Something I’ve touched on tangentially in previous posts is the idea of the “life timeline.” That is, the idea that there are certain steps to be taken in sequential order towards some societally defined understanding of success. Since I’ve taken many of these “steps,” I’ve started to get the question every newlywed or aging woman gets: so when are you going to have children? And to this I have two things to say:
- The outright assumption that I am going to have children is not cool. From those close to me it’s less offensive, as my love for children and my open life plan both indicate an intense desire to be a mother. But for others, children are not in the plan. They are not the end goal, and to assume a woman wants to be a mother implies that her identity is only defined by her relationships with others (daughter, wife, mother). In a world where women’s rights are better protected and enforced than ever before, to allow a woman’s worth, capabilities, or personality to be defined solely by her family is unacceptable.
- Even if it’s very clear that a woman wants to have children, it is a sensitive subject. For me, timing is everything; between finishing school and starting my career, I have to carefully plan when I’d like to start having children in order to maximize my time with them and my potential career trajectory. Other women may be privately struggling with infertility or marital problems, which makes having (or not having) a child a very sensitive issue. Deciding to have a child is a deeply personal decision, and prying into that area is insensitive and invasive. My decision on when I would like to have children is frankly nobody’s business but my own (and my husband’s!).
With societal expectations of women and mothers increasingly unrealistic, it is essential for individuals to respect the rights and privacy of young and newly married women. Just because there is a socially approved progression of events that individuals are expected to follow does not mean that is the only way. Respect individuality, celebrate life choices, and remember the importance of finding your own way in a world still set on having everyone do things the same way.