“Of course you do, you’re just too young. Every girl wants to have children at some point in her life”. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard this sentence. Someone asked how many children I wanted to have, and when I politely said that I didn’t want any, they got all offended, as if it were absolutely outrageous. This reaction mostly came from adults, but unfortunately, I’ve heard people my age say this as well. But get over it, everyone. Some girls and women don’t ever want to be mothers, and that’s okay.
This is something that is deep in the minds of our society : every girl has to have children. For many people, motherhood is a crucial part of being a woman. In other words, if you don’t want to ever bear children, you’re not a real woman. This idea, in addition to being disgustingly sexist, is toxic for all genders. First of all, this statement is cisnormative (the idea that everyone is cisgender, comfortable in the gender they were born into) and erases transgender women who are not capable of having children. Moreover, it erases cis women who are not capable of having children because they are infertile. The idea that women have to prove their womanhood by having children and raising them is complete nonsense. Not all women are mentally and physically capable of having children, but that doesn’t make them any less of a woman.
Furthermore, this idea makes women who do not wish to raise children seem like monsters, because it’s considered a duty for women. If you don’t have children, then you’re considered “not whole”, as if there is something missing from your life. There is this strange idea that women who decide not to be mothers are less sensitive, less kind and have less empathy than those who do. However, I know plenty of people whose mother is abusive, unkind and disrespectful. This idea is not only stupid, but also false and illogical.
Moreover, these kinds of beliefs contribute to internalized misogyny (when women are sexist towards other women). I’ve heard some women say how “strange” it was for a woman not to have kids, as if it were some kind of natural duty. As weird as it might seem, some women actually contribute to the idea that women are, in some way, forced to be mothers to feel “complete”. It’s also very sexist in general, because women are expected to prefer having children instead of a career. This might seem like a belief from the 19th century, however many people still think this way. Strangely though, if the genders are reversed, then no one thinks it’s weird. If a cis straight man said he would rather stay single his whole life and not be a parent, it wouldn’t bother anyone – because once again, cisgender heterosexual men are allowed to live the way they want.
So no, being a mother isn’t required to be considered a “real woman” – or at least it shouldn’t be. Being a parent is a great joy, but also a responsibility that some women do not want to take, and that’s perfectly okay. Having or not having children is not what makes you a woman. You decide what makes you a woman, not others. Being a woman is many things, but only you get to define what it means for you.