More women are bypassing motherhood…and they don’t care what you think about it
BY BETSY ABRAHAM AND JENNIFER FAUCI
Women are expected to have many professions nowadays outside of their regular job title. They are expected to be a housewife, working mom, PTA parent and so much more. With having to juggle so many roles, some women are choosing to put off what has commonly been known as the most hallmark trait of being a woman: having children. Some are choosing to have children later in life, while others are simply saying “no” to motherhood.
For full-time student Tiffany Hervas, it was a personal preference that shaped her decision not to
“I don’t particularly like kids. I feel eventually I will, but at this moment, I don’t want them and don’t want to think about them,” said Hervas, a Central Islip resident.
One of the main reasons Hervas has chosen not to have children is because of the lack of respect she believes that this younger generation often gives their parents.
“Kids in this century are very disrespectful and have no respect for authority. That’s not how I was raised,” said Hervas. “Kids get influenced by peers and I don’t want to deal with a bratty kid.”
The single 21-year-old does not want to get married either. She is very upfront about her feelings and tells anyone interested that she does not want what most women want.
“They don’t really ask too many questions about it, but they get upset,” said Hervas of the social stigma attached to women and children. “They say that I’m going to get married and have a whole bunch of kids. I don’t mind what they think.”
Hervas is just one in a growing contingent of millennial women who are choosing to give up motherhood for a life free of the responsibility of taking care of a child. According to a 2010 Pew Research Center study, nearly one in five American women ends her childbearing years (by ages 40-44) without having a child, compared with one in 10 in the 1970s. An April study conducted by the Urban Institute revealed that between 2007 and 2012, birth rates among twenty-something women declined more than 15 percent.
Myeshia Price, assistant professor of psychology at SUNY Old Westbury, said women opting to not have children is a complex issue, and as such, there are various reasons behind
“Some will say it’s environmental reasons like overpopulation and not wanting to add to that. Some are career reasons. Research has shown it’s not an advantage to have children in the workforce,” Price said. “It also might be a reaction to the current expectations of women in general. Women aren’t feeling pressured to have children to be successful. There’s a little more flexibility.”
Levittown writer Emily Cappiello and her husband decided over dinner one night that they did not want children. Although she wanted them for a long time, as she got older, Cappiello realized that kids might not be the right fit for her.
“Sometimes I think about what my child would look like…but then I think about getting up in the middle of the night and changing diapers and not going to work focused. Not to mention the money involved in raising a child,” said the 30-year-old. “Kids are a huge commitment and not only am I not ready for that, I also don’t want that big of a commitment.”
Melanie Rasmus from Port Jefferson had similar motivations in her decision not to have children, saying she did not want that type of commitment. Rasmus saw her own mother give up her career to take care of her kids, and while she is grateful for what her mother did, she wants to explore other options.
“I see how people at my age are excited to have kids and that doesn’t interest me at all. It’s not that I don’t like kids. I just don’t want that lifestyle and responsibility,” the 25-year-old said, noting she would rather focus on her career in the medical field, traveling and hobbies.
“I know there are empty-nesters who pick up hobbies, but I’d rather do that when I’m young,” Rasmus said. “I’ve always wanted to learn photography and I don’t think I’d be able to do that if I had that commitment.”
Teresa Grella-Hillebrand, director of the Counseling and Mental Health Professions Clinic at the Saltzman Community Services Center at Hofstra University in Uniondale, said it’s common for women who choose not to have children to face backlash from friends and family who don’t see their decision as normal. However, she said she thinks the culture is changing.
“I think it’s becoming more acceptable for women to not become mothers, [instead choosing] a career or extended family life—to be a fabulous aunt for example,” said Grella-Hillebrand, a marriage and family therapist. “I think there’s a shift happening, but there are still vestiges of judgment around women who choose to be childless.”
That decision to not have kids often comes with the label of being “selfish.” And Cappiello said that she is being selfish…but in a good way.
“I love being able on a Thursday to not have to come home and instead go out with my friends for dinner or be able to travel or focus on my career,” she said. “I think it is more selfish to bring a child into the world just to bring a child into world and not give it the attention. I had a great mom who gave up a lot of her life to be the best mom ever and I don’t see myself being able to give up those things.”
But just because women don’t have children does not mean they aren’t mothering in other ways. For Cappiello, her fur baby Dakota, a blue-eyed husky, is definitely one to spoil rotten.
“We spend a lot of time with her, but at the same time, I can leave the dog for a couple of hours and not worry. We [my husband and I] can still have very independent lives,” she said. “My life just doesn’t have room for a child.”
Rasmus said while she does like kids, being a mother just doesn’t interest her. Many people have told her she’ll change her mind and will want kids later on, but she is standing her ground.
“It’s something I really don’t want. It’s not even something I can picture myself doing,” she said. “I think you have to have a passion for being a mother and it’s just not one of my passions.”
(To see the male perspective, click here.)