Words very similar to these were spoken to a friend recently, as referenced as a post on her Facebook page. The gist: because she didn’t currently have children, it was sad that she would have no legacy to leave behind.
I read them, then re-read them, then chewed on them, then spit out a response of support/disgust/sympathy.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m clearly a support of moms (and all parents), through and through (I started this blog, didn’t I?) but I understand, support, and respect that not every individual in this world wants to rear children (insert gasp here).
The irony related to this comment, however, was that the recipient, my friend, doesn’t happen to have children—yet—but may very much like to someday. The insinuation is that because she is a professional woman who is unmarried and hasn’t yet had a child, she will not leave a legacy in this world.
She’s not the only person facing this issue. In fact, many books have been written on the topic: One is Beyond Childlessness, for every woman who wanted to have a child, but didn’t, whether by choice or circumstance. White women are more likely to remain childless according to an article in May 10, 2011’s USA Today, citing one of the reasons as a “delayer boom” because educated women are investing more time in their careers and putting off starting a family more and more. When many of these women decide to have children, they face fertility challenges that are often costly and emotionally exhausting.
Some are opting out of parenthood altogether–including men. This article from TheGoodMenProject.com speaks to the “fatherless by choice” speaks to men who are choosing to use their reproductive rights to head off baby-making at the pass, even before they are married. A man who chose to have a vasectomy at age twenty-eight was called selfish and immature. But to whom? Must everyone have a child to be selfless and mature?
The article also states that according to the National Center of Health Statistics “U.S. birth rate is the lowest it’s been in a century: a mere 13.5 bloody, oozing births for every 1,000 people.” (Descriptions like that just beg for more babies, now don’t they?)
One couple actually wrote a guide to remaining childless–and speaks to when having children moves from being an assumption to a conscious decision. Their book, Two is Enough, A Couple’s Guide to Living Childess by Choice, explores the decisions to not have children and provides an “accessible point of entry into the exploration of the childfree partnership.”
A sample interaction from the book: “So why did you get married if you didn’t want kids?” asked the new dad, the husband of one of my friends.
Huh? “Love . . . companionship,” I blurted. (Wow, so everyone doesn’t get hitched to have kids and be in the “club?” I never knew.)
Clearly folks get married for companionship, support, and love–not just reproducing legally–and I respect that. Personally, I couldn’t imagine my life without children, but it’s not for me to decide that having children is what everyone else should do. I mean, come on, we all have examples of parents who shouldn’t be parents.
But what about the loving people who would be great parents (like my friend), and just haven’t been able to have a child yet? What if they don’t have that baby they dream of. Will they still leave a legacy behind in this world long after they’re gone?
The answer is: of course they will. Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks were both childless, and the Civil Rights movement would never have made such strides without their leadership. And my friend my never gain Rosa Parks status, but she has given her incredible gift of time in the Richmond community for a children’s non-profit, so she is building her legacy in the hearts of families she’ll never meet every single day. I pray that she is blessed with the child she wants. But I know that, if she’s not, her legacy will never be in question.