Written by Annika Tornatore (Edited by M. Joy Rose)
According to a recent article in Psychology Today, American mothers are challenged to balance work struggles and their home lives with increasing levels of stress. At the same time, cultural messaging about parenthood often glorifies motherhood and does not reflect the inherent conflicts between the personal and professional. Some studies show that young women are questioning whether motherhood is something to aspire to. In this blog post, I question whether having children leads to more happy and successful outcomes? I do this by sharing the perspectives of young women who are intent on changing contemporary narratives about childlessness by consciously choosing not to procreate.
Motherhood presents fresh challenges for every parent. Those challenges can include but are not limited to, increased financial burdens, new time constraints, and balancing work outside the home with childrearing duties. “The biggest issue for working mothers is the idea that they must be available around the clock both at home and the office” (Ferrante, Mary Beth). Unrealistic expectations chip away at maternal confidence as new mothers can be forced to confront impossible choices- work more or spend more time with the baby.
In addition to juggling multiple responsibilities, new mothers are confronted with dominant narratives that over-glorify motherhood. In the media, in subtle conversations, and in public discourse, impossible expectations can take a toll on women’s self-esteem: “Whether it’s a pregnant character on a TV show or a photo spread heralding a celebrity’s rapid recovery of her pre-pregnancy physique, media portrayals of pregnant and postpartum women tend to be unrealistic.” (“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.”). These cultural imperatives are rarely achievable, resulting in negative emotions including depression and anxiety. A shift on behalf of media portrayals of perfect motherhood might lead to a more balanced perspective on pregnancy and post-natal realities. Perhaps mothers might experience less stress and more confidence?
Lastly, I would like to share two perspectives from women who are childless by choice. A Time Magazine article titled “Why I have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life,” by Stephanie Zacharek, chronicles her inability to conceive children. She has come to believe that she was okay without having kids. Stephanie writes, “My job these days, as a movie critic-is immensely satisfying, but it’s that much more so because of the freedom I have.” Her decision to accept childlessness has brought her unexpected happiness. It gave her a chance to explore what she was capable of without worrying about taking care of children. Additionally, the website, Cup of Joe recently published stories about women who determined motherhood was not for them. Wudan, a first-generation American, felt intense familial pressure to start a family. She shares her revelations: “I got to a point where I realized that having kids would throw my career for a curve. I’m a journalist who travels all the time, and I truly love my job.” Wudan was motivated to keep moving her career forwards. She determined that having children would cause her to expend energy on other things, and not on her career (Miller, Kelly).
I think it takes a lot of courage and strength for women to go against the norms of becoming a mother. My mother worked two jobs to help pay the bills. I have seen the struggle my mom endured to make sure that I have thrived. Women who decide to go against the norms should know that they can have successful lives without children. This may not be something people think about, but it is an option and it may well indeed lead some to personal happiness.
Hi everyone! My name is Annika Tornatore. I am a Biomedical Sciences major at the University of South Florida. After attending USF, my next goal in life will be to attend medical school. I aim to be an Anesthesiologist or a Pathologist. Although medicine interested in me for a short period, my passion for science and learning will carry me to encounter new discoveries. Besides medicine, I am an avid bookworm. Some of my favorite books tend to focus on a mixture of fantasy and science fiction. Dance and music are some of my other favorite hobbies. Dance has been a consistent passion and shaped me who I am. My favorite styles of dance are hip hop and tap. Furthermore, I aspire to travel the world. I yearn to explore and experience various cultures. I desire to learn from the people around me and hope to implement what I learn in my life.
I came in contact with the Museum of Motherhood, MOM, through an honors class at the university. This class pertains to the issues that arise infertility, motherhood, and reproductive justice. One of the aspects of this class was to partake in a Service Learning Project. This ranged from assisting in research to volunteering to writing blogs. For my service-learning, I chose an internship with the Museum of Motherhood. MOM has several goals that align with what I hope to do. The Museum of Motherhood aims to spread its messages about motherhood and family through art exhibits and blogs. I hope that through this internship, I could also attain some of their goals and spread their mission.
Ferrante, Mary Beth. “The Pressure Is Real For Working Mothers.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Aug. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/marybethferrante/2018/08/27/the-pressure-is-real-for-working-mothers/#40090a582b8f.
“Media Portrayals of Pregnant Women, New Moms Unrealistic.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 7 Aug. 2017, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170807152604.htm.
Miller, Kelsey. “8 Women on Choosing Not to Have Kids.” A Cup of Jo, 18 Dec. 2018, cupofjo.com/2018/12/childless-by-choice/.
“Mothers Are Drowning in Stress.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 6 Mar. 2019, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shouldstorm/201903/mothers-are-drowning-in-stress?amp.
Zacharek, Stephanie. “Why I Have Zero Regrets About My Childless Life.” Time, Time, 3 Jan. 2019, time.com/5492622/stephanie-zacharek-childless-life/.