According to the Pew Research Center, more women are leaving the childbearing years without having children. Nowadays, one in five women does not have kids and this number is growing. In fact, it is nearly double the number of women who didn't have children just 30 years ago. What is causing so many women to choose this path?
Journalist and author Sonja Lewis recently published The Barrenness, a novel that delves into this sensitive topic. Originally from Georgia, Lewis grew up in a traditional family where having children was more than an expectation. It was a given. But when Lewis decided to pursue a career in journalism, she realized that having children of her own might not be her top priority after all.
Lewis explains, "It wasn't necessarily a direct choice of work vs. family. There were a variety of factors involved. I was climbing up the career ladder during a time when if you left your job as a woman to have children, it might not be there when you returned. At the same time, I began to question societal expectations equating womanhood with motherhood. Women can achieve life fulfillment in many ways. I enjoy my nieces and nephews immensely, but for me, being part of a family does not have to include having children of my own."
The Barrenness is the story of Lil, a 39-year-old high-powered business woman, who is faced with the difficult decision of whether to have children. In addition to a series of obstacles in her path including her career and her relationship with a congressman who does not want more children, Lil is faced with her own questions about conventional notions about motherhood.
Lewis wrote the novel in hopes that it would put the ball in motion to change outdated notions about women and motherhood. "Because it is fiction, it opens the conversation so that people can have a dialogue about this topic. My highest hope is that it will liberate women from feeling that they need to become mothers simply out of allegiance to an antiquated set of values and tradition. I want to empower the younger generations of women. I want to tell them, 'There are many ways that women can achieve happiness and fulfillment in their lives. Having children is just one path.'"
The infertility community is another group that Lewis would like to reach with her message. While she admits that it is different to make a choice not to have children vs. struggling with infertility, the outcome is the same. How do you find meaning in life without children?
She hopes that her book will lift up those who are struggling with these issues and help them feel encouraged to see other women who are living fulfilled and happy lives without kids. "These ideas go against tradition, but someone has to be the first to break the mold. Womanhood and motherhood are not one and the same. Define your happiness in your own way."
What do you think about women choosing not to have kids? Understandable -- or are they missing out?
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