Childfree By Choice – Does It Make Her Less Feminine?

At the risk of revealing too many spoilers, I feel the need to talk about something very close to my heart.

In February, an ex Australian politician declared that “Anybody that chooses a life without children cannot have much love in them.” He was having a go at Australia’s currently childless female Prime Minister.

This disgusts me for a number of reasons, and least of all being the fact that men in politics often have wives to look after their children, but as primary caregiver, working women need wives themselves as their husbands work, or maybe they’re SHOCKINGLY unmarried (as with Prime Minister Gillard, who openly says that she chose not to have children to further her career).

But I don’t really want to talk too much about childlessness in modern-day society, even if it does prove that the specific ex-politician in question relegates women to roles as wives and mothers. As if they can’t possibly be wonderful people without dedicating their lives to raising children – and ignoring the fact that mothers and fathers interact differently with their children.

If you’re not sure what I mean, let me elaborate: in pretty much every nuclear family circumstance, a mother spends more time with her young children than a father. A father comes home from work and has fun with his children, so children will see the father as the sometimes-present disciplinarian. Whereas a mother is more constantly available, and when the child is sick they will want only their mother as nurse.

If you’re going to argue with the above statement, don’t bother. I’ll just delete it. I know what I’m talking about: I have a degree in sociology and gender studies. I know it doesn’t apply to EVERY situation: I’m talking in general terms for nuclear families.

My sci-fi novel, The Edge of Darkness contains pregnancy. It’s integral to plot, so I don’t mind giving that away. There is no contraception available in my novel. My main character, Max, never deliberately tries to get pregnant, but once she is, she decides that she wants to keep the baby. Max is a cyborg, and in her society, babies are taken away from their cyborg mothers: cyborgs as relegated as second-class citizens, only half-human, and therefore unable to raise a baby.

We see the world through Max’s eyes. We know that she’s more than capable of raising a child whether she’s a cyborg or not, whether she has a partner or not. Max’s femininity is never questioned. She never wanted a baby, but that doesn’t mean she’s a wooden, loveless person. Her love for her people resounds throughout the novel.

But what if one of my characters chooses not to have children? What if she decides, for whatever reason, to prevent a pregnancy? Or even to SHOCKINGLY abort?

That doesn’t mean she has any less love in her, any less ability to love. Often the decisions on why to have children are more selfish than the reasons a couple will choose not to – check out for more information that I can’t be bothered rewriting. Choosing to be childfree is an option granted to modern day women and attempts to force other people not to relegate them into the position of mother or woman when they are so much more than just those two roles.

They are so much more than just babymakers and nurturers. Women exist for other reasons than to provide the next generation.

My women are main characters, driving forces behind their stories. Their decisions directly impact the plot, and grant them bragging rights of being active, not passive. I feel this is a very important view to take, as far too many novels nowadays are claiming strong, independent young women as protagonists, yet these women only ever react to things happening to them, and often are victims of circumstance. They fit much more easily into the typical ‘women as nurterers’ – they need rescuing by a man. What if there were more stories out there where the big tough man needs rescuing by a woman*? A woman who is still feminine, but knows how to kick butt?

How cool would that be?

*Yes, that was a spoiler, but I won’t say for which novel…