Hello again lovely humans!
I’m so very excited to share with you this week’s piece! The topic was suggested to me by a couple of dear friends of mine during a lovely conversation over brunch (that’s right, BRUNCH!! Remember those?!). My two girlfriends were giving me wonderful feedback about my writing when they began sharing their thoughts about a specific hot topic. A topic that stirs anger in the hearts of many women. A topic, which I will now bring to your attention in detail: Societal pressures for women to get married and have children.
This past week I finished watching a show on Netflix called Anne with an "e".
For those who have seen it, I’d love your feedback with the comparison I’m about to present. For those who haven’t, I highly recommend it! The show is set in 1895, following the story of an orphan girl, Anne (with an "e"), who finds a home in Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Anne is a red-headed, hot-headed, highly imaginative and brave girl, who inspires everyone she meets with her wit and pure heart.
During this era, girls are brought up to be proper young women whose main purpose in life is to get married and have children. Anne challenges this purpose time and again, and creates a ripple effect in which the girls in her class begin to question if that is all there is. Perhaps life has more in store for them. This is not a surprise for us women in the year 2021 to know how far women’s rights have come since Anne’s time. Women most certainly do and are much more than becoming wives and mothers. I, for one, am proud of being a woman in a time when questioning everything is not only allowed, but is encouraged!
Yet… despite our incredible advances, it appears we have not yet surpassed the judgement of being unwed or childless. I have been asked countless times “when do you plan on getting married?” “When will you have children?” Or my favorite comment “you’re not getting any younger, if you want a family, you better do it now.”
Don’t even get me started on attending a wedding. Somehow, there’s always at least one person who feels the need to comment on my marital status, after all, we are in a setting of matrimony. Perhaps I will become inspired to get a move on and "do something with my life".
I went to a friend's wedding once, where I was seated at a table with a few old friends. It had been a while since I've seen these people and the night was young and promising. Within 10 mins of arriving, I was asked "so, when will it be your turn?!" (wink wink). "Haha, yeah..." I laughed it off. All the while in my head saying "not anytime soon, I assure you". The night progressed, the meal was delicious and the dancing was underway. A few drinks in and everyone was extra friendly... "You're missing out on this adventure! What are you waiting for?!" I was asked once again. I promise you, dear reader, my face was as red as the lobster in our bisque. What the hell am I supposed to say to this person while the music is playing so loudly I can barely hear beyond my own heart beating through my chest?! "When the time is right!" I finally said with a confidence that didn't quite seem convincing.
If you've read my blog titled "Wait, did I just get what I asked for?" you will know my relationship with relationships. So, being bluntly asked about this giant, painful trigger, was just enough to make me want to leave the party early.
It is imperative to note that I was also much more sensitive back then. Today, I would definitely have a smile on my face during such exchange.
The thing is, however, that it does not stop there. When I was single, I was constantly asked “when will you find a boyfriend?”. When I have a boyfriend, I’m asked “when will I get married?” When I will be married, I will most likely be asked “when will I have children?”. And when I give birth to my first child, I will be asked “when will the second one come?”. This is not speculation, this does in fact happen and has happened to many women friends of mine.
Why is it acceptable to ask a woman about her marital status or her child bearing years? Do they think we do not know the “steps”. Do they think we don’t ask ourselves these questions? And what do they think asking us these questions will yield?
It’s obvious to me that despite our tremendous advances, a woman is still today considered to be “incomplete” unless she has a husband and multiple children. Even if she is a CEO of a multi-million dollar company and is incredibly successful, she will often still be seen as an unfortunate, sad woman who couldn’t make it work for herself, so she chose a different path.
Well… I call bullshit! I call bullshit on the whole bloody thing! That bubble us women seem to be put into is about to get royally popped by my increasingly liberated mind and heart!
Here is a message I have to all the people, especially men, who feel the need to comment on my future conception. I don’t need to be a mother to have a fulfilled life as a woman. I don’t need a husband to feel complete. I don’t need a man to take care of me. And I especially don’t need for anyone to point this out to me. Not at a family dinner, not at a wedding, not at a baby shower (for goodness sake!). If I have these things, it is because I am choosing to. And if I don’t have them, it is nobody's business as to why. Thank you for your concern and support on the matter.
Having said that, I will, of course, take a look at the other perspective so as to balance the scene I seem to have painted here. There are always two sides to every story, and I believe it’s only fair for the flip side to be addressed, to the best of my ability.
So, on the flip side of the “flipping them off” argument, I see a kind man who goes to a family dinner where he sees his niece, sister-in-law, or cousin, etc. She is there alone, no plus one in sight. And a part of him thinks ” I wonder if she has anyone in her life romantically. I wonder if she is finding love. I wonder if she has plans to start a family.” (This is all hypothetical, of course. I have no idea what thoughts go on in anyone else’s head but my own).
Perhaps starting a family is one of his greatest accomplishments and joys in his life, and he is expressing (the best way he seems to know how) that he wishes that same joy for me in my life. Perhaps the biggest love he knows is the love that comes from having children and a spouse.
If this is true, and if he really does want this same joy for me, then I appreciate his desire for me to share in that joy.
Back to the flip side of the story for a moment, if I had a child, what makes you feel the need to ask me about a second? If I have no children, what makes you think I’m not trying to have one? What if I am struggling to conceive and your comment is bringing back the pain of my misfortune? What if I’m in a relationship and my partner and I are simply not ready to get married (just yet) and your prompting question is not doing anyone any good? What if I don’t have a boyfriend and am searching for the right partner for myself, in which case, your comment most certainly is not useful.
Unless, of course, you know a nice suiter for me. Or have some advice on relationships. Or have a homeopathic, natural product that can help with infertility. Or you can offer support or the number of a wonderful babysitter. Unless… But, somehow, none of these options ever do come up. Only the comment. Only the question, and the person goes about their day thinking they’ve brought to my attention something I have never thought of before. Good job, fine stranger, now I will know how to live my life better.
I am aware of the anger and bitterness that is coming through while I write this. I feel it is not only my own anger but one of all the women who had to endure that moment these lovely questions were presented to them.
So, to bring it out of the anger for a moment, dear, wonderful, lovely reader, I want to present you with some tips and tricks that might help. As I write them, I will address them to my future self, who will undoubtedly be asked these awesome questions one day.
Firstly, these questions, though can be triggering, don’t absolutely have to be so.
By that I mean, what if an aunt asks you this gem question of “when will you start having children, dear?” As red as our faces will surely get, I invite us all to take a deep breath and open our hearts. Vulnerability is, after all, the best way to communicate.
“Dear Auntie, thank you for asking” we might say. “I have been wondering about this myself lately. But I feel I’m not ready for that sort of commitment just yet. What advice can you offer me? Did you ever feel uncertain yourself when you were in my shoes?”
When I was single, and would be asked when I will finally find a man, my go-to answer was always “why, do you have someone in mind for me?”
Despite the discomfort and trigger of being asked about a part of your life you don’t have, you can always turn it around and make it about you. What do you really want? What do you really need? And besides a trigger, what can that person offer you at this moment?
It also occurred to me that as uncomfortable as it is to be asked this question, perhaps the person asking it is also feeling quite awkward. And what happens when we feel awkward and uncomfortable? We say stupid things!! (Or, at least I do...)
So, the next time someone asks you when it’s “your turn” to get married, you can smile and say “keep an eye out for the ‘save the date’ card.” Whenever, and if ever, it will come. And then change the topic to what makes you light up and feel good! Like puppies and the last book you read.
As always, with love and kindness,