I don’t want kids.
I say this sentence a lot. And my certainty is always met with rolled eyes and “tut-tut”s, as if I am now a child in place of the one I refuse to bear. “You’ll see,” they say, “You’re young, give it time.” They wait for my biological clock to kick in and apparently drive me mad like late-onset Dorito fever.
So thanks, Anne-Marie Slaughter, for your kickass article, ”Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” It essentially lays out that simultaneously having a meaningful career and being a good mother is possible but incredibly difficult and fraught with constant criticism—both from the patriarchy, who claim that families need their mothers, and from feminists, who see our unassailable devotion to our careers as the only way to build a society of woman leaders. Both teams are right. The martyr, of course, is the woman, who is forced to block out of every moment of her life to serve others while being plagued with fears about her inadequacy because there are only so many hours in a day. Men of course escape this since their unwavering devotion to their jobs, which “make the world a better place,” is considered sacrifice enough without being ever-present father figures as well.
It’s a terrifying cautionary tale for the average young female reader, a knoll dooming them to an onerous fate. But it only serves to justify my lifestyle.
I have never found joy in family. I’ve never belonged to a family unit that felt positive or welcoming, never had to care or be cared for in a meaningful way that involved fathers, mothers and children in a spinning nuclear unit. My family was always unstable, radioactive. And so I have never craved a family, outside of when I was twelve.
What has brought joy, what has always brought joy, is getting down to the dirt of it. Typing away furiously at a computer or scribbling art down or sticking a microphone in someone’s face. Work is what makes me happy. A year ago now we hired more people at work and my hours went from 70 hours a week to 50 and I had an existential crisis and a panic attack trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my extra time. Finally, I filled it up with working on outside projects.
What another woman will want to do after she gets home is help her kids with their homework and watch them grow. And that is honorable, that’s necessary and beautiful. And I felt that was okay, because as a feminist, for that woman who chooses to leave early and sacrifice a more high-paced career for a family, I am going to step up to represent us in her place.
And when I get home at 9, I’m gonna have a glass of whiskey and find time in pure relaxation and freedom where I can get it. And I won’t feel guilty about it. This represents a set of values I possess that are independent to my experience and it’s my right to choose them. That’s why I speak confidently about not wanting kids. And it’s society’s obligation to learn to accept that.
But regardless of my procreational choices, Slaughter’s essay says that I, too, have an obligation to society. To alter my obsessive work habits.
Regardless of whether you are a woman who procreates or doesn’t, or a man that procreates or doesn’t, you are a human that belongs to a society that increasingly puts an emphasis on family values while decreasing family time. Our society hates slackers, and so our workplaces adhere to the cult of extra - long hours at the office. According to this killer Mother Jones article, the problem of excessive hours is only getting worse because the number of jobs is decreasing, forcing one human to cover multiple humans’ responsibilities. Men and women both work way more hours than the average citizen thirty years ago. Productivity and accountability is up, family time is low.
This is destructive for those women who do want high-powered careers and to succeed, because normalizing insane workloads obligates them to be super-stressed supermoms. It means that it’s societally acceptable for the United States to mandate 0 weeks paid maternity leave, a horrifying statistic when you look at other developed countries.
And insane workloads aren’t good for the rest of society, either. They increase depression and sedentariness. They lead to declines in marriage, as in Korea and other Asian countries—bunches of women like me who ain’t havin’ no babies.
So. How do we rebel against that?
Several weeks ago, a couple of employees at my work asserted that they were only going to participate in strict 8-hour workdays. I told them that in solidarity, I would do the same.
I worked a number of twelve hour days last month. The work needed to be done. In most cases, I enjoyed doing the work. I am unaccustomed to saying No, so I didn’t. But was it downright unfeminist to have done so instead of refusing and having them settle for airing a repeat instead? Was I simply giving in to misogynistic, capitalistic standards?
I am not sure. I am not sure if my small act of rebellion would mean anything in the larger sense. I do know that becoming a successful young woman will. And I do know what makes me happy. And I suppose the point is to not be owned by the fears of what the patriarchy or the matriarchy or the oligarchy impose on me. So I will work. Until I do not want to work anymore. And then I wil go home, alone, babyless, to my pint of moo-shoo pork and my whiskey, and I will eat it with gusto and if I want to pass out on the couch with C-Span on I’ll do that too. And I won’t feel guilty about it.