Looking back, it may have started with watching numerous television dramas and movies that depicted childbirth as debilitating and agonising – I remember hearing a lot of screaming, and wondered why women would put themselves through so much strife and pain.
Feeling like a late bloomer
I remember telling my mother all through childhood that I would never grow to want kids. She had always laughed and brushed aside my comments, putting it down to the darn things her child would say. “You’ll change your mind when you grow up,” she would tell me. That was also the line most regurgitated each time I shared my thoughts with someone else. I began questioning if this yearning for motherhood was a case of nature versus nurture – more so when high school friends started telling me how they couldn’t wait to start their own families. Even in school, teachers would begin their sentences with: “In the future, when you are a wife and mother…” I felt as if that was all my future would ever amount to – becoming nothing more than a child-bearer and homemaker.
A paradigm shift
It was only when I moved to university that things started to change and would, effectively, go on to alter my relationships. I studied social sciences and with most of my lecturers being left wing, I was taught to question, challenge, and break gender norms – all the stereotypes society had trapped us in. It was strange and intimidating at first, but I had finally found a community that echoed the same sentiments I had: “Is this all there is to being a woman?” And it was empowering.
To be very honest, by the time I was 26, I had accepted I would never get married. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to – I just couldn’t find someone who treated me on an equal footing. Most of the men I met seemed forward-thinking initially, but it soon became clear that they still expected their other half to fit into their nicely-drawn “docile, gentle, and able to cook” box. I must clarify that I do not abhor the thought of women staying home to take care of their children or doing household chores – it’s the fact that women are expected to do so and have grown up having that idea shoved down their throats. This was also a point of contention with my mother, who thought I had grown up to be a man-hating feminist – despite explaining to her the difference between a feminist and misandrist. But surely, I thought, I have the right to choose being happy and single, instead of married and miserable.