Do you know those beautiful, pleasant and enchanting articles that are written each year specifically for Mother’s Day?
This is not one of them.
This is an honest conversation we need to have about motherhood.
/From the perspective of young, modern women in a post-feminist, urban, western reality/
There was a time when young girls could not wait to grow older, marry, bear children and create a family. That is what life was about.
What is life all about now?
This is what I would like to explore with you in this article.
Dear Motherhood, The world they passed on is not family-friendly, And unfortunately, we know about it. We have more resources and access to information than ever, so despite our grandmothers telling us how becoming a mother is the most beautiful and fulfilling thing in the world, a simple google search can give us endless examples of the opposite.
Younger women are often judged for their reproductive plans
People want and don’t want to have kids for all kinds of reasons. It is our decision. This is the freedom of choice we inherited from the women’s movement. At least we believe so.
However, if we look at the most common reasons why young women ‘choose’ not to have children in the 21st century, we quickly realize that they did not have full control over their choices. The majority of arguments used for a child-free life are not personal motivations, but external factors that affect our lives and, as a consequence, our rational decisions. As much as we worship the sovereignty of the individual in the West, we cannot divorce ourselves from the complex cultural environment we are deeply embedded in. Our decisions are, therefore, a mere result of our surrounding reality, which leaves little ‘personal freedom of choice’ to celebrate.
Here are the most common concepts circulating among many of our young female members of society, making them less enthusiastic about the idea of becoming a mother in today’s modern age:
Due to rising levels of environmental awareness, eco anxiety has exploded across the Western world. It is no surprise that young people in particular worry about their future. Have you seen the chart of the global disparity in carbon footprints? Since Western countries are global leaders in pollution, it makes sense to conclude that it is ‘rich societies’ who cannot afford to have more children, until they drastically change their consumerist lifestyles. Let’s be honest: the fact that human beings are mindlessly exploiting and destroying Mother Nature is highly unlikely to inspire anyone to reproduce.
The young, post-millennial generation is triumphantly advancing in the education system, becoming the most educated yet in US history. On the other side of the coin, the country is battling a daunting student loan debt crisis. Therefore, American graduates are often taking on more than one job, as an attempt to pay off their balances and become debt-free. Potential dreams of owning a home, starting a family or creating savings are in many cases postponed indefinitely if not sacrificed completely.
In Europe, young citizens might not face such massive financial burdens, however job-hopping or holding multiple jobs to sustain a comfortable urban lifestyle are certainly not uncommon practices.
In addition, let’s not forget to mention that housing costs have skyrocketed since our grandparents’ generation, so many young people have no choice but to live with their parents longer to save cash. Research shows that more and more Millennials plan to rent forever, as this remains their only affordable housing alternative. “A child? I can’t even afford my own home, how am I going to afford a kid?” – sounds like a fairly reasonable argument, considering the fact that raising a child costs more than 200,000$ (without college education). For younger generations, having children is not a romantic decision any longer, it is a financial one.
Security & Stability
There was a time when marriage was a life insurance for women. Clearly, this is not the case anymore with divorce rates mounting up to 50% in most Western countries. And no, domestic abuse is not a common reason for separations. So, where does this lack of commitment come from? It might have to do something with today’s hookup culture: where ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ is too big of a title already for many people.
Too many families have fallen apart for us as a society not to recognise them and normalize new sizes and forms of families. And yet, while views on single parenting are becoming more neutral, younger generations have a more negative assessment of single motherhood. It is not pretty, and it is definitely not easy. Still, it is sometimes the best you can make out of your circumstances.
Oftentimes, younger generations get accused of being unable to take on responsibility in life. But why would they? They had parents and teachers who pride themselves in doing everything for their kids. In other words, they made the road to adulthood easier and smoother. However, if young kids have never been held accountable for their actions, why would they suddenly feel attracted to the idea of taking on the biggest responsibility yet: another human being’s life? Especially since it is clear to all of them that once they have a child, there will be things they just have to do.
On a more positive note: despite the odds, younger generations seem to have a great deal of social responsibility. They care about social issues, which opens up doors for other forms of motherhood such as adoption and foster care.
Having a job used to be a blessing in itself. Later on, making a lot of money was what determined success. Today, we not only have to have a job, it has to be well-paying and, on top of that, we have to love it. It has to fulfill our deepest need of self-actualization. What we do should be our meaning in life, our purpose and, of course, it should make the world a better place too.
As human beings, we might just be destined to endlessly search for meaning, but are we searching in the right places? Our modern-day society is clapping for women who aspire to be doctors, engineers and politicians, however if women ‘just’ wanted to become stay-at-home mothers, they would be immediately labelled as simple, uneducated, boring, and maybe even lazy or unambitious. Yet why are we so convinced that purpose lies in loving work and not in loving each other? Have we forgotten about the top regrets of the dying? None of them regretted not having worked more. Instead they wished they had spent more time with their families and friends.
Likes and Dislikes
“I don’t like kids” is a legitimate argument in a world fueled by social media likes. More so, since our modern parenting styles commonly prioritize instant gratification. As a result, many children develop the idea that they can have whatever they like and can avoid whatever they dislike. Although these kids grow older, they are often still following the same principles they learnt in their childhood. Thus if they don’t like kids, they just won’t have any. Are they to be blamed for it? ‘You reap what you sow’ they say.
We would assume that personal preferences are based on our internal motivations however, external factors influence our likes and dislikes as well.
A dying society?
Looking at it in a much broader context, motherhood is way more than just a personal lifestyle decision. Throughout history, the mother figure has been a symbol of civilizations around the globe, and it is no coincidence. They are the societies that don’t die. Even the Western world used to worship the Virgin Mother as the symbol of the judeo-christian religious cultural system; until Nietzsche proclaimed that ‘God was dead’. In fact, not only did we kill God, we also replaced the Mother of God. What new ideal we replaced it with? Whatever it may be, it probably has to do more with sexuality and less with motherhood. I wonder what this tells us about the state of our society.
Despite the common fear of overpopulation, innovation genius Elon Musk and Chinese billionaire Jack Ma could not agree more on the thesis that the biggest challenge our world will face in the future is population collapse.
Time for honest conversations
Everything is interconnected. Therefore, we cannot avoid acknowledging how much the feminist movement has contributed to the complexity of the topic of motherhood in the 21st century. We have been oversold the idea of career&work as the main ingredient for a successful life. As a result, many women have fallen victim of the belief that they have to prove themselves in the professional world in order to regain their lost value. Inevitably, motherhood has become secondary. In fact, many educated women feel ashamed for wanting a family and children, as if it was a crime, a failure, a shame.
Is this right? Dear Motherhood, I told you, the world they passed on is not family-friendly, And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because women are absolutely amazing, And the thing is, they don’t need to prove it to anyone. To men, to other women, to society, to the world, not even to themselves. Maybe women around the world need to remember that every single human being comes from a woman. That behind every great man there is a great woman. That men across time and space agree that “this is a man's world, but it would be nothing, without a woman or a girl”. What does all of this tell us about the value of women? I wish we could have more honest conversations, more dialogue. With people of different ideas, opinions, values and dreams. With people who disagree with us. What would happen if we would switch roles to see what is on the other side of the fence? Would we understand each other more? I wish we would learn how to see the individual, instead of an ideology. Because ideologies don’t bring us together, they just divide us by justifying hateful feelings against each other. The world is more than just black and white and society is more than just oppressors and oppressed; and we need each other to help us open up our eyes to the diversity of human stories. No matter how hard and complicated and distracting and overwhelming our modern Western reality is sometimes, we need to ask ourselves more often: How many important things are there in life? Well, one of them is family. I wish you a happy Mother’s Day! Yours sincerely