional writer/artist. Of course, I can’t just assume he knows what I want, which is why we’ve had frank conversations and come up with a preliminary plan that allow me to keep my career once we have kids.
Though some people might accuse me of wanting it all (husband, career, kids), I’m not looking to keep up with the Joneses. We’re Brooklyn artists making middle-class salaries, but we don’t want standard suburban, middle-class lives. We recognize the limits to the material things we will be able to provide for our kids.
Key word: “material.”
I doubt my husband and I will be able to afford the latest toys and video games, for example, but those things aren’t necessary for a happy, healthy childhood. We will provide for our children in other more meaningful ways.
Despite the aforementioned fears, I still want children one day — and desperately so. When the time comes, I, as a feminist, will choose pregnancy and childbirth for my body.
It may take actually having children to find fellow big-city feminists who are parents, too.
It will take research, exploration, and trial and error to make and sustain those friendships.
But like the feminist I am, I will seek out women’s groups and appreciate the power that emanates from them.