Foreword from Pam: This post is a little different for this site, but it struck a chord with me, bringing back memories of the sympathetic looks I often get when I say I’m single or without children. In fact, I have had people literally say “Oh, I’m so sorry – that’s okay – you still have time to get married and have children”. I’ve also noticed an increasing focus on the “mompreneur” which kind of drives me crazy. What about supporting those of us who are “singlepreneurs”? We, too, have our challenges. Anyway, enough from me. I hope you enjoy this guest perspective from Deidre Drewes.
Success Without Motherhood
In recent years, there has been extensive media coverage of a burgeoning phenomenon: the CEO mom, or rather, the executive wife. Powerful, intelligent women are being brought into companies as CEOs, COOs and the like. The Sheryl Sandbergs of the world make it appear increasingly achievable to raise a family while being touted as the household breadwinner.
I’ve listened to countless speeches and read numerous articles—all penned by women—about how members of our gender have become progressively career-oriented. As I try desperately to relate in my professional desires, there is one common theme that I cannot seem to get past: motherhood.
You see, I am twenty-five year old woman with an M.A. in communications who works for an Internet marketing firm. I am unmarried, childless and focused on my professional goals. My parents aside, every single person I meet seems to have a strong opinion in regards to my personal lifestyle choices. Be it on the individual level or in popular media, it is practically unfathomable for a woman to be portrayed as successful if she has not produced offspring. Quite frankly, this boggles me.
From a young age, I knew that being a mom was not something I strived for. Barbie went to the ball and bought expensive evening gowns. Barbie did not have children. My parents were privy to my evident reproductive choices and have not once vocalized their desire for grandchildren. For this, I am eternally grateful. The rest of the world, on the other hand, has not been so kind.
An older male friend of mine once, quite disgustedly, proclaimed that I was greedy for not wanting to reproduce. Shocked and alarmed, I wondered what could be less greedy than not bringing an undesired child into this world. If I had a dollar for every time someone responded to my decision to not bear children, “you say that now,” my college loans would surely be paid off already.
And so this I ask: is the year not 2012? Do we not live in a Westernized country in which women should (theoretically) be treated the same as men? Are our reproductive choices still ours to make? And why should this have any effect on our career aspirations? I dare any member of the media to ask a C-level male executive about his future plans for marriage and kids. I would bet good money that the individual being interviewed would be dumbfounded by the inquiry. Yet this type of question seems so acceptable to ask of women.
Now, I am far from a bra-burning feminist of 1960s. I still covet some very traditional values. However, I have a strong belief that merit, skill and leadership should be the deciding factors in one’s professional success. However, I am mortified by the idea that my physical capability of having children would be taken into consideration during the hiring process—if only subconsciously. Furthermore, I am disgusted by how often I am personally chastised for not wanting children at all. Women who choose to have a fulfilling career without a family are classified as spinsters or “delayers,” while men in the same position are compared to the likes of George Clooney. Does this in any way seem fair?
I never want children. Ever. I am not ashamed to say such a thing publicly because it is my owner personal choice and there is nothing wrong with the lifestyle I choose to lead. I want to be a powerful individual in my industry. I want to lead a successful career, live comfortably and travel often. I want to be my own first priority in life.
Women like me are grossly underrepresented in pop culture and it is sickening. How many times must I see Jennifer Lopez, Tina Fey and Jennifer Anniston undergo artificial insemination on the big screen in order to feel “whole?” I commend women who follow their heart into motherhood; however, childbearing should not be used to validate one’s purpose on Earth.
As a millennial, I am searching vigorously for more unwed, childless role models like Oprah to tell me that it’s okay to be successful without wanting a family. However, for every Oprah there are thousands of happy moms smattered across the pages of People and US Weekly telling me that motherhood is what my body is meant for.
Women can be successful without a wedding ring or a baby stroller. Why is this concept so hard for society to process?
Deidre Drewes is the Interactive Culture Cultivator at DragonSearch. Deidre received her B.A. in Journalism from SUNY New Paltz and her M.A. in Communications from Marist College. A journalist by degree and marketer by mindset, Deidre is a Twitter (@deidredoom) and Facebook junkie that gets her kicks from daily banter with the #usguys Twitter tribe. Deidre hails from the small town of Saugerties, NY (see also: Woodstock ’94, Jimmy Fallon), although “small town” is hardly her mindset.