There is something to be said about the care with which clickbait articles are rehashed for…well, clicks. One such favorite of news media in Japan has to be the barrage of declining birth rate articles. Yes, it is a valid concern here but if the articles are to be believed, it is simply something to fuss over every now and then without any practical solutions. Anyone living in a larger city in Japan, gaijin and nihonjin alike, knows about the lack of adequate childcare facilities, the lack of support at work for working mothers (after all, motherhood is a privilege that belongs to women with rich husbands), the lack of support at home for working mothers (because a righteous woman would put her family first!), the unadulterated doses of bullying meted out by medical professionals to ensure the pregnant lady maintains her lean figure – the fruit of her hard-earned eating disorder (your new belly mustn’t weigh more than 3 entire kilograms, young lady), and the list goes on. Within these enchanting circumstances, it is no surprise that the birth rate is declining and will continue to do so. Naturally, a declining birth rate means a declining workforce and the terror of a decreasing ‘Japanese’ population is enough to get the politicians in a frenzy, the latest being the coverage of infertility treatments under national health insurance, while the morning-after pill continues to be sold only on prescription. True story, folks.
From high-profile celebrities flashing their baby bumps to your high school classmates posting artistic black and white pictures of baby hands holding theirs, chances are if you are a woman in your prime reproductive years, you have been subjected to all kinds of direct and indirect pregnancy propaganda. Baby Bump? Aww. Belly Fat? Eww. Celebrating your body and weight gain is only acceptable if you’re pregnant. But in every other situation, we say – ‘Hey, look who got tubby!’.
Having a career and an opinion is all great but a true woman only unlocks all levels in the game of life after she becomes a mother. Or so society would have us all believe. And even if you succumb to their schemes, you aren’t a real mom until you’re a supermom wearing a cape. Magazines are full of interviews with celeb supermoms, and the kid with the cute panda bento comes from a ‘better family’ because his mom ‘sacrificed’ her career/life to raise him and woke up at 5am to make her son a decorative lunchbox. The socially acceptable choices are self-sacrifice or being a multitasking superhero. Nothing in between.
What if you’re a woman who doesn’t quite like children, feels no maternal instincts, would rather spend your life chasing your own dreams and passions as opposed to raising another human being because you don’t feel like it? Well, then society will find a way to convince you that you are simply too young/not ready as of this moment and there will come a time when you will ache for little people to come out of you. Too graphic? The point of this ramble – why is it controversial to dislike childbirth/the theatrics of motherhood? Why does my worth as a person depend on my ability and/or willingness to make another person? We live in a world where women still don’t have complete autonomy over their own reproductive health, otherwise known as ‘please bring your husband (Master) along to get your tubes tied’. Choosing to go through the drill is that – a choice. So why isn’t choosing not to go through it not a choice but confusion/naivete/juvenility?
I can think of reasons besides confusion. An unwillingness to spend time and money on children? Reducing one’s environmental footprint because of existing overpopulation and climate change? Perceiving motherhood as a thankless gig? Not depending on children to satiate loneliness later in life? Recognizing that a marriage does not equal children, and a marital unit can also be an adequate family? Or maybe just an unreasonable fear of vomit, something children do all the time? The fabled biological clock may never tick and it is certainly not an obligation to rattle the foundations of one’s beliefs just in anticipation of the ‘someday’ that may never arrive.
I’d go into how much easier men have it but I’ll save that box of happiness for another day (or should I say bundle of joy?). All I can say in conclusion – I’ve never been gladder to be a brown gaijin woman who cannot produce a 100% Yamato heir for Japan without clouding the child with her foreignness. Phew.