I've heard from many young women that when they hit a certain age, their friends all started to drool over babies they saw at the park or out at a coffee shop, and before too long, these girlfriends were announcing their pregnancies. For some, this can mean being the only one in their peer group who isn't pregnant or with a small child in tow. And if a young woman isn't sure that being a mom is right for her, this can lead to confusion and for some, a feeling of pressure to conform. In exploring this phenomenon more carefully, it's clear that several factors may be causing this pressure.
Biological urges-perhaps even a clock!
Many women talk about the biological urge to parent, and they say that this is a real feeling that they experience. One woman told me that, after marrying her husband, she began to feel an ache in her womb and it was emotionally difficult for her to see babies because she yearned so strongly for one of her own. Other women insist that they've never felt this kind of pull to parent.
I've noticed that Hollywood loves a pregnancy story-just go online or read tabloid headlines in the checkout line to see one article after another of celebrity pregnancy and birth. And go to the movies, and you'll see story after story of couples meeting, falling in love, and then becoming parents. It's a rare case to have a couple that states on screen their intention to not become parents. So, if you're a young woman exposed to any media, you're likely to imagine yourself following the paths of celebrities, the same way you might in other ways including fashion and speech mannerisms or brands of make up or beer.
I often hear friends and patients who have young adult daughters tell me that they hope these young women will soon give them a grandchild. It always surprises me, because these same people wouldn't dream of interfering in other ways in the girls' lives in decisions such as who they marry or what career path they choose. I wonder if they're aware of how their remarks create a certain pressure for the young women and their partners, who may feel some obligation to provide a grandchild for their mothers.
Being part of the crowd!
It's tough to be the only one or one of the only ones who isn't a parent. When I look around my office of 17 people, there's only one other doctor who isn't a parent. Fortunately, we don't have many social gatherings that are family-oriented, because I'd for sure feel like the odd woman out. So what happens to young people who see their friends, one by one, become pregnant and turn their attention on parenting and child-based activities? They likely feel the need to join in, if for no other reason than to not lose their social circle.
So what's a young person to do with all this pressure?
The most important thing to do is to not take action impulsively. Don't "accidently" get pregnant!! At this time, over 50 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and this leads to a rough start in a child's life and to unneeded stress on a young couple's relationship. Take time, along with your partner, to truly discuss the decision of whether or not to become a parent. If you decide that you want to do so, assess when the best time is to start your family and begin to discuss your plans with your physician. Take the time to do it right!!
If you're not sure, or if you know that being a parent isn't for you, make an effort to spend time with friends who are not parents. If you don't have any, expand your social circle to find a few of these childfree adults. You may want to reach out to some older childfree adults rather than relying to just same-aged peers. Pay attention to media figures who aren't parents, such as Oprah Winfrey or Hugh Grant, to witness a life that's going well despite not having had children.
Bottom line, recognize that it's normal to feel pressure when everyone around you seems to be having babies and others, including your family, friends, and society, are encouraging you to produce. Don't blindly give in without evaluating what's right for you!