Opting Out of Motherhood

Every so often an expert will show up on national television talking about the growing changes in cultural norms regarding motherhood and marriage. So it was no real surprise when I caught this segment on CBS’ Early Show last Saturday morning. The expert was a marriage, family, and child therapist, and she was brought in to discuss the growing fact that one in five women of childbearing age are now opting not to have children.

Women are happier now because they have choices, or so the experts say. She said that it used to be that women felt cultural pressure to have children—now the culture has changed. Because of this shift in cultural expectations, women now have the right to say that motherhood is not for them. Many modern feminists would say that the very fact that women now have the “option” not to bear children means we have made significant strides in the cause of women’s rights. But have we? And what does this means for Christian women? The trends are not too far off in the Christian world either, as Christian women are also choosing to delay children well into their 30’s.

The real issue is not simply that women have the option to earn an income or hold a good job. Those things aren’t inherently wrong. Deep down the root behind all of this is that women now have the ability to do what they want, and they like it. And for many women, motherhood is not something they want.

Part of the reason that motherhood seems so second rate is because motherhood at its very core calls you to give up your right to freedom and “choices.” Your life is no longer your own. And that’s the beauty of it. Maybe wiping a snotty nose or investing in our child means we don’t get to do all that we wanted to do on any given day. But it certainly means we have the blessed opportunity to pour life into a soul that will one day stand before King Jesus.

The desire for “options” really isn’t all that new. It began a long time ago, in the Garden of Eden, when Eve “chose” the seemingly more glorious option than the one God had lovingly given to her. Maybe choosing motherhood means we have fewer choices. Maybe it does. But, maybe, just maybe it also means that by choosing this wonderful task we are embarking on a journey that will provide us more freedom and happiness then we ever dared dream. Now surely that is better than a corner office.

(I also have some thoughts on what it means to have an inclusive approach to motherhood and nurturing life that grafts single women into the call to be mothers. More on that later…)