21-year-old Gloria sits across me in the waiting room at a general hospital. I can sense her discomfort as my little boy tries to get her attention; smiling and waving at her. She deliberately refuses to smile back, say hello or even wave at him as she keeps her eyes focused on the headlines on the glossy magazines lining the road to the receptionist. “I’m so sorry,” she says “I don’t really like children. They’re so much trouble. I’m never going to have one.” I immediately realize that there is no ill-will intended. But then, the question popped in; “why did she feel the need to apologize?” It seemed that this was not the first time she felt that she owed someone an apology for not willing to entertain their children. Upon trying to find out more, she tells me:
“Sometimes, I toy with the worry of having future regrets but I feel I’m going to be miserable if I ever have a child”
Apart from lacking maternal urge, Gloria certainly feels that children take a lot from our time and finances and she can’t bring herself to give up the kind of life that not having children will afford her; running her own consultancy, weekend sleeping-in, frequent travelling and shopping around the world.
Gloria is not the only young woman I have come across who sees parenting this way. 27-year-old Huda, an attorney tells us; “Personally, I experienced motherhood in a similar way. Growing up, I never ceased to mull over the little details about the happy little family next door. From the little girl playing in the garden to the twins trotting off to school, all I ever dreamt of was having a family of my own.”
It wasn’t until she got married and had her son that Huda discovered how hard motherhood was. For a while, she resented her new role as a mother but she kept it to herself for fear that she would be thought of as less of being a woman. If she could make that choice over again, she says, she wouldn’t.
“I love my son so dearly,” Huda says“but deep inside; I wasn’t prepared for all the sacrifices that came with having him.”
While most mothers admit that having children is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, they are quick to point out that the rewards outweigh the challenges. For a number of women across the world, this is not the case. In a world where birth rates are going down and maternal doubts are increasing, why do women who have deliberately chosen to be childfree feel judged? This unexplored maternal experience is almost unspeakable but there really are women out there who either do not want to have children or wish to undo motherhood.