Growing up in a religious family, having children was an expectation. In church they would preach about how it was a woman’s purpose to bear children as if it were the only thing we were good for. As I grew older and encountered children younger than I was, I found that I didn’t like being around them. Babysitting was always an enormous chore. Religion is not the only institution that pressures women to have children. Society as an institution pushes women in media, literature, and even children’s books that they have to be perfect and have children. The only way a woman can seem successful in America is if she defines herself as a wife and mother. In the spotlight, Jennifer Aniston, at 49 years old, is constantly pressured to have kids, especially after the film We’re the Millers where she depicts a pseudo-mom. She said that she gets frustrated when in interviews when they ask, “Oh, if I was to have a child how many kids do I want? And do I want a boy or a girl?” But she goes on to say how happy she is with the life she has with her friends, career, and partner. Women who already have established careers have immense pressure to prioritize family. For someone like myself, my career is important to me, and I want to focus on that, but I’ve never been drawn to the idea of children. I want all children to have wonderful, loving lives, and I don’t think I could provide that for them. Having children and a family can be very fulfilling for some people, but it isn’t for every woman, and that’s okay.
In Professor Jason Whetten’s Psychology 101 class here at NAU, we learned that a parent’s happiness increases when a baby is born and then absolutely plummets as they grow. The “happiness scale” jumps back to normal once the children are no longer living with the parents or financially dependent on them. According to Dr. Mark Holder, a professor at the University of British Columbia, in the United States parents suffer from what he calls a “happiness deficit.” This means that parents’ overall satisfaction decreases. Although, Dr. Holder admits there are studies that show happiness increasing. In response, he muses on the idea of “children and the meaning of life.” In media, women are depicted only as a mother, and there are no other qualities to them as their sole “meaning of life” is to rear children. They lose their individual identities and become “the mother.”
I also heard once that men and women report the same amount of happiness when successful in their careers as people who have families, but there isn’t any information on this. The only world experience I’ve seen on the subject is my own personal feelings and the feelings of those I come in contact with. In everything that we are exposed to, why isn’t there a conversation about not having children? It seems that even search engines believe the only thing women want is children or children and a career. The idea of no children is unfathomable even to an algorithm. Media, literature, articles, and blogs are all about having children and careers, which is fantastic for those women, but what about women who don’t want children at all? It seems that the only way a woman can be whole is if she has children.
In terms of money, CNN reports that the average total cost of a child in 2015 was $233,610. This number only factors children from birth to seventeen years old, and a lot of parents help their children through college. Call me selfish, but I could buy a small house to live in with that money. The article from CNN goes onto give tips on how to save money fast and asks the question, “Is it too early to start saving for college?” Seems like a pretty bleak future. Double-income-no-kids (DINK) couples are able to make more money because, both individuals of the couple are working and they don’t have to spend it on their kids.
Sarah Gervais of the psychology department of the University of Nebraska says that while having money isn’t necessarily the end-all-be-all to being happy, it is incredibly important: “Having a higher income, for example, can give us access to homes in safer neighborhoods, better health care and nutrition, fulfilling work, and more leisure time.” She also warns that people often think that materials or things will bring happiness, but it’s really experiences that bring people joy. I would personally like to experience traveling, concerts, helping others in need without having to worry about a kid. As previously mentioned, I grew up in a religious household, and my sister was asked when she was going to have kids numerous times just after she was married. At that point, her and her husband weren’t even considering it, and she was judged for even waiting to have children. Society needs to change its view on women and child-bearing, because it creates defensive emotions and distrust in relationships between friends and family. It puts child-rearing above what an individual wants. Children aren’t terrible and having them is something that a lot of people want to do with their lives. It’s wonderful and beautiful, but it’s also not for everyone.