Zellweger on Motherhood: Not an Ambition
In the November edition in Harper’s Bazaar, you'll see an interview with Renee Zellweger. According to celebitchy.com, she speaks to her childfree status—that motherhood is not a priority for her. In baby-crazed Tinseltown, bravo to her.
Beyond it not being a priority, Zellweger says that motherhood has “never been an ambition.” She is on to something there in terms of how she describes motherhood-- thinking about it as an ambition.
Dictionary.com gives the definition of ambition as “an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, and the willingness to strive for its attainment. Talking about motherhood in this context makes it sound more like a goal we can have in life than a given. Now that is refreshing in a child-centric culture.
Our culture makes it hard to describe those who choose not to have children without it being in terms of what we don’t have. Years ago people used childless for those who didn’t have kids, by choice or not. This word became criticized by those who chose not to have kids because it denotes a lack or an incompleteness.
In the 70s childfree started as a reaction to this “less” concept. While it has more positive connotations than “childless,” “free” is also interpreted negatively, reflecting someone who shuns the responsibilities of parenthood, aka “adulthood.”
Zellweger’s characterization got me thinking maybe the challenge is not so much how to describe yourself as someone who does not want kids as it is to go to the bigger arena and find language that helps disconnect womanhood from motherhood.
Using words like “ambition” when referring to motherhood is a way to do this. If motherhood is seen as one kind of ambition, motherhood is no longer synonymous with womanhood. Motherhood is one thing of many that women can go after in their lives.
If we can think about motherhood and womanhood as not so inextricably linked, maybe words to describe those without kids by choice—“less,” “free,” “without,” would not feel like inadequate descriptors. Then again, if we can get to this point, maybe we won’t need perfect words at all to describe no-kid people, because whether you have kids or not won’t really matter.
That will be a day that marks real social progress.