As birth rates plummet across many countries of the world's richest nations, I wanted to take a closer look at the insidious media messaging that denounces parenthood and the family unit.
There is a growing hostility in media towards those who choose to have children. I've witnessed it, and at times, experienced it. It exists. Where at one time in the not so distant past there used to be extremely unfair judgement towards women who didn't want a child or family, society now seems to be swinging on the other end of the pendulum and criticising women who still want to embrace and promote motherhood—and undermining the positives about raising children. If you are thinking,"wait and minute, that really isn't happening" then the truth is, you simply haven't yet heard it—or you haven't been listening. Mothers, and parenthood itself, are quickly becoming maligned in our modern world.
The widespread media focus on promoting anti-natal beliefs is not hard to find. It is, in fact, everywhere. You just have to look at the style of the articles and the language used to see what's being promoted between the lines. Here are just a few of the headlines you can come across that seem to be attacking the idea of raising a family:
“Why You Should Never Have Kids” (Positive Psychology),"Mothers Regret Having Children” (Macleans),"I Regret Having Children: Mother's Share Their Stories” (Toronto City News),"Regretting Parenthood: What Have I Done With My Life” (Today's Parent),"100 People Who Regret Having Children” (BBC),"I Secretly Wish I'd Never Had Children” (Daily Telegraph),"How To Enjoy The Depressing Role Of Parenthood” (The Atlantic),"Why I Don't Have A Child: I Cherish My Freedom” (The Guardian),"15 Awesome Reasons To Be Childfree” (BonoBology),"The Joy Of Choosing To Be Childfree” (HuffPost),"Childfree and Couldn't Be Happier” (Shondaland.com) and finally,"I Would Be A Happier Person If I Never Had Kids” (YourTango).
Of course, you can dig around online and find articles promoting motherhood — that cannot be denied. Yet the anti-natal demographic seem to be seeping ever more into the everyday world, far from existing just in the confines of cyberspace. They are now standing in the queues at the local stores, where that judgmental woman standing in front of you sneers back at you because your child is crying loudly; they are now sitting at the table across from you at the restaurant nudging their friends and not so quietly denouncing your decision to take your child into a public space, and even on holiday, where there is now a movement of people who are making a fuss about parents who choose to travel with their offspring.
Yes — you heard right: there are people begrudging parents for taking their children on holiday. I had one such person tweet me some time ago, expressing their desire to see flights ban families with kids, because children are "annoying to have around." Surprisingly, many joined in with their support of the condemning tweet.
There seems to be something about us as a race that clings to the extremes. Where once we experienced the outdated judgements against women who chose not to have children, we are now seeing the other end of the extreme: looking down on motherhood and wanting to tidy away that portion of society under the rug. And many women feel this new reality. It exists in the icy stares, the endless anti-natal stances put towards us, the cynical comments, and the way in which we feel unwelcome in certain public spaces, lest our child be heard and not just seen.
The right of a woman to choose whether to have a child or not is something that should not be up for debate. Every person should be in control of their own decisions regarding this, whether it's to remain happily childfree or instead to dedicate oneself to parenthood, with all the beauty, challenges and adventures that it entails.
This denouncement of children and parenthood is far reaching. Just last week I witnessed the rejection in action. A tired looking mother was sitting in a cafe with her child to eat lunch. Her youngster — at my estimation, around 4 years old — was shouting about some perceived miscarriage of justice at the red-faced mum (who was clearly trying to calm her child's tantrum down). The mother in question must surely have felt the eyes of criticism on her — although in reality they were only few in number, they probably felt to her like every eye of the world was watching her trying to control the situation. She grabbed her things — lunch not yet even finished — stuffed her items in her oversized bag, and swiftly exited, mumbling apologies about her child at a staff member as she departed. I wish she hadn't left: she had every right to be there.
I've been in that lady's situation, in the past. In fact, I still am. As the mother of a young boy, I've experienced many of the layers and flavours that motherhood has to offer: from the tiredness from endless sleepless nights, to the frustration of dealing with the zillionth tantrum of the day, right down to the bottomless love and pride I feel for my offspring. I dearly love him. I've also felt icy stares from people in public spaces if my child so much as makes his presence felt. So, I've been there, I've bought the t-shirt, and I've worn it again… and again. Motherhood is undeniably one of life's biggest challenges — but for many of us, it is a challenge worth accepting and deeply enriches us.
Becoming a mum brought about a huge change in my life — thankfully for the better. I know this isn't the case for everybody, but there are many across the world who still embrace and love the notion of family and bringing children into the world. To raise a child is an honour and experience I have found completely astounding. I have learned and grown so much, and continue to each day. It's the deepest love I have ever personally experienced. Whilst this may not be for everyone, I know I am certainly not in the minority.
The world needs to slow down on the judgements. Parenthood and raising children can be something beautiful and valuable — it's not the horror story of destruction and regret that the press and social media are often trying to tell you it is. If you want to be bold, take the plunge, raise a family.