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April Salchert Headshot

The Social Pressure of Experiencing Motherhood

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There are certain things that bother me. Being a woman is one of them.

I do not like the expectations that are laid before me on a regular basis. Expectations placed by movies, television and even my own friends. I use to love indulging in a Sex in the City episode, but now I find myself irate with any episode I watch. Media like this only strengthens these social expectations of women.

Moreover, I do not appreciate people, especially people I barely know, placing their own expectations on my uterus. When did my uterus become appropriate dinnertime conversation? I do not talk about your kidney, lungs or liver. Please leave my uterus alone. And please, stop likening it to a ticking clock.

One of the best gifts my mother ever gave me was her non-romantic explanation of childbirth. Many of my friends were told that the pain and suffering of childbirth washes away the minute you hold the baby. They talk of the experience as some sort of privileged trip to Baskin Robbins. Well, thanks to natural hormones, adrenaline and/or induced drugs, that may be true. Yet all that talk covers up one imperative truth. Having a baby is more than one moment. The post-childbirth hormonal 'high' does not last 18 years.

My mom gave me the real scoop on the experience. Not that she regretted having me, but she didn't want me to buy into the 'magical childbirth hoopla'. She wanted me to look past the doctrine of childbirth. Childbirth is not a rite of passage. We are not cave men. We have choices. Men do not have to hunt and women do not have to gather berries and breed children. Just because our bodies are built to do something, does not mean we have to pump out children and slay wildlife. I would like to think we are capable of making logical decisions beyond our bodily urges.

Regardless, I am happy for the women who find joy in motherhood. I applaud women who attempt to 'have it all': the education, the job, the marriage, the kids, etc.

Yet imbedded in that statement: "Have it all", lies a problem. Somewhere in those three little words, I get lost. I am not included. I will never 'have it all' because I do not want 'it all'. Basically, in that light, I will always land short of the finish line. The reason: I am choosing not to get pregnant.

Look at men. If they decide to focus on their career, fantastic. If they decide to be a stay-at-home dad, wonderful. They do not have to hunt. They do not have to farm. They do not have to lift heavy things. Men do not need to experience a nine-month gestation period to 'have it all'.

It is no new news that women's cards have been stacked with the Y chromosome. And there have been few changes from the caveman years. We have yet to break out caveman mentality when it comes to what is expected of women.

The same choices put before Elizabeth I are the same choices put before every woman in 2012. Career vs. Motherhood vs. Attempting both.

Many women call on their natural instinct to make the decision: Our natural desire to procreate and nurture.

Yet women do not hold the patent on nurture. So why the societal pressure?

The pressure comes from within. We cherish our ability to hold life inside of us. Yet, in order for us to break free of gender roles - women have to let go of what we feel is inherently and instinctively ours. We are not all naturally better nurturers. Many women are simply not made for motherhood. Furthermore, a man can have the ability to provide the same, if not more, nurturing love for a child. Do we rob men of that opportunity simply because of a lacking chromosome?

Women who have children because of societal pressure many times believe they will love their child simply because they are female. These women think they will become good mothers once the baby is born. They believe in a Disney movie's portrayal of motherhood. Yet these are the same moms who you will find staring blankly into their smartphones, ignoring their crying child. Where is their natural instinct in that moment? I doubt their lack of mothering skills has anything to do with their genetic makeup. Instead, they are letting society dictate their behavior, their lives and their uterus.

But congratulations, they 'have it all' and their uterus is finally off the dinner table, whereas my uterus will constantly be a subject of discussion over mashed potatoes.