Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Mommy? Sorry. Mommy?: A Gen Z’s Thoughts on Marriage and Motherhood

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Duke chapter.

For the past 12,000 years or so that patriarchal societies have existed, the conception of the ideal woman has revolved around the fulfillment of two primary functions: mother and wife. While traditional gender roles have been transgressed in the modern era as the result of several waves of feminism, economic shifts that have placed an impetus on dual-earner households, and women surpassing men in college enrollment, expectations for women still remain the same. It’s essentially as if we’re being told, “Yes, you can earn a PhD and run a company now, but when are you settling down and popping out some babies?” 

As I recently had my twentieth birthday and am now in the process of planning out the next ten years of my life, I’ve found myself coming into contact with the above question more and more. . .   I’m not sure how to answer it because of how it invokes a massive conflict between the liberated, career-oriented woman that I’m becoming and the happy homemaker that I’ve been trained to be since birth. In the sections below, I will elaborate on this ideological battle being waged inside of me.

Marriage: I Do or I Don’t?

Every girl has been looking forward to her wedding day her entire life: church bells. A designer white dress that you won’t ever be able to fit into again. Your friends and family gazing upon you in awe as your dad, in a rare public display of emotion, tearfully walks you down the aisle. A passionate kiss at the altar with the man (for straight and many bi women) you’re legally and spiritually bound to forever. Your single bridesmaids clamoring for the bouquet. An unforgettable honeymoon in a tropical location. To quote Lizzy McGuire, this moment is “what dreams are made of.”

In spite of my own doubts about marriage as an institution, I still would like to get married someday. I’m a hopeless romantic down to my core and subscribe to the notion (against my better judgment) that there is a person on this earth for me who I’m destined to be with forever. And, regardless of whether that’s true, I still deeply value companionship and intimacy and want to share my life with someone. 

With all of this being said, there are aspects about marriage that I find troubling–like the fact that not all marriages are guaranteed to work out. What terrifies me is the prospect of falling in love with someone and finding out after tying the knot (and moving in together, possibly relocating to a new area and switching jobs, having kids, merging financial assets, etc.) that we’re actually not a great match. There’s no way of forseeing once you get married that you and your partner will last and thus making such drastic life decisions together could not only be in vain, but it could also set you back if you part ways. 

Another concern about marriage that I have is evidenced by the multitude of studies conducted in various countries that suggest that 1) single, childless women are the happiest demographic and have higher life expectancies than married women and 2) that women initiate two-thirds of all divorces. This data makes me wonder, primarily, how happy I can be as a woman in a partnership with a man when the nature of heterosexual marriages in a patriarchal society is such that I would be expected to put the most into it yet would benefit the least. It’s also leading me to consider other tough provocations, such as: what sorts of conversations do I need to have with my future husband to ensure equity in terms of emotional support, decision-making, and division of responsibilities? How can I assert myself as an equal partner rather than acquiescing to a subservient position? How can I retain my own identity instead of becoming reduced to just “so-and-so’s wife?” Even though these questions are geared towards facilitating my happiness in a marriage, I’m trying to keep them in mind as I navigate the dating world so that I can find a boyfriend who is open to the kind of relationship dynamic I seek.

Motherhood: Wahhh or Nahhh?

The other tenet of womanhood, which I’ve been far more ambivalent about participating in, is motherhood. Until recently, I’ve been completely resistant to the idea of becoming a mother. And even now that my mind is changing, I have many preoccupations. My main worry is that I’m going to have to put my professional aspirations on hold. I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I am now and have so many dreams for the future, and the thought of abandoning them is heartbreaking. I know there are many supermoms who are able to balance both a full-time career and the second shift at home (AND not to mention wifely duties), but I personally don’t desire to spread myself so thin that I’m tired all of the time and can’t give my all to either. 

An additional reason for why I’ve been struggling to embrace motherhood is that I’m unwilling to sacrifice my body. As someone who has been overweight for most of her life, I refuse to intentionally put myself in the position where I’d gain a lot of weight, especially when it’d be much harder to shed. And more important than the purely aesthetic, there is a real possibility (and even more so because I’m black) that I could have pregnancy complications and end up in a life-threatening situation. Because of the physical risks attached to pregnancy, I am 99% sure that if I am having kids, I will be adopting. I believe that this would be for the best because I would understand their struggles and know how to be there for them as an adopted person myself.

The final big reason why I’ve been reluctant to accept motherhood is that I don’t want to confer trauma onto my kids. I’m at the point now where I’m beginning to unravel my childhood trauma from being transracially adopted, and it’s been a really arduous and painful experience. At the same time, I’m noticing that a lot of my friends are unpacking their trauma from growing up too, and I just would hate to be the reason why my kid was crying their eyes out to a therapist in adulthood.

While I do have massive reservations, part of me can’t shake the visions of baby showers. Of my baby girl (yes, I will have a daughter) taking her first steps. Of my husband and I reading to her every night before bed. Of walking her to class on her first day of school. Of her sitting in my lap while I braid her hair on Sunday afternoons. Of my husband and I sitting in foldable chairs and cheering her on at her soccer games. Of her rejecting offers from all of the Ivies to go to Duke. Of helping her get all dolled up for prom. Of me bawling at her graduation. Of moving her into college.

I’m aware that there would be countless unpleasant moments as well and that a lot of my fears about motherhood would be confirmed, but I can’t help feeling in spite of that that I would seriously regret not having a kid. I’m grateful that I still have so much time to think about this, though, and I’m hopeful that I will gain a definite sense of clarity as I grow older about my course of action.

Mackenzie, a music lover and reality TV enthusiast, hails from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She is a junior at Duke University who, after changing her major 17 times, settled on pursuing degrees in sociology, Spanish, and Portuguese. As a nerd with a huge passion for analyzing social phenomena, Mackenzie primarily aims in her writing to explore the intricate ways in which race, gender, and sexuality shape current events and pop culture.