Monday, March 8, 2021

International women's day

When I married at 21 years old, all the elder generations in my family flooded me with their advice on what I should do to be a good wife. These new expectations of me overwhelmed me and I took these to mean I wasn’t good enough.

I made a lot of changes, including stopping doing what I enjoyed. My husband never expected me to change just because I was his wife now. But as I was expected to change, I expected him to change; and when he didn’t, this frustration drove us apart. This also affected my confidence with having children and I flat out refused to even try. Many years later, when the depression took over and I had completely changed as a person, my husband said he didn’t recognise me and confirmed he didn’t love me anymore.

I joined new leaf and their courses helped me overcome my depression. I learned to be more compassionate and became more confident. My journey continues, but with the help of their courses, my husband and I are closer than ever and we are continuing to plan our future. But if anything my experience has taught me: As a woman, we are expected to bear children.

My husband has always wanted kids. I was diagnosed with something that meant we would have to have IVF. But the pressure to have kids wasn’t from my husband. It was always from other women!

"You may never know how painful a simple question can be. Some have lost, some cannot and others choose. To protect all women from expectation, shame and guilt, I choose to challenge those who ask: when will you have children?”.

The expectation on couples to have children can come with a lot of guilt and shame and it astonishes me just how much pain family and friends can cause their loved ones because of their curiosity. When asked what it meant to me to be a woman, I responded: “To be a woman is to be curios, you owe it to yourself to explore. But in that, I challenge everyone who explores their curiosity by invoking pain in others.

I have even seen women with children being asked “when will you have the next one?” or “Don’t you want another one?” Astonishingly, I have even seen childless women complain about being asked when they would have children, who have, as soon as they have their own children, asked other women the very same questions. It’s like they forget the pain that other women go through and the expectation continues round and round, passed on from generation to generation.

Every time I am asked these questions myself, I think how thoughtless these women in my life are.

Do they not understand:

  1. That asking me on a girl’s night out or in the kitchen at a family party is not the time and place for such deeply personal questions?
  2. How painful this might be to ask this particular question?

Think about some of the reasons I might not have had children:

  • I might have miscarried
  • I might not be able to carry a child
  • I might not be able to conceive
  • I might be desperate, but my partner might not be able to give me children
  • I might have had a child and lost it
  • I might have had a stillborn baby
  • I might be in the middle of divorce
  • Or in the middle of IVF and it’s no working
  • I could have been rejected for adoption
  • I might be in an abusive relationship
  • I might have had children taken away from me in the past

and many more reasons. Each time I’m asked I think

  • If I’m feeling ashamed and inadequate about this topic already, isn’t this question going to make me feel worse?
  • Isn’t this counterproductive for making me feel ready to have a child?
  • How is this showing me that you love and care about me regardless if I have a child or not?
  • Even if I can / want to have children, where is the ‘girl-power’?

Are we not all fighting for our right to choose? Are we not allowed to choose a career instead? Can I choose to not be a mother, maybe for health or mental health reasons? What if I would rather not have children? I can choose to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want children too, right?

We are all striving for change against gender bias and equality. And we all have a chance to empower women. As such, I’m raising my hand to show that I choose to emower women by challenging everyone who asks a woman: “when will you have children?”.

Author: Louisa



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