I need role models of childfree women because I need to see that there are people like me in the world.
In case you missed the internet yesterday, Zooey Deschanel is pregnant. Also, this isn’t an article about Zooey Deschanel. Not really. She did say once that she preferred work (the not parenting kind) to kids and me, with my insatiable craving to see other childfree women in the world, may have jumped to a certain conclusion.
And so, when I found out yesterday that she’s pregnant, I posted this (excerpted) status to Facebook: “I’m not sure how to say this in a way that folks who aren’t childfree will understand, but there is a sense of betrayal every time a woman who said she wouldn’t have a baby has a baby.” That is one of those statuses that you post and then sit back and wait to get unfriended. (So far, though, that hasn’t been the response I’ve gotten, which I think says a lot about my Facebook friends.)
Betrayal is a heavy word, sitting there. It’s like I’m saying Deschanel, and every woman who has ever said she didn’t want to have a kid right now, or ever, and then has one, has disappointed me personally. And there is a deep sense of disappointment. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. But there is also this loneliness, which might be fiercer than the disappointment, or the betrayal.
A while ago, I wrote a piece about the Jewish community’s insufferable emphasis on procreation without taking into account pesky issues like class, quality of life, carbon footprint, self determination, etc. The piece ran, and then I did the thing that I always tell other writers never to do. I read the comments.
I will spare you most of the details, but there was one treasure that actually illustrates my feelings about this whole subject rather well (Thanks, troll!): “The whole article gives me the feeling of being followed down the street by a lunatic who keeps screaming at me that I can’t force her to have babies.”
Here’s why this comment is important. It’s not that I’m being pressured directly by people in my life to have children. In that sense, I’m lucky. I’ve written more specifically about those circumstances here. But there is direct pressure, and there is not seeing your life choices reflected in the world.
Images of childfree women are few and far between, so I get excited when I see a woman moving through the world and choosing not to parent because that is in keeping with her authentic self. That’s the key here, I think, that authenticity.
I need role models of childfree women because I need to see that there are people like me in the world, even though I do prefer, in general, to take a far less traditional, infinitely less populated road. It doesn’t mean I still don’t need to see women who also choose that.
You cannot be alone on the island, even if the island is the best place that you could ever imagine. It’s good to have a neighbor down the road.
Chanel Dubofsky’s work has been published in RH Reality Check, Role Reboot, Cosmopolitan, The Frisky, The Billfold, Lilith and The Forward, among others. She is working on her MFA in Fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Brooklyn, New York.