Ok. I don’t like to come off as critical or judgmental but this topic, I believe, deserves some second thought.
As one of the most powerful and richest women in the world Oprah’s statement that she has no regrets having children does raise a few concerns, at least for me and for my daughter’s generation who will grow up emulating her success.
The reason why I have some concerns is that I too never wanted children. In fact, Oprah and I are probably similar in that regard. If a friend of mine spoke to me about marriage and family I would desperately try to wake them up out of their fog and shake my head in disbelief telling them that Life has so much more to offer.
But, Life taught me a lesson. (As usual)
My husband and I speak about this a lot and in fact, there have been many heated discussions over this topic because this once high powered, a type, cut throat, no excuses woman has done a 180-degree swap. And giving up the knowledge and growth I have achieved as a mom, especially a stay at home mom, is just well, impossible!
Should I have pursued my career first, my husband says no. And even though every woman gets to a point where the monotony of motherhood drives you completely insane, I think I made the best decision; for me.
Believe me, I understand the fear of curbing your career when it’s just taking off — I felt it myself — waiting until you’re 35 to try for a baby, on the other hand, remains a dangerous gamble.
Babies may well curtail your fun if you have them before your 30s, but clubbing and child rearing simply don’t compare in the long-term satisfaction stakes.
Don’t get me wrong there are, as always, pros and cons to each side.
Surprisingly, given how fundamental the question might seem to the perpetuation of the human species, the reasons for why some women want children and others don’t remains fuzzy.
Few scientists have actually studied women’s so-called biological drive to reproduce, so no universal explanation has emerged in the literature. Some attribute it to basic genetic variety; some women are into kids, some aren’t.
Satoshi Kanazawa, the controversial researcher based at the London School of Economics, looked at data from the United Kingdom’s National Child Development Study and found that all other factors in the study aside, a woman’s IQ correlated with her decision to have children.
He published his findings, which were not peer reviewed, in his book “The Intelligence Paradox.”
According to Kanazawa’s findings, a 15 IQ-point increase is associated with a 25 percent decrease in a woman’s desire for children. But while they may be more intelligent, Kanazawa said, they suffer biologically.
“If any value is deeply evolutionarily familiar, it is reproductive success. If any value is truly unnatural, if there is one thing that humans (and all other species in nature) are decisively not designed for, it is voluntary childlessness,” he wrote in his book. “All living organisms in nature, including humans, are evolutionarily designed to reproduce. Reproductive success is the ultimate end of all biological existence.”
Generally, the belief in a maternal instinct has been strongly upheld. The animal kingdom has certain mating and birthing seasons and a clearly defined biological instinct for procreation. Freud made a case for the human maternal instinct, but more recent research suggests that it has no biological basis, although there may be a psychological, cultural one.
Human beings can mate 365 days a year; a woman can become pregnant at almost any time. This suggests that choice is a necessary element, and in fact one of the things that distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. But there also has been a fear that if this element of choice were culturally approved, women wouldn’t have children.
Its true birth rates are lowering across America, most of all among educated women. A 2010 Pew Research study found 24 percent of 40- to 44-year-old women with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree never had children.
“No one ever mentions the selflessness of women who choose not to have a baby, not because they wouldn’t love one, but because they don’t feel they are in a position to provide that baby with the kind of life it deserves,” Sadhbh Walshe wrote in a column for The Guardian.
Others, like women’s issues scholar Linda Hirshman, pointed to the difficulty of finding a “worthwhile partner” after accomplishing so much.
“I think the story is a much bigger story than a bunch of brainy women sitting around in earth shoes with their legs crossed,” she told the Washington Post. “The easy answer is if you’re smart you don’t want to have children but I’m not sure that’s the right interpretation of this data. But he isn’t controlling for another factor which is if you’re really smart and accomplished you have a tough time finding a worthwhile partner.”
But with relatively few women falling into the “aren’t” category, the question of why these few women aren’t interested in kids becomes even more interesting.
The only consistent biological theory is that women with no desire to parent either have a high testosterone level or were exposed to above-average testosterone in the womb.
Whatever the reason, it feels like a very personal decision to me about what kind of life you want to have, where you place your priorities, and what makes you happy.
Children don’t make everyone happy; in fact, I’d wager that they’re a bigger source of misery for more couples that have them, than for the number of couples miserable because they don’t have them. Indeed, the studies consistently say that childfree people have a better quality of life than those with children, although those with children tend to live longer and say their lives have more meaning, for whatever that is worth.
To an extent, maybe Oprah is right. Unburdened by motherhood and the personal sacrifice it requires, she can dedicate herself to her career and create a home with all the delicate ornaments, sumptuous fabrics and hard edges that have no place in a family environment.
However, it is interesting to note that most acceptable alternatives to marriage and family have been spiritual ones. The bride of Christ, in early Christian times, was given the highest status. She nurtured a broader group, visiting Christians in prison and caring for the sick.
Queen Elizabeth, the virgin queen, resisted marriage. Though her virginity rested solely in her public image, she denied the tradition of producing male heirs to the throne. This tradition had taken on such importance that it was a cause for division. Think of Henry VIII, who failing to produce a male heir, blamed it all on Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, and executed her.
By sidestepping the model of lineage, Elizabeth was able to retain her own power through remaining unmarried. But, she took on the image of Virgin Queen, like the bride of Christ before, which enabled her perhaps to mother her people in a broader sense.
Perhaps similar to what Oprah is doing? Perhaps seeking celestial happiness a different way?
Is it even possible for a woman to be successful as Oprah and be able to balance her career with motherhood and marriage? In Oprah’s own words, ‘You can have it all, just not all at once.’
Personally, I’m not so sure. The American situation hasn’t materially improved since the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act was signed into law 20 years ago this month by President Clinton. While the United States takes great pride in its family values, it is the only high-income country that does not offer a paid leave program.
One of the lies feminists tell that gets to me the most is the lie that it is perfectly acceptable to delay having children. These days it’s even considered “too young” to start having children before your early thirties.
Motherhood Denier, I am not. If I could teach a class to 16-year-olds about the importance of having a baby while you’ve still got energy and fresh eggs in your ovaries, I would.
I might even get them to talk to some women who have had to admit that they missed the motherhood boat.
‘My mother kept saying to me, ‘quick, have a baby’.
The average age women begin having children these days is creeping up to 30. This is a problem. Too many women are going to get to their 30s and 40s and decide they finally are secure enough in their career or “grown-up” enough to have a baby only to find out they can’t.
How do we know? Because it’s already happening.
We’re in Denial.
There was a lot of buzz about Jimmy Fallon’s new baby born via surrogate. He even went on TV to talk about the pain of infertility. What was not talked about, for the most part, was the fact that his wife is 46 years old.
He informed the world that they had been trying for 5 years which means they started when she was 41, still far too old to begin trying to have a child. Yet there seems to be no real connection there. We’re suppose to feel sorry about her infertility (and believe me, I do) but not point out the glaringly obvious- the problem was age. This isn’t some horrible tragedy, some “accident” of nature; this was nature doing what nature does.
This is the perfect example of how out of touch feminism is.
Feminism is a denial of nature itself.
When you point out that women’s fertility greatly decreases after their 30s you are called sexist for suggesting only young women are worth something.
“Patriarchy!” they shout, informing you that it is classic sexism for men to want younger women. “They’ll look for anything to excuse it,” they’ll say. It’s easier to paint men as “pervs” looking for young women to use and abuse than it is to acknowledge that the reality is the feminist ideal is simply not sustainable. It’s artificial.
Would her children hate her?
I am not so sure. With as much love that Oprah has poured into the world I can’t imagine that she wouldn’t do the same for her children.
And, let’s face it. There would probably be no OWN network. What Oprah hasn’t experienced….
You enter parenthood one way and come out another. It’s just too profound to explain — you have to experience it.
Kids change your perspective on the world. Before I found out we were expecting, I wanted to be a world traveler and success seeker. I spent my time and energy attempting to discover and, to an extent, defy the world. When my first child was born, I held him in my hands and became a servant to something much greater. Indeed, the entire world was now in my hands.
Your own children make you concerned for the future
I never was a political person. I never voted, I cared little about the environment and my religious beliefs were very personal. When my family began to multiply, their well-being became my number one priority and that included their safety long after I would leave them in death.
The decisions I make now reverberate into eternity and as such, I’ve recognized and taken on more positions of power within my community to make sure the world is a better place for my kids.
And, no doubt about it, Kids make you happier. Nothing I could ever do would make me smile as big as my children. Since Oprah always quotes Christ perhaps bringing up his version of love is appropriate. True love is defined by Christ as the limit by which you are wiling to give of yourself to another (John 15:13).
There is something about the love a parent has for their child that supersedes all other loves, even the love you have for your spouse.
You see, when two people who love each other bear the fruit of their love in children, the result is an eternal echo of humble service that both mother and father are called to complete by God Himself.
Children require both parents to sacrifice their own selfish desires daily.
I sometimes lay awake full of dread about the time approaching when my parents are no longer around. To give or to receive unconditional love is a deeply rare thing.
As a rule, flawed as all parties may be, the parent-child bond is the commonest and most reliable form of that love.
No regrets? I’m still not so sure.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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