Pro All Choices

[Content Note: Reproductive coercion; shaming; sexual assault.]

At Rewire, Eleanor J. Bader has a fascinating review of sociologist Orna Donath's new book Regretting Motherhood, about Donath's "in-depth, five-year study that involved 23 pseudonymous Israeli women," all of whom wish they had not had children.
Donath's subjects ranged in age from 26 to 73 and included single, divorced, and married women of all class backgrounds and education levels. All had at least one child; offspring spanned from toddlerhood to middle-aged adults. Five of the women were also grandmothers, and while all were Jewish, the majority self-identified as either atheists or secular.

Donath's conclusion is forthright: Motherhood should be one choice among many, no more or less valid than other life options.
That conclusion is a subject of great interest to me, and one about which I've written many times before, perhaps never as pointedly as in "Pro-Choice: Choosing Not to Parent," where I noted:
Motherhood doesn't make everyone happy. What makes people happy is being able to fashion their lives into the shapes they want.

This is a reproductive choice we don't talk about so much, because it's inevitably inferred to be implicitly censurous of parenting and/or children. I am not anti-parenting. I don't dislike children. I am, however, deeply contemptuous of the bad faith interpretations that misconstrue child-free advocacy as one of many reproductive options to be inherently anti-parent/child. I talk about my happiness being child-free because I support a spectrum of equally valid reproductive choice, which includes parenting, too.

It's important for us, collectively, not to silence women who choose and are happy to be child-free—and not just because we're a useful demographic to defend the need for comprehensive reproductive choice and undermine bullshit gender essentialist, cissexist narratives about "natural instincts" and "what women are meant to do." It's important because there isn't really meaningful choice without a public discussion of all those choices, by the people who made them.
That should and must include women who have chosen to parent and wish they had made another choice.

Deciding to parent is a monumental, life-altering decision — and most women make it in a culture where there is enormous pressure to have children and an intense silencing of women who have chosen not to parent and women who regret choosing to parent.

The discussion around parenting is so overwhelmingly lopsided that there are women (and men) who don't feel as though choosing not to parent is really even an option.

It is.

And it is a very good option for an enormous number of women. It would have been the better option for a lot of women, too. And they should be allowed to speak about that without being shamed or monsterized, or even assumed not to love the children they have, even if they wish they hadn't had them.

Particularly when many of them were cajoled, forced, or tricked into having them.

I have made the choice not to parent, and I want other women to know that's a viable option. Not because I think my choice is inherently better than another one, but because it is an equally valid choice.

And because I am pro all choices. I am pro all of them being spoken about frankly.

[Additional Related Reading: I Cannot Truly Want What I Am Told I Must Have and Childfree 101: Cultural Reproductive Coercion.]

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