Traditionally, according to gender, we are born with certain "unofficial" obligations that may change, of course, from one society to another. Social structure is what allows us to coexist; having duties and roles to play is only normal, we all must be somewhat productive to the collective, whether that be in a practical, educational or recreational way. All of that seems very fair. But, as society evolved (and the change in global society is undeniable) so have our roles. What I find amusing about this role evolution is that we don't seem to be changing the basis of traditional gender view, we're building over it. We push for equal rights in education and work, but we still encourage the traditional "manly" and "feminine" attitudes that are perceived as harmless for society. It seems that despite all social and technological progress, we're still stuck in a mid-20th century role play.
But, staying focus, and with international women day on us, let me share with you my personal technique to scape gender role (and society whenever possible) in one particular aspect that still haunts women everywhere: our "God-given right" to be mothers and starting a family. "The core of our society", "the basis for life", "the continuation of human kind" (some fanatics may say).
First, some background.
Being born and raised in a small middle class town in Latin America, I grew up between happy-looking families, Sunday Catholic-church masses and a lot of under the table gossip. It was all rather confusing and uncomfortable as a kid; it wasn't clear to me why my mom needed a full time job while most of my school friends had stay-at-home moms who would pick them up from school, just like TV shows and commercials showed me. I couldn't get why my parents didn't have that "normal" loving relationship that my friend's parents seemed to be having and that TV shows and commercials told me they should be having (I guess I watched too much TV). Somehow my reality didn't fit into that happy functioning society illusion where dad is the main provider and mom is his loving unconditional companion (who also happens to be an ace in the kitchen). So, despite the unconditional (and unconventional) love my family shared, I couldn't help to feel we were the weirdo of the town.
Luckily I grew off the childhood naiveness. Soon I realized that "normal" families were not really "a thing", not even back then. Since I was no longer a child people wouldn't mind my presence during gossip time so, all the lovers, kids out of marriage, drinking problems and troubled children stories started to pour out. As those "failed relationships" were on hidden (but public) trial, the "non-relationships" were under harder judgment. Comments like "yeah, she's a spinster", "of course she can babysit her sister's kids, she has no children of her own", and "apparently he's gay", were so easily tossed around that it became obvious that there was no way to be safe. Still, it seemed it was slightly better to be the cheated wife than the spinster, the single mom than the childless. Why was that? I don't even know.
Growing up in this kind of environment, mixed with Mexican soap operas, no wonder why girls would give a particular importance to school boyfriends and what boys would think of them; it was normal adolescence exasperated by questions like do you have a boyfriend yet?, is he good looking?. I know I had to go through you're 15 already, surely you have a boyfriend and you don't want to tell... no dear auntie, my teenage years were nothing like a scene of Quinceañera and I was certainly not Thalía. I hate to tell you, I didn't have a boyfriend. In fact, you probably didn't know this, but it was an unspoken rule in my house to NOT date. If there's something my parents learned from all that gossip and their own experience is that relationships are tricky and that marriage is not a safe bet, so they really went out of their way to keep me away from mating and rather pushed me (hard) professionally.
As I escaped my tiny town (that I deeply love except for the gossip and watchful eye of my neighbors and extended family) I thought the world out there would be different, but it wasn't. While living in the "first world" with an American family and graduating school with a lot of white suburban Americans... I recognized the same behavior and set of priorities ... they had obviously more opportunities and of course they all wanted to pursue their careers, but they also wanted to settle and start "building their own home" for different reasons, some because they were truly crazy in love and some because they were "old enough" hitting their fertile years and ... "that's what people do". Don't get me wrong, I do think that building your own family is beautiful and probably the dream for a lot of people (how was this dream constructed by media is another subject of discussion)... but it is not a dream we all share (you can get off my back now).
I left far away a third time, this time to Europe. At age 25 I knew I didn't want to settle, I needed the excitement of the unknown in my personal and professional life (all very romantic in paper, rather stressing at the end of the month)! And even though culture was indeed very different and enriching, the pressure and basic expectations according to gender and age were about the same. I can't quite describe the look guys gave me whenever I mentioned that I was not really into kids and that I might not have any... they would take a pause to look at me like saying are you serious? You were candidate to bear my children, then they would throw a smile and say something like well, of course not now, but you surely want kids someday... No man, honestly, I don't know if I want a kid. My lifelong dream was having a puppy (still on the dream list) not a baby. Well, I guess that was a turnoff.
*All illustrations are my own kindergarden skills
Still, as conservative as I find my new host country to be, I feel liberated of my motherly duty. I could or could not have a baby and the thing is... nobody cares! Not because society is more open or understanding, society is just as pitiless. I've arrived to a sort of liberation simply because I have left all my social circles behind, my current neighbors don't care about my life because they don't know me, I don't have all the acquaintances from prior schools and jobs nor those annoying extended family members always yapping about how the clock ticks, how smart their babies are, or when I plan to marry. Ultimately, with my parent's blessing (who rather see me alone in own earned apartment living my professional dream rather than badly married), I have chosen to live in a sort of social isolation. I do go out interact with my reduced group of friends when necessary, and to the rest, I give some online updates from the comfort of my distant bed. Was this the right choice? Do we need to be this extreme? I guess I could've handle it better, I mean, there must be better ways; but this was mine and I gotta say life feels good and the sun shines high.