Having children, not having children. Who’s business is it?

Single or not so single, married, divorced, widow, straight, gay or bi, a large amount of women often have to answer the following: When are you going to have kids? At a certain point in their lifetime, women have had to answer to this intrusive question. Yes, extremely intrusive question that violates one’s privacy.

As one approaches certain age, people seem to enjoy asking, almost as if one’s biological clock was ticking above one’s head: When are you having kids? How many children do you want to have? Aren’t you concerned that you are single and hence your chances of reproducing perhaps smaller? Or, today you don’t need a man to have a child, so when are you planning to get pregnant? You could freeze your eggs you know? These questions annoy me. Do they annoy you? You are in the right place.

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I’m in a relationship, and of course my loving and yet still conservative Bolivian family has asked me when will I get married, and when will I have kids. It’s understandable that they want to know. I do understand, because they will like to be grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc., and because they are my family I don’t punch anyone in the face. I answer that I’m not ready for either, not financially, not emotionally. I also remind them that to raise a child it takes a village, and I doubt any of them will move to rainy Holland to share such responsibility.

At 28, my eggs are the peak of productivity and yet I can’t imagine myself taking care of another human being. I’m still trying to figure out what I want for dinner, let alone what do with my life. (OK, I do know what I want to do, film making, I just need to find out how) It’s not that I can’t take care of children because I can, they do happen to like me. Most of the time anyway, but it’s easy to babysit for a few hours, it’s a whole different thing to be responsible for one all the time. There are many reasons why having kids or not having them becomes a debate over dinners, with family or unpleasantly so, less familiar faces.

Recently, I read, hands down, the greatest feminist book of all time: Caitlin Moran’s “How to be a Woman”. I believe it’s the best feminist book ever, because it’s not pretentious. It isn’t written for scholars and academics to decipher or analyze. It is written for all women, it is written so any woman can say loud and proudly: YES, I AM A FEMINIST. It’s not written in code. It’s philosophy is clear, funny and honest. It is her book that made me realize that the world is ridiculously concerned with women having kids and when, but no one seems to care when men reproduce or why. “For some reason, the world really wants to know when women are having children, ” Moran writes. Further in chapter 13, Moran says that there’s a much darker reason why the world is obsessed with women’ reproduction, “If you listen very, very carefully –  turn off all extraneous sound-sources, and press your finger to your lips to silence passers-by – you can hear it. It’s this: When are you going to fuck it all up by having kids?” The world is obsessed with working women and their fertility. Women work extremely hard to get to the top, until they are confronted with the to have or not to have question? Then they stop working. People want to know when will this happen. Some maliciously await, to take over.

Nature, social constructs, and time are harsh on women. Think about all the shit we go through. PMS, our period itself, bloody and uncomfortable. The things we do to our bodies to avoid pregnancy, pills, IUD’s, diaphragms. The best time, according to many studies, to have children is between 25 and 35. Our egg production will drop drastically after we reach 35. Sadly in our late twenties, early thirties, we, working/career women start doing well at work. We have been in our bodies long enough that we are more accepting of them. Hopefully we are making more money, and have established a great network. When we are at the top, we are constantly reminded by everyone and their mom that our biological clock is ticking and that we must hurry up, or freeze up our precious eggs or we can say good-bye to baby-land and motherhood.

Moran argues that, “men and women alike have convinced themselves of a dragging belief: that somehow, women are incomplete without children.” While visiting my family in Bolivia last year, I went out with friends and had found myself in an almost blood and tears kind of discussion. I had a conversation with a friend of a friend, who is a mother of two, and recently. To my every argument about women’s rights and equality she answered that I had no clue what it meant to be a mother, even when I argued that men should take care of the household and kids too. Above all things motherhood is our role in life, she said. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that we don’t credit motherhood enough. It’s a full-time job, that doesn’t end. It’s not something you can quit. I value mothers all over the world, so don’t hate me just yet.

At the same time I believe that society should demand more of men as fathers. A few months ago I watched a Doctor OZ episode, and the theme was, to America’s horror, mother’s who drink and put their kids in danger!! Dr OZ who otherwise gives good advice, was promoting this idea that women are drinking themselves unconscious every day because they are overwhelmed. Lots of crying women were interviewed admitting that they had an issue with alcohol. No one asked, not once: WHERE ARE THE FATHERS??? WHY ARE THE FATHERS NOT HELPING THEIR WIVES WITH THE OVERWHELMING HOUSEHOLD WORK? No one. Shame on you Dr. OZ. People should ask, why women have to work, clean, cook and take care of the children while men are out an about enjoying their fair share of alcohol and football??

I find offensive that people don’t seem to respect women who chose not to have children, society doesn’t seem to be okay with women not having kids. If a woman remains single and childless she’ll be called spinster, a poor sad woman who will die alone and be eaten by her cats. Let me just tell you, not all old single men are rich and good-looking when they get old. Not all men age like Sean Connery.

Another reason this question bothers me, is that I find it very, VERY, intrusive. What if the person you are asking this to wants to have kids but has fertility issues? What if she’s been trying? Should she feel less of a woman because of it? No. But asking this annoying questions might make her feel that way. What if she’s having an internal debate? What if she finally got her dream job? Isn’t it okay for that woman to pursue happiness, and maybe that happiness has nothing to do with giving birth and breastfeeding. What if she chooses not to, ever, have kids? Whatever her wants, and desires to have or not have a family are hers, and no one else’s. Having a kid is the most intimate, private decision any one can make. I don’t go around asking people how much money they have in the bank, or how many sexual partners they have. I don’t ask women when are they having kids, unless we bring it up together, and we discuss it together. Without judgement.

Women’s value and contribution to the world does not rely in their ability to reproduce. Our value as women resides in the amazing things we are able to do. Think of the great women who didn’t have children, but left us a legacy, opened doors. Queen Elizabeth (the Virgin Queen), Marie Curie, Joan of Arc, Marilyn Monroe. If you are a woman go invent, write, paint, discover, travel, create, imagine. Live how you want to live. We are more than enough on our own.

**Thank you Caitlin Moran, for inspiring me to write this.

So, Who are you?

“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is one of the most beautiful, great, insightful and touching books I have ever read. This book spoke to me. The first time I read it, my second year in college, I was far away from family and feeling as I often have, an outsider. Even though the story takes place in high school, the themes are universal. I have read it several times and I felt less alone, I felt someone cared. I chose the quote above because I want to know who I am, and where I can go, what I can do.

What dictates our identity? Is it genetics? Friends, family or your partner? Your hobbies? Your religion, nationality or social status? Who am I? Do you ever ask yourself these question? Who am I? Perhaps more importantly, What am I going to do?

What do I know about myself? I know that I like quiet, lonely places. I love being near water. I love the sound of water. The shower, the rain, a river or the sea. It gives me peace.

I love chocolate, but I like to put it in the freezer.

I love thunderstorms.

I like to smell pretty. One of my favourite things when I was little was to try on my mother’s clothes and jewelry and spray myself with every fragrance I could.

Since I can remember I have written on papers, diaries, notebooks, and made small drawings here and there.

I have always been intimidated by my father. He wants me to be the best at everything I do, but I disappoint. I can’t be the best at everything.

I used to try to make everyone else happy. All I wanted was to feel loved. I wanted people to like me, and that meant that I wasn’t always myself but someone who I thought would be more likeable.

There are certain things that make me very angry, like people’s ignorance about certain topics. People giving their opinion about things they are not properly informed about.

I hate bullies, and sadly they are everywhere.

I love my hair, my brown eyes and my lips. I’m learning to love every other part of my body though. It’s unique and it’s mine and it’s taking a journey that only I can understand.

When I was younger, I was impulsive, adventurous and brave. Lately, I find myself lost in fear, and angst about the future. I fear that if I quit a job that I hate, I will have no money to pay my bills, but I fear that if I stay I will never become a writer, a photojournalist nor a film maker.

I dream to make documentaries, and travel to every corner of the world.

These are things I know about myself.

What am I going to do? I know that it is fear of the unknown that is keeping me from taking action. I know that self-doubt is preventing me to take the risks I know I should take. What I need to do is take that leap of faith without worrying about what other people think, or what other people want. I’m still figuring out what should my first step be. Move? Quit? Shave my head? Join a cult? Whatever that step might be, I have to take it soon.

There are experiences that shape us, all throughout our lives. There are certain things I used to wish had never happened, but had they never happened I wouldn’t be the person I am. It’s really up to me, to shape the rest of my life in a way that makes me happy.

If you struggle in the ways that I do, please write to me and I will write you back. Sharing our fears might allow us to let go of them.

the perks of being a wallflower

Giving Thanks is Long Overdue

Today, most people across the U.S. are gathering with their families and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, maybe watch some football. When I lived in St. Augustine, Florida as a college student there were many great, great people who invited me over to their homes. As a foreigner, I knew about this tradition through TV shows and films, but it proved to be so much more once I became a part of it. I will never forget how loving and giving people were and how good the food was.

Since I moved to Amsterdam, I haven’t celebrated this holiday. However, I want to use this space to give thanks.

I’m grateful for my mother. I’m grateful for her unconditional love. I’m grateful for her emails filled with concern, mom-like advice, smiles, hugs and kisses. I’m grateful that she misses me, because I miss her too. I’m grateful to have her as an example of strength, intelligence, and perseverance. Growing up all I wanted was my father to accept me for who I am, but my mother not only accepted me, but has always respected me for who I am, and respects and supports who I have become.

I’m grateful for my friends, the ones that are far and the ones that are close. I once read that to have good friends, you have to be a good friend too. I’m grateful to have met people who have taught me about love, how to listen, when to speak. I’m grateful for the warm embraces and at times the harsh truth, because someone had to say it out loud.

I’m grateful for all the women in my family. From my grandmother to my aunts, to my cousins. I’m amazed by their beauty, and thankful that they have shared their wisdom, joy and sadness with me.

I’m grateful to have found my equal. I’m grateful for his understanding and patience. His love is probably the only thing that keeps me going in this rainy country.

I’m grateful for my brother. He’s brave. He has the biggest, kindest heart I know.

Sometimes it’s very easy to forget the good things in our lives. At least, I tend to focus on the things that are not going well, or not going my way. I like this tradition, this opportunity to give thanks to those who make all the difference.

How naked do you have to be, when you write?

By this question, I’m not referring to physical nudity. If you like writing physically naked, that’s okay with me, who am I to judge? If you prefer to do so fully clothed, in your pyjamas, wearing your wife’s bra or your boyfriends pants, it’s fine too.

I mean the nudity of the soul. How much as a writer are you willing to bear before your readers. There isn’t any other kind of nudity as terrifying as this one. When you write, a piece of you is in every word. There’s a greater chance of being judged or made fun off, and that my friends, it’s a very scary thing. I’d like to say I don’t care what people think or say about me, but let’s be honest, I care.

What we put on paper, a napkin, our diary, or cyberspace is most of the times, very, very personal. How much of how you truly feel are you willing to share?

I recently started a writing class, it’s an eight-week course to inspire you and guide you on how to write your first novel. On each class we confront the why? what?when and where? Most important why is this story important? what’s the point?
I’m often afraid that my thoughts are interesting to me, but no one else. Imagine writing an extensive five hundred page novel, that no one will care to read. Which brings me back to the earlier statement. How much are you willing to tell about yourself.

When I finally had the courage to approach my teacher, who is a published author, I felt my cheeks blushing. I was afraid of what he might say about my ideas and my confusion about how to create the main character. He told me to write about what I know, and about my own experiences.

Our writing is an extension of ourselves, and even to create fictional characters I will expose parts of myself that I haven’t even explored yet. The moment you decide to undress the layers that have transformed you and let go of expectations and fears the writing will be sincere, and pure. Maybe we need to remember to forget, we need to hate again to forgive and to love, heal and grow through the written word.

If you knock on the door…

Doors. They are everywhere. A door can protect you from the outside world. They help you keep some privacy. Luckily you can hide behind one too.

I like photographing doors in Bolivia. I find doors with a lot of character. I find really old doors, and sometimes after all has collapsed, the door is the last thing standing.

I like peeking into someone’s home, trying to imagine what their daily life is like, their secrets, their fears.

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Every grain of sand

This gallery contains 10 photos.

A few weeks ago just as the last rays of summer shined, I went to the beach. Along with a friend, we took a stroll on the Zandvoort wet sand. Armed with our cameras we stared in silence at the sea. We also shared stories, feelings and struggles. I have always been amazed at the … Continue reading

I wrote down my worries…

I wrote down my worries in the sand

Hoping the sea would wash them away

And I wouldn’t have to think about them again.

I wrote down my sadness on the back of a public bathroom door

Hoping that someone else would read them

And feel sad for a bit, then happy it wasn’t them

who carried so much sadness within themselves.

I whispered my dreams to the wind on a sunny afternoon

Hoping the wind would spread my dreams to the world

And that they would become real.