Like many other women, illustrator Kate McDonough doesn't want to have children. She explains why we should be supportive of that in a poignant comic.
I knew I never wanted to be a mother when I was about eight years old. I watched as my mother struggled - and sometimes failed - to parent me as a single mom. I decided then that I would never force another human being to feel the things I felt as a child. For centuries now, women have been considered nothing more than birthing vessels. All we had to do was ensure we gave birth to a child (a son, preferably) so we could preserve our husbands' family names. Things have definitely come a long way for some of us since then. However, today, we've carried forward that responsibility by placing motherhood on a pedestal. Women are raised to believe that there is no greater achievement than getting married and raising children of their own. Some women simply don't fit into that stereotype. In a brilliant comic, South Dakota artist Kate McDonough shows us why that's completely okay.
In her comic, she explains her own journey of dealing with other people's expectations of her. As someone who also knew they didn't want children early on, she has had to confront a lot of people who thought they knew her better than she knew herself. Through her poignant and humorous comic, she hoped she would be able to help some people reimagine their ideas of motherhood. McDonough believes a lot of the responses she gets when she tells people she doesn't want kids is a result of conditioning; they have trouble seeing where she's coming from (especially if they have or want kids). "They may not be able to imagine not having that joy in their life," she said in an interview. "It also might be awkward because people tend to expect the standard answer of ‘Oh, we’ll be trying soon!’ There isn’t a standard answer to give when someone says they don’t want kids."
McDonough continued, "The end of my comic tries to address that issue, not much needs to be said other than acceptance! Asking about children has also been the standard for a long time, and I think people are starting to realize that there are so many reasons someone might not have children. It’s really best not to ask unprompted. If someone wants to talk about their decision to have children or not, it’s helpful to be supportive and possibly ask questions if it seems right." Though this is a difficult subject to chew and digest, the illustrator thinks it's important to have these discussions, especially if you're a young couple.
"Even if you are a young couple and have no current plans of children, down the line it can become a very emotionally difficult issue," she stated. "For a lot of couples it can end up being a deal-breaker if one person wants children and the other one doesn’t. There are people who make it work as well, every relationship is different and communication is essential. Everyone’s feelings on the matter are completely valid." Communication is definitely an important part of any relationship. For McDonough, communicating her feelings and unique perspective is easier through illustration.
This is no surprise as she grew up drawing and writing all her life. She said, "I grew up reading comics in the newspaper and trying to make my own books out of notebook paper and tape. Every discovery of a new type of pen blew my mind. I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I changed my mind several times: fashion designer, interior designer, graphic designer… I finally chose fine art and attended the College of Visual Arts in Minnesota to get my bachelor’s degree in illustration." Now, she exhibits her work at comic shows, does commissioned art, and sells her work online. To read more of her comics, you can visit her Tumblr.