Happy New Years!
I loved my Nana but she was a bitch and she was awesome. She joined the Navy in World War 2 and worked, from her home, for many years. She was also restrained by the expectations of her generation. By the time I was ready to ask her about her choices in life, her brain was suffering from dementia and I couldn’t get the answers I was looking for. I listen to the stories other people tell about her, especially my mother and grandfather. I always get the sense that she had children because she was expected to have them. My mother, on the other hand, wanted her own children. If the context I see is correct, I’m more like my grandmother than my mother. I too don’t want babies and you can’t make me have them.
I tried to find gifs for this post with babies having tantrums and meltdowns. They are nearly impossible to find because people don’t share them. I mean, clearly I did… Social media and the way we interact with it is almost designed to make us only see the good in our lives or, at least, the staged “good”. We love thinking that babies are adorable and smarter than we give them credit for. This is true, but they’re also needy, unable to communicate, prone to meltdowns, and poop machines. Yet, they are above the other three, considered the main thing women are good for (at least traditionally and if you believe romance novels).
The traditional Happily Ever After is about the marriage, which is why so many of them end right there. It’s about finding love and getting what the narrator or main character wants/needs from love. The stories about the baby-side of a romance story are often limited to the narrator longing for what she sees from current mothers. She wants what she believes the other woman has: the coveted baby. This is why she needs to lose weight in the first place. She needs the right man to father her children.
When I was writing short stories for Phi Alpha Pi, I thought a lot about what would happen to Lizbeth and Wil over the years. I wondered if they would get married and have kids. If so, how long would it be after the story for this all to happen? Lizbeth was clearly not thinking about marriage or kids. She was worried about the immediate things in her life: graduate school and possible careers. I didn’t think she was the kind of woman who would suddenly pivot and decide that babies were necessary. I considered Wil and his plans for his life. I realized the two would get married, but when they were ready. It wouldn’t even be a big wedding, just a small ceremony with family and close friends. That felt right for them. Then I realized they would also wait even longer to have kids and it would not be a traditional family. Who knows how family gender roles will shift in the next decade, but I realized that Wil was the stay-at-home father while Lizbeth continued to work.
But all this went into a short story and much of it understated in that story. Even in the Modern Persuasion stories, Emma and Fredrick’s baby story doesn’t happen until two years after the original story (and it’s just a pregnancy announcement). Nowhere in the book are any of them worrying there will never be babies in their lives. Emma, the one who interacts with her nephews in the book, isn’t looking at her sister’s life and longing for babies. Her wanting them has nothing to do with the plot or understanding who she is.
Stop making women think they have to have babies! They can be happy and fulfilled without them. Stop writing characters who are obsessed with this. It sets up women to do things they don’t want to do and then feel like failures when they can’t live up to their fantasy of motherhood. Kids are jerks and it’s okay to not want one or more than one. You’re purpose on this planet does not have to be limited to reproduction.
Surprise bonus information: I’m apparently baby magic… kids freaking love me. I think it’s because I am not exhausted and annoyed with my own children. Also, I don’t deal with poopie diapers or tantrums. I hand them right back to their parents.
In the comments, tell me a novel that never mentions babies at all.
Bonus gif… I was looking for a gif about babies and I found one of Matt Bomer talking about his kids. It was sweet and since he is my perfect man, I went looking for gifs…