“So, how many kids do you want when you grow up?” “What do you want to name your children?” Questions like these are not uncommon to come up in conversation with friends. However, having children has become such a tradition, and this has created a stigma against women who don’t want to have children, or don’t want to birth their own children.

Adoption has been something that has, in the past, been seemingly restricted to women who want children, but are not able to have their own — usually related to medical issues. But why does adoption have to be restricted to this? Yes, going through adoption can be a long and difficult process, but many women are willing to go through this. And, if anything, pregnancy is probably an even longer and even more difficult process. There are so many children in this world who don’t have parents and would otherwise grow up their entire lives without parents. In a 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, it was found that at least 500,000 women were seeking to adopt at that current time, and the numbers of women taking concrete steps towards adoption are increasing each year.

So, is it selfish to only want your own children? No; plenty of people in this world want to be able to birth their own children with the same genetic inheritance to pass down to the next generation. Many argue that they would love their child no matter what, but what they don’t consider is that even if someone were to adopt, that adopted child becomes their own, and they will love that adopted child no matter what as well. Adoption is a viable option for those who cannot conceive, but why can’t adoption be for all? Regardless, there should not be a stigma against mothers who adopt children, or even choose not to have children, regardless of if this is because of medical reasons or not.

Well, why is there such a strong social stigma against not having children of your own? Whenever you see someone with adopted children, the first thoughts that come to your head are pity, perhaps a, “oh, she must not be able to have children, how sad.” Yet, almost half the US population of women choose not to have kids. According to the US Census Bureau Population Survey of 2014, 47.6% of women between 15 and 44 have never had children.

It seems as though one of the biggest hesitations against adopting is the idea that your genes are not passed on. Perhaps this stems from our human social tendencies of a fear of death, fear of end, and fear of being alone.

On the other hand, women who choose not to have children at all, otherwise known as childfree, biological or adopted, are seen as cold-hearted, in a way. Does this stem from a traditional belief that all women are motherly and nurturing? We have come so far in fighting for change in gender roles and the singular idea of the woman as the nurturing, caring being who belongs at home, yet women who choose to put their careers first before children are still stigmatized.

Many men often choose not to have children until they are older — even in their 40s, when the peak age for women is in their upper 20s. These men who choose to not marry or have children until they are older are seen as independent, career-driven, smart, and successful entrepreneurs, driven by their passion. Yet, women who choose to put their careers first are seen as selfish women who are bound to be “cat ladies” in the future. Why can’t career-driven women be seen in the same light, as independent and successful? Why are women still expected to put their own careers and lives on hold to have children at a particular time and age? In addition, why does having children mean having to settle down?

So, why is it okay for men to be “selfish” but not for women? This strong link between women today and this old mother stigma leads us to be so stuck in this backwards idea that we cannot move onto a new way of thinking — that women can be independent, career-driven women. That women can have the choice to adopt children. That women can have the choice to not have children at all, and not seen in a negative light. It’s 2016, and it baffles me that this way of thinking still isn’t universal.