Opinions, Vanessa Tai

Can We Stop Asking This Question Already? – Vanessa Tai

It’s 2014. Why are we still fussing over whether a woman decides to have a child or not? Vanessa Tai is annoyed that such a personal decision is even up for discussion.

I was recently scrolling through my Twitter feed and a couple of commonalties jumped up at me. First, there was an article about Cameron Diaz having to explain her decision to stay child-free. Then, there was another article about Karen Mok releasing a statement to dismiss pregnancy rumours after she was photographed entering a gynaecology clinic in Hong Kong.

And I got all this from just five minutes of scrolling through Twitter.

Just today, I chanced upon yet another article that touches on this topic. In an interview for the July issue of In Style magazine, Zooey Deschanel talked about how she’s sick of the sexist double standards implicit in the question “Do you want kids?”. Deschanel says, “Like every woman is dying to give birth! I don’t think so. Nobody asks guys that. And you go into a supermarket and every tabloid is like, ‘Pregnant and Alone!’ [We are] stuck in the 1950s ideal of how a woman should live her life. This brings out the fiery feminist in me.”

Yes, yes, and yes! In this day and age where women have made such strident leaps forward in the workplace and society at large, why are we still obsessing about whether or not she chooses to be a mother???

Even among non-celebrity folks, people seem to think it’s acceptable to ask a married woman, “So, when are you having kids?” As if such a question is not intrusive enough; if the woman reveals she’s not planning to have any, she’s likely to face a barrage of questions and comments ranging from “Won’t you regret it?” to “You’re just being selfish.”

What I wanna say to these “well-meaning” folks.

The Decision To Remain Childless Is Not A Selfish One

There seems to be an automatic assumption that women who decide not to have children are just being selfish by valuing their freedom above all else. The problem with such an assumption is, not only is it reductive, it’s often inaccurate as well. People choose not to have children for a wide variety of reasons but more importantly, they don’t owe anyone an explanation. Even if a woman really chose not to have kids because she wanted more time for herself, that’s her prerogative and she should not be judged for it. In fact, isn’t it more selfish to bring a child into this world simply to fulfil certain societal obligations or as insurance against any future regrets?

Each of us has different wants and needs in life, and we shouldn’t be made to feel like we need to fit into the rigid boxes created by society. We are free to create our own rules.

Now, before anyone misunderstands, I am neither in the “Women should be mothers,” or “Women shouldn’t be mothers” camp. I’m in the “Women should be able to do whatever they want” camp, especially when it involves something as personal as her body. Being a parent is an enormous responsibility that involves huge chunks of time, money, and effort. It’s not an offhand decision to be bandied about casually at parties or during idle Chinese New Year chit-chat with relatives you only see once a year.

At present, I am neither married nor a mother. In fact, I’m still undecided if I ever want to be one. However, if I ever reach a point in my life where I have to make such a decision, I hope the people around me will respect that it’s a private decision between my husband and I. As it should be.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She gets really irked by people who can’t seem to mind their own business. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.