Breaking Society’s Rule: Becoming a Woman Without Becoming a Mother

Sign in to save article

It was spring, and the kitchen, by far the favorite place in a Filipino household, was bustling with energy. Family and friends were catching up while enjoying a lunch feast, some were busy preparing, others were entertaining guests. I was indulging in my meal — pancit (traditional stir-fried noodle dish) and puto (steamed rice cake) — when all of a sudden, I was in the limelight.

“Hey! How old are you again?” asked a family friend.

I made sure I had swallowed my food when I politely and proudly said, “I’m 30.”

It was quickly followed with, “And you are still single?”

Of course, my “Yes, I am,” came as a surprise to some.

"You are not getting any younger," was the response, before adding that it would be harder for me to bear a child, so I should consider settling down with someone sooner rather than later.

“I am not sure if it is something I want,” was my honest response when asked about my childbearing plans. I went on to share ideas about adoption. However, in return I was lectured about the complete essence of being a woman.

“That is sad. The journey of a woman is never complete without bearing a child and being a mother, hija,” I was constantly told.

Owning your authentic self is not always easy. This is especially true for a woman from a Filipino household whose relatives’ predispositions remain old-fashioned.

I am aware that every culture and religion is different. I understand and respect that each one has unique beliefs for women. Growing up, I was always reminded how a girl should act, speak, and think. While my clothes and hairstyle represent my freedom of expression, it’s always been a struggle since I get policed — mainly because being a girl means upholding specific standards set by society. Having two younger brothers made it easier for me to relate with boys, and I received a constant reminder that I must surround myself more with girls. At that time, I understood why it was expected of teen girls to watch how they carried themselves around teen boys. But, I also know what they meant when they said I was only being “looked after.”

It is a common yet toxic habit among the elders to pry and meddle in the personal lives of relatives, particularly those of the younger generations. When I was close to hitting 30, I knew no one would go easy on me. I started getting badgered about my relationship status, followed by their unsolicited advice on the importance of a woman having a partner and that being alone is sad and not exactly a good thing. 

I strive to normalize that fact that there is more to being a woman than just being defined and dictated by our culture, a crucial message in this day and age.

I am a single woman in my mid-30s whose brothers are both married. The elders' subtle “curiosity” as to why I am still single and whether I have plans of settling down leads to lectures about my ticking biological clock, so I do not even try to bring up that I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

Sure, none of this is new to me, but I still do not put up with such things. I often turn a deaf ear on the petty stuff — but not when I’m told how I should live as a woman. This harmful habit of putting women on a certain path or in a box will continue to be a toxic cycle as long as we remain silent. I make it a point to speak up softly and carry a big stick because I will not give anyone the power to tell me who I am and why I exist. I strive to normalize that fact that there is more to being a woman than just being defined and dictated by our culture, a crucial message in this day and age.

I remind myself: I am a woman because of my choices. I am my own boss. My favorite color is not pink, purple, yellow — not what society tells me a girl’s color should be. My chosen color is a part of my freedom of expression regardless of my gender. I break the bias.

I was often told growing up that I did not act ladylike just because many of my friends were boys. Even as adults, some of these boys continue to be my good friends.

I struggle with weight gain. I am petite with a medium to tan complexion. I have always been athletic and continue to be. I wear a pixie cut during summer, sometimes shaving the sides of my head — even when my mom or someone else tells me it is inappropriate. I’ll flaunt my long locks despite often being told to straighten them. I see nothing wrong with being unapologetically me, despite the traditional Filipino concept of beauty — having long straight hair and light skin, features resembling the West.

I have friends who I consider family, and nephews and nieces with whom I share an abundance of love. I find joy and a great sense of fulfillment when I devote my time to things that matter to me — whether putting my effort and time into myself, the people around me, or our only home, the world. What I allow in my life is my choice, which is vital to the life I create for myself.

Self-discovery is a journey and each day is an opportunity to embrace new things.

"Being single is lonely," they tell me. I say I can also be with someone yet be miserable. Being alone means having time to myself. It is empowering. I will continue to indulge and enjoy my solitude until someone comes along to complement my life in a way that makes things better. Self-discovery is a journey and each day is an opportunity to embrace new things. I am single and happy, and I like meeting people a lot. I also know better than to rely on another human being for my happiness or identity.

A few of my cousins and friends are settling down, expecting babies, and planning parties for their kids. More often than not in our culture, this is a big thing that older people will use for comparison. I couldn't be happier for these women in my life and their achievements. At the same time, I am equally proud of who I am and where I am. There is no single path for a woman's journey — it is neither linear nor identical, and it is not supposed to be. It is not a race. I, and we, have our own pace. My mother's, or any other woman's, journey is not mine, just as mine is not theirs.

Being a woman means owning who I am and the choices I make. I am a woman because I am strong-willed. I am entitled to my own opinions, and I set an example. I am a woman, a valued unit of my community, of society. Being a woman means unapologetically expressing myself, my needs and wants, and being heard without being questioned or judged — like any other human being. 

I am a woman who continues to inspire the people around me and refuses to stay within the boundaries of our culture, to be a victim of double standards set by society. I am a woman because of my achievements, my struggles, my joy and my pain, and my rights. I am a woman, a work of nature, and I am enough.

And so, in response to that springtime questioning from a family friend, I asked, “If the complete essence and definition of a woman relies on having to bear a child and being a mother, are those faced with fertility struggles considered less of a woman?," followed with a good bite of my soft, fluffy, and moist puto.

Tags: Personal Growth, Empowerment, Self Care, Self Confidence

Sign in to save article
Share

Written By

Andrea Conopio

Andrea is a writer, a digital content creator, and an advocate of mother earth and furry friends. See Full Bio

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit current Girl Scouts: the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us. So CircleAround for inspiration, and CircleAround the leaders of tomorrow. CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA.

Love this article?

Sign up for the newsletter to get the best of CircleAround delivered right to your inbox.

Welcome
to our circle.

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us.

So CircleAround for inspiration, and the leaders of tomorrow.

About Us