The female empowerment movement has largely characterized the past decade. Feminists rail against all that could be associated with a patriarchal society, demanding better pay for working women, equality in sports (or even an erasure of gender divisions), and the eradication of traditional dating, relationships, and families.
Their goal is liberated, confident, and powerful females who act unencumbered by any societal pressures or expectations once imposed on the sexes. Interestingly, though, this movement disregards or even denounces one of the greatest faculties of womanhood — a power that is uniquely female and absolutely extraordinary — giving birth.
The Lies about Pregnancy and Motherhood
Despite all of the wild advances of 21st century science and medicine, biological women are still the only sex that can bear children. Female fertility is an incredible gift and one that, more than anything else, sets us apart from men. However, in the past decade, this narrative has shifted, and many women are being convinced that pregnancy is an inconvenient and sometimes terrifying obstacle to becoming one’s truest self. This is evidenced by the birth rates in the United States. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 2018 saw the lowest number of babies born since the ‘80s. Women are choosing to not have children in large part due to the lies that they are being fed about pregnancy.
“You Will Be Happier without Kids”
One of the most upsetting falsehoods is that those who choose not to have kids are ultimately happier than those who choose to raise a family. One study published in the American Journal of Sociology states that there was a wide “happiness gap” in the United States, with 12% of parents exhibiting less cheerfulness than childless adults. The study cited a variety of financial reasons (such as lack of paid parental leave) as one of the main causes of this unhappiness.
Women are told that happiness is ours for the taking — but that it won’t be found in motherhood.
Researcher Jennifer Glass stated that “most parents are completely happy with the fact that they had children… But loving your children and feeling devoted to them is not the same thing as having a stress-free experience.” The absence of stress is not synonymous with happiness. True happiness reaches far deeper and often requires self-sacrifice and other not-so-hunky-dory feelings. Just because parents can be faced with certain stressors doesn’t mean that they aren’t happy. And just because childless adults have more time and money to spend on superfluous, fleeting pleasures doesn’t mean that they are happy.
It seems that these studies are equating happiness with ease, convenience, and gratification rather than joy and fulfillment — which a woman undoubtedly receives from loving her child.
“Kids Will Harm Your Career”
The threat of a sacrificed career also makes women quake at the thought of getting pregnant. Women are being told more and more that they need to choose themselves (meaning, their career) over having babies. A career, according to today’s society, is far more fulfilling than parenting.
In an article for Cosmopolitan, entitled “Why These Women Are Choosing Not To Have Children,” one woman said, “I’ve been able to progress a lot quicker in my career by not having children - as sad as that sounds. Because I don’t have constraints or time commitments I’ve been able to throw myself into it 100% of the time. My career, and now my business, gets my attention and focus. I feel certain that by not having children the business is growing and flourishing at a much quicker rate than if I did.”
Women are told that we have the freedom to choose the life that we want — but that we probably shouldn’t choose motherhood.
An article for The Cut highlighted several women who experienced discrimination in the workplace before, during, and after pregnancy. Snide comments, being excluded from meetings, and difficulty earning coveted promotions were all listed as terrible “side effects” of choosing motherhood while being a working woman. Isn’t this only half of the story, though? Aren’t there plenty of women who are thriving in the workplace and at home? And aren’t there plenty of other women who have found that motherhood, rather than a career, is their calling?
In a piece for The Guardian, one mother talks about how having “no career path” after pregnancy was the best thing that happened to her. “Perhaps I thought motherhood would make me weak and passive; would strip my feminist beliefs. On the contrary, it has further filled me with fury and passion. Motherhood has made me efficient, productive and committed,” she wrote, describing how motherhood enabled her to launch her own online magazine.
There are women, like this mom of seven and a full-time banker, who prove that you can manage motherhood and a career. She doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties that surround such a life, but she demonstrates that women are strong and fully capable of handling a whole lot.
There are also so many women who have found happiness in choosing motherhood over a career. A nine-to-five is not the only way to feel accomplished and content with one’s life.
“Giving Birth Wrecks Your Body”
Another common lie that scares women away from pregnancy is that it wreaks havoc and lasting damage on your body. It’s absolutely true that carrying a child comes with its fair share of wacky symptoms, discomfort, and pain. But the female body is made for this! We’re more than equipped to handle everything that pregnancy has to throw our way.
Women are told that we are capable of anything — but not motherhood.
Unfortunately, instead of being told these truths about the incredible wonders of the female body, women are now made to think quite the opposite. An article for Vox details the ill effects that childbirth can have on a woman: “Among the typical symptoms women face in the first week after childbirth: heavy bleeding, abdominal cramping, constipation, hemorrhoids, chills, night sweats, difficulty going to the bathroom, engorged breasts, back pain, headaches.” An article for Glamour highlights the risks and lasting effects of PTSD on pregnant women. Another article for Cosmopolitan speaks about the psychological effects on women who had children but later regretted it.
While these pieces may ring true for many who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth, they also fail to recognize the beauties of motherhood. They don’t talk about the natural glow that pregnant women exude or the joy that one feels every time a flutter is felt within the womb. They don’t talk about the instant love that a mother feels when, after hours of labor, she holds her newborn in her arms. They don’t talk about the beauty of sacrifice or how worth it it is for so many women to give over their bodies so that new life can grow.
There are countless things that make a woman strong, beautiful, and fierce. Popular culture has tried to diminish one of those amazing strengths, though. Women are told that we are capable of anything — but not motherhood. We’re told that we have the freedom to choose the life that we want — but that we probably shouldn’t choose motherhood. We are told that happiness is ours for the taking — but that it won’t be found in motherhood.
Instead of believing and spreading these lies, we should lift up, support, and celebrate those who choose to have children. We should recognize pregnancy and childrearing as a precious gift and a talent that is particular to females. And we certainly should not be afraid to take on this joyful, life-giving challenge.