An innocent conversation starter can effectively ruin a woman's whole day. Asking a stranger whether she has given birth to a child or has the intention to do so, can hit a raw nerve. It is a commonly asked question, but the conversation almost never stops there.
In fact, if the answer to the initial question was met with a negative response, the woman is then subjected to a series of probing questions asking her to explain herself further.
It seems that no matter how far we have come, women still get judged no matter what they choose to do. Here, one amazing woman shares her feelings, experiences, and what she wishes people would understand.
Do you think people judge you for your choice to be childfree?
I'm 37, so people often perceive me to be selfish or believe that I should have had children by now.
They make the assumption that I want to be single and have no children. They also naturally assume I am primarily career focused.
How do you feel when people ask you to justify your choice?
I feel like I have to make up an excuse as to the real reason why I don't have children. There are a few factors in not having children. The first is that I am on my own and haven't met anyone to settle down with let alone have children with. I was brought up in a single parent family; my parents were divorced when I was 18 months old.
I always felt a sense of not belonging and I envied my peers who had two parents. I always vowed that if I had children, then I would want my children to have both parents. Even if the relationship did not sustain the distance I would want my child to have a good relationship with both parents.
A lot of people use to tell me it was more important for a daughter to have a relationship with her mother than her father. I disagree regardless of whether you're male or female. I believe you need both parents in some capacity.
What do you usually say when someone asks you why you are childfree?
I often try and joke about it. I say that I hadn't thought about it or that I am going to have furry children. Or I tell them I live vicariously through friends who have children.
What do you wish you were brave enough to say to them?
I wish I could tell them that I would like to have children. For me, the reality of going through IVF, finding a donor and bringing up a child on my own seems much too overwhelming.
What are your personal reasons for choosing to be childfree?
I haven't found anyone to settle down with.
I am getting older now and the reality is that I don't know how easy it would be to conceive children through IVF. Can I cope emotionally and mentally with all the failed attempts which may be in front of me? I have seen friends go through this, and each failed attempt is absolutely heartbreaking.
Then what happens if I do fall pregnant through IVF? I have no family support. Can I realistically cope with working and raising a child on my own?
Then there is the issue of money. I am not at a stage yet to be able to afford to do IVF.
Also, in my family there is a history of severe postnatal depression which worries me. There is also the fact that I have abused my body over the years. Extreme dieting and other measures has resulted in Amenorrhea.
Do you think you should have to justify your decisions at all?
I shouldn't have to, but in all honestly I think it's easier for me. I am on my own, so people say I should be settling down. If I were in a relationship or married, then I think people would be on my back more about having children. That would be upsetting.
I always remember friends that were married, they went through many years of IVF and failed attempts. She worked in retail and she was constantly asked when she was going to have children. No one had any idea of the battle she was having in trying to conceive. She would brush it off but I know she found it very painful.
What do you wish people knew about making the choice to be childfree?
I wish people knew that there can be many factors behind the decision. It's not about being selfish. My mother and grandmother both suffered clinical postnatal depression. It has been said that it can be hereditary so that always plays in the back of my mind.
Do you think society includes you as well as those with children or do you think more can be done to include those who are childfree?
Actually, I think parts of society do which is great. There are a lot of professional career driven women who are on having children on their own these days.
Is there anything you wish to add?
I have had a few friends who have had children and it's certainly not been what they have anticipated it in being. It's changed relationships, it certainly hasn't made them happy.
I think being a parent is often glamorized the reality is that it's not easy and a lot of hard work.
Sarah Bell is a writer based in Seoul.
You can get in touch with her or view her portfolio at www.themscript.com