The decision to have children isn’t an easy one, but what about the decision to have no kids at all.
Baby? Maybe? The question seems to have filtered into conversations in media lately.
With a historically low birthrate, many women are going against the age-old-belief that motherhood is natural or innate and making it a choice of their own.
Caitlin Burchill has part one of her special report.
“I think in the last decade maybe, there’s been a lot of focus on celebrity moms and so you go in line in the grocery store and there’s often these messages about celebrity moms either being bad mothers or how they lost all their weight and got their body back,” said University of Maine Associate Professor of Sociology Kim Huisman.
But last August, Time Magazine shook things up, raising the question, is motherhood not for all women?
“Motherhood is socially constructed in terms of what is expected whether people have to be mothers. In some cultures, motherhood is expected and if you’re not a mother then there is a stigma attached to you.”
This UMaine Sociology Professor taught a course on the social construction of motherhood.
“One student actually approached me at the end of the class and said, ‘I just always assumed that I was going to be a mother.’ She said, ‘I never really took a step back and asked the question what so I want. It was just expected of me. Now, I’m really considering the option of not having children,'” said Huisman.
Experts say birth rates have steadily declined over the last 40 years.
“I think in our culture, things are shifting. There’s still a lot of attitudes that you should be a mother or be a parent, have children. I think it’s shifting in part from the work of Amy and other people who are viewing motherhood and parenthood as a choice,” said Huisman.
Huisman’s coworker, Amy Blackstone, is a leading childfree scholar. Her research was discussed on a national scale last September.
“There really is very little scientific evidence to support the idea that we have an instinctual drive to have children,” said Blackstone during her appearance on Katie, Katie Couric’s TV show, back in September 2013.
“I was there to talk about really about who the childfree are, why they make that choice, what their experiences are like,” explained Blackstone, who is an associate professor and Chair of UMaine’s Sociology Department.
She says living childfree is very different than living childless.
“We think of childfree people as people who have made the explicit and intentional choice not to have kids, whereas childless are people who don’t have children, but want children,” said Blackstone.
So, why are more couples choosing to live childfree?
“Not having kids affords a lot of flexibility, both in terms of how you spend your time and how you spend your money. Over the last 40 years, we’ve seen a tremendous shift in terms of roles that are available for women in our society. Certainly women have more options today than they did in the past. And also, just medically, it’s easier to prevent pregnancy today than it was 40 years ago,” said Blackstone.
And while living childfree is becoming more common, there’s still a stigma attached, something Amy knows firsthand.
“I am childfree myself. The reaction is, what’s wrong with you, you must hate children, you’re a terribly selfish person,” she said.
But it’s not just the childfree…
“The same is true for parents who chose to have many, many children. There’s a stigma there as well. What are you thinking? Can you support all these kids? Why would you do this? So we definitely have a pretty narrow idea of what the ideal family is in our culture, and if you go outside that 2.5 kids and a dog and a cat and a mom and a dad, you’re probably going to experience a little bit of cultural push back,” said Blackstone.
Coming up Tuesday night, TV5’s Caitlin Burchill will take you to Amy’s home and introduce you to her husband.
We’ll also meet a couple that has made a different decision, they have five kids under 7-years-old.
To see part 2, click here.