Maybe it’s societal expectations, maybe I was born with it
For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent every day of my life watching family vlogs on YouTube. I’ve dedicated hours watching Judy Travis AKA ItsJudysLife, a 30-something Filipina American vlogger from Washington, her husband, Benji, and their four daughters, Julianna, Keira, Miya and Leah.
There’s nothing extraordinary about their life. They live quietly in a humble home in rainy Seattle. They do Costco and Target runs like any other American family, take family walks and bike rides in their spacious trails and parks, and have the occasional family movie night. Truth be told, I am enamored by the simplicity of their everyday life—albeit not privy to the behind-the-scenes and deep struggles of being a parent in this day and age.
Sometimes, I catch myself longing, thinking, when will I have this?
In 2013, a few years before I retired my personal blog, I wrote an entry in the form of a letter to my future child; at the time, in my head, she’s a she. I’d preface the excerpt with my bio at the time: One day, she hopes to meet a man she will never get tired of writing about and have children she can photograph every day.
I write, “Oh, how I miss you dearly. At this moment, your Mama is alone in a room full of strangers listening to a song called In Repair by a man named John Mayer. Maybe I can sing it to you when you’re sad; sometimes, you have to listen to sad songs before you can be happy.
There is so much to learn and know about life, but there is still joy in unknowing. There are some questions that you will never get the answer to; in the same way, there are well-deserved apologies you will never get from people who matter. Sometimes, you have to be okay with that.”
I was a deep romantic, no doubt about it. I had this fantasy of having children at 25; I was a fresh graduate who knew nothing about money and other prerequisites to raising a child. At present, I am turning 29 in July, still single and thinking about possibilities after a life-altering pandemic. I still choose to have children.
A Nation’s “Baby Boom” and Global Depopulation
In the Philippines, the pandemic has caused an unprecedented baby boom after years of declining birth rates. As a struggling nation faced with glaring poverty and one lockdown after another, access to family planning has been curtailed, especially for low-income families. According to researchers at the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund, there is an increased estimate of unintended pregnancies among females ages 15 to 49 by more than 40%.
In the US, a dating app for family-minded folks has been created. Heybaby is “a dating app for people who have kids or want kids.” Created and designed by three dads for those who have a lasting relationship in mind, it’s a safe space for potential couples to put the conversation on having and wanting kids front and center.
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On the opposite end of the spectrum, global depopulation is “a looming existential threat.” Population trends linked to fertility decline are related to many women preferring to pursue careers and have children later, with job opportunities for women improving in quality over time. Countries all over the world have also been getting wealthier, with religiosity in turn declining—with “go forth and multiply” as its battle cry—a factor that gives rise to smaller family sizes.
For Those Who Don’t—Well, Yet
In a pandemic, having children is the last thing on many singles’ minds—albeit the birth of many “COVID babies,” my sweet, beautiful two-month-old nephew, the son of my brother, included. My 33-year-old sister, who has been married for two years, is still contemplating if she does want children.
She writes to me, “I don’t want to have children at the moment, even if I’m already in my early thirties and know that my biological clock is ticking. I think having children should be a personal choice; not something society imposes upon us. We have been raised to think that the only path towards a happy life involves having children, but right now, I am examining how I feel about that belief, and whether it holds true for me.
“Having children is a big responsibility. I saw that in the sacrifices our parents made for us growing up; in their efforts to care for us properly; and in the many ways, big and small, that they continue to show us how much they love us.
“I want to do the same for any sons and daughters I might have, but at the moment, I am bent on carving the path that is meant for me alone. And right now that looks like traveling the world; being able to find purpose in my work; and nurturing my relationships with my husband, my family and my friends.
“Sometimes I have doubts, but I take comfort in Babae, which is a poem Lualhati Bautista wrote during the Fourth World International Conference on Women in 1995. It was here that the UN member-states adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is an important document that advances women’s rights and gender equality.
“My favorite lines go:
‘Hindi siya ginising ng halik ng isang prinsipe
Kundi ng tawag ng kanyang panahon.
Na nag-udyok sa kanyang pandayin ang sariling talino, isip, tinig, at mga bisig
Piliin ang sarili niyang landas
At tuntunin ang sariling puwang sa daigdig.’“
With vaccinations happening all around, businesses slowly opening and a sense of normalcy finally materializing, I can’t help but think of the future and with it, the possibilities it offers.
I choose to have children not because it’s deemed Biblical; nor is it to appease my parents. When people ask me what my greatest ambition is, I find myself wanting to declare: to be a mother. It comes so naturally for me; not once did I ever doubt this desire, this longing I believe to have been placed in me. To go beyond my limited, imperfect self and still choose to give myself—my all—to another.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver