A woman (and, to a lesser degree, a man) or a couple without children are always regarded as an anomaly; they generate conflict. Of all the outlandish things… not having kids and daring to defy the social norm?! These individuals find themselves having to constantly explain why they don’t have children, although no one would ever ask a mother why she does have them (and demand valid reasons as response), even if she happens to be the most infantile and irresponsible woman ever. On the other hand, a woman who is voluntarily non-reproductive has little chance of escaping the lamentations of her parents (she is denying them the chance to be grandparents), the incomprehension of her friends (who want her to do the same thing they did) and the hostility of society and the State – natural proponents of procreation, by definition – that have many very subtle ways to make you pay for not having fulfilled your duty. It requires an iron will and a lot of character to laugh in the face of all this pressure and, moreover, to bear a certain degree of stigmatization.
Translated from: ELISABETH BADINTER. La mujer y la madre. Publisher: La esfera de los libros, 22.
Choice implies prior understanding of motives and consequences. Bringing a child into the world is a long-term commitment that requires that he or she be a priority. Of all the decisions that a human being faces in life, this is the one that generates the most radical change. Prudence would, therefore, have one think twice about it and ask themselves very seriously just what their altruistic capacity is and how much gratification they wish to derive from it. (….) In reality, Reason has little to do with the decision to procreate and is probably more involved in the decision to not have children. Aside from the Unconscious, which weighs just as much on both sides of the scale, it should be added in the balance that the majority of parents have no idea as to why they had children. (…) And thus the temptation to cite some instinct as the overriding factor. At the end of the day, the decision to have children stems more from the affective and the normative than from any rational understanding of the advantages and disadvantages.
Translated from: ELISABETH BADINTER. La mujer y la madre. Publisher: La esfera de los libros, 20,21,22.
In our culture, motherhood is the culmination of womanhood: BEING A MOTHER MEANS BEING A WOMAN. (…) Women are socially conditioned to embrace motherhood as the maximum expression of their femineity. It, supposedly, is the path that a woman must follow if she is to live her life to the fullest. Women are assigned a mission: to have children. Women are taught a stereotyped role in life and are trained to play it, trained to grow up and become wives, mothers, housekeepers. A woman’s future is anatomically determined. Growing as an individual towards the future means having children and raising them. This biological destiny is hallowed by society; being a mother is an identity that carries social prestige and signifies, on a much deeper level, the capacity to love, to make sacrifices, to give oneself up entirely to another. “A mother is the most sacred of all things.”, “there’s nothing like a mother’s love”, “a mother’s love is unconditional”, “A mother comes first.” But, despite this reverence towards the mother figure, mothers must also bear the burden of the negatives: the frustrations, insecurities, fears and failures of their children. All the merit might be hers, but all the blame is as well. She will shoulder all the responsibility, receive all the criticism, suffer the punishment and be cruelly shunned by a society that is merciless to women who do not fulfill their mission according to what is expected of them.
Translated from: BLANCA VALLADARES. “Revisión teórica sobre los mitos de la maternidad”. Publisher: Revista de Ciencias Sociales. Universidad de Costa Rica. nº 65, 1994. pp.67-68.
The child began to make his presence known… My beautiful marble body became distended, cracked and deformed… Walking along the shore, I sometimes felt an excess of strength and vigor, and I told myself at times that this small creature would be mine; only mine;… but on other days… I felt like some poor animal in a trap…. Between hope and despair, I often thought of the adventures of my youth, in my errant comings and goings, in my discoveries of art, and all of it was but an ancient prologue, lost in the mist which would end when the wait for a child began; the masterpiece that any humble fieldworker could produce… I became prisoner to all types of terrors. Vainly, I told myself that all women have children. It was a natural thing, and yet I was afraid. Afraid of what? Certainly not death nor suffering. I was afraid of something unknown. My beautiful body became more and more deformed before my very eyes. Where were my graceful, nymph-like forms? Where was my ambition, my fame? Frequently, despite myself, I felt miserable and defeated. The fight against life, that giant, was unfair; but then I thought of the child that was to be born and all my sadness faded. Cruel hours of waiting in the night. How dear do we pay for the glory of motherhood!….
Translated from: ISADORA DUNCAN. Mi vida.