No Man, No Baby: Why Matrimony and Motherhood Aren’t for Me

by Catherine Saunders

I am 26 years old. I have recently earned my Master’s degree, and am currently teaching college writing courses. I have aspirations of earning my PhD in the near the future. Despite my education and accomplishments, I am only ever asked questions about when I plan on getting married and having children. My intellect, my goals, and my ambitions have become afterthoughts. The status of my ring finger and my uterus are the only things people seem to be interested in. To them, my life is seen as underwhelming, because I have no plans to marry or start a family.

This is a problem many contemporary women face: we may have made significant strides in our careers and education, but it isn’t enough. We are still expected to be mothers and wives. Yes, even in the year 2014, society still views women as incomplete if they are without a man or baby.

Perhaps my “incompleteness” would be taken more lightly if it were a temporary choice—something I planned to abandon in my 30s. But it is not. My “no man, no baby” mindset is permanent. There is usually a two part process to their comprehension of what I’m saying: first, me not wanting to get married; and second, me not wanting to have kids. My conviction against marriage is often met with a condescending laugh. I am told that I'll change my mind, or that “I’m setting myself up for a lonely life if I don’t.” I know that these responses are a coping mechanism for the other person to digest what they believe is disappointing news. Then I am frequently asked whether my wishes to remain childless stem from “ a desire to keep my girlish figure,” suggesting that my choices could only be for shallow reasons. As a modern woman faced with traditional expectations.

My stance matrimony and motherhood is just as much a political choice as they are a personal one. Marriage was typically not recognized for Black women during slavery. Thus, my choice to not get married is a deliberate rejection of an institution founded on my exclusion. Similarly, My rejection of motherhood asserts an agency over my body—specifically my uterus—which was historically deprived of my ancestors. They were often forced to have children—whether they wanted them or not—to provide for slave labor for the plantations. My assertion of romantic and sexual liberties is a personal testament of what my ancestors died for and lived without: freedom.

While my battle feels unique, my experiences mirror countless other women around the globe. The resistance of traditional ideals by the unwed and childless woman incites the anxiety of our patriarchal society. Male presence becomes optional and potentially obsolete, to the heteronormative female who decides to remain single and without children. This makes people nervous, because if enough women made this choice… it would have long-term impacts on the way our society views women. Most people aren’t ready for this shift.

As a contemporary woman, I am content and complete as a single entity. My love for a man is optional, but my love for myself isn't. I'd take another degree on the wall, over a ring on my finger; and I'd rather birth critical or creative pieces than children. My choice reflects the beauty of being free from having to date for dinner, or marry for a sense of security. I am now free to find happiness with and in myself. Despite how much this may disappoint those around me, I am content in my courage to build a wonderful life, even if without a husband or children.

Catherine is an adjunct writing instructor and the pen behind the perspective on

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