WOMEN ARE CHANGING THE SOCIAL STRUCTURE
In Colombia, as in many other countries, at the core of society is the “traditional family.” To be called this, a family must be made up of both parents and children. Influenced by religion and by our human need for perpetuating our species, having children has always been considered a must. This context, however, is changing. Today’s women and their partners are beginning to create homes and choosing not to have children. Several reasons help explain this phenomenon. I will explain using the examples of Ana, Sandra and Sara.
Ana is 32 years old, is passionate about fashion, has her own clothing store and has a good reputation as a designer. Three years ago she decided to live with her boyfriend, who left his parents’ home to live with Ana, in an apartment close to both his and Ana’s workplaces. Ana and her boyfriend are not wasteful or extravagant, but they both believe that you only live once. So they prefer to buy experiences, not objects, which has led them to travel often. For business or pleasure, they have a long list of places to visit. This way of life has led Ana to decide to postpone or perhaps even abandon motherhood. She says, “When I think about it, I say maybe another year, or maybe never, or it’s not something I see in my life.” When she sees her mother or her mother-in-law, each always asks Ana, “And when am I going to have grandchildren?” The only answers for Ana are evasive ones.. She feels that her decision is selfish, but she also feels that it would be selfish to have a child and pay a babysitter to raise him. Ana has decided to live her life in a certain way, and having a child would force her to change it.
Sandra, 26, always dreamed of having a wedding party just like in a fairy tale … and it was. In a grand celebration with many guests, she got married in a Catholic church, where she promised to be with her husband forever. Sandra is in love with love, and for her, spending every second with her husband is the best thing that she can imagine. Although she has a job, what is important to her is sharing her life with her husband. Her house looks as if it came straight out of a magazine, her social life is active, almost every weekend she has guests for dinner, dancing or a few drinks. Every time she and her husband go on a trip, it’s like a second honeymoon. Sandra tells her mother, “The closest you’ll have to grandchildren are Rex and Margaret,” her dogs. She feels that somehow children break couples apart. She believes that the care children need means there’s no time for love, and although some people say, “There is no greater love than between a mother and a child,” she feels that being in love with love is enough for her life.
At 29, Sara is the daughter of two university professors who educated her to be observant and responsible. She studies marine biology and has dedicated her life to working with environmental organizations. Her work has opened her eyes to the damage that we human beings are doing to our planet. From a scientific standpoint in this context, irreversible events will cause future generations to suffer from our neglect. Sara would love to be a mother, but she has decided not to have a child. She believes it is not fair to bring a new baby into a world that she believes is running out of time. She says that perhaps at some point she will consider adopting but believes it would be irresponsible to have a child.
As women, we are the product of our upbringings and our parental, familial and societal influences. No single answer about the decision to be a mother, or not, is set in concrete. There will always be women who decide to have a child because of strong maternal instinct, because of wanting to improve our planet or because they want to devote their time to child-rearing. We’ll have to see what the result of these decisions will be on the future. In the meantime, it seems that we should ask whether the fact that people educated by mothers who consciously made the decision to have them will result in a generation of more thoughtful, more informed people. With this in mind, I believe that the population will not grow as quickly as previous generations, but we can hope to secure a group of smarter, more compassionate, more thoughtful people. But most important of all? Regardless of the reasons and consequences for a woman to have children or not, it is clear that having them is no longer a must. It is a choice.
To download this article in Spanish, click Women Are Changing the Social Structure.