Why Does It Matter Whether Kamala Harris Has Children?

Despite her endless career achievements, it's all people seem to be googling.

Kamala Harris

by Georgia Aspinall |

When Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the US Presidential Election, Harris became the highest-ranking female elected official in U.S. history. As of today, she will be the United States' first female, first African-American, first Asian-American, and first Caribbean-American vice president. A celebrated politician and attorney, her CV reads like a woman who was always bound to make history, and yet all anyone can talk about is whether Kamala Harris has children.

It might not be what’s popular on your social media feeds, but it seems to be what people are thinking. ‘Does Kamala Harris have children?’ is a trending search term on Google right now, up 800% since the election was won. When you dig a little deeper into the wonder - or hell - that is Google’s search analysis, the biggest breakout search terms people are Googling include ‘Kamala Harris husband’ and ‘Does Kamala Harris have children of her own?’.

'Does Kamala Harris have children?’ is a trending search term on Google right now, but why?

So, with people searching in droves for Kamala Harris’ age, marriage, family and kids, it would appear that while we’re celebrating her victories as a trailblazing woman, many are still consumed by whether her womb has hosted life. In actual fact, Harris doesn’t currently have any biological children but two teen step-children from her marriage to husband Douglas Emhoff.

‘When I met Doug, the man who would become my husband, I also met a man who was a divorced father of two children, Cole and Ella, named after John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald,’ she wrote for Elle Magazine in 2019. ‘As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people. And I was determined not to insert myself in their lives until Doug and I had established we were in this for the long haul. Children need consistency; I didn’t want to insert myself into their lives as a temporary fixture because I didn’t want to disappoint them. There’s nothing worse than disappointing a child.’

While her thoughts on being a step-parent say a lot about her character, the fact people need to know her motherhood status so badly also says a lot about our society. Because, whether or not Harris is a mother seems to be an important factor in a lot of peoples research into her. Are people Googling her motherhood status out of mere curiosity, or would it impact the conclusions people draw on her suitability for the role of vice-president?

Most likely, it’s the latter – so rarely do we Google things without some preconceived notion about the answer we expect. And when we get an answer, it’s near impossible not to let that impact – be it consciously or not – your opinion on a person, topic or event.

And when it comes to societies obsession with women having children, that likelihood of judgement either way increases tenfold. According to a 33-year study by sociologists Anna Rybinska and Philip Morgan, over the course of their childbearing years, women are asked 19 times whether they expect to have children (or whether they expect to have more children if they already had at least one).

Data from their study of women born in the US between 1957 and 1965 showed that women were asked about their expectations for the last time when they were between 47 and 56 years old. One would hope times had moved on, but according to mothers we spoke to – and that Google data – they really haven’t.

‘When I got pregnant the first time, I had just started a new job and I was asked by my boss in a joking-not-joking tone whether I was ever going to get pregnant again,’ says Amy*, a journalist with two children. ‘The implication was essentially “I hope you’re stopping at one child!”.

‘In my experience, when men become fathers they're seen as more responsible or providing for a family so they get promoted or earn more money,’ Amy continues. ‘Whereas for women the opposite is true. They are seen as less reliable, might want to go part-time, have another child, have problems with childcare, want to scuttle away from their desk earlier. Some women may be like this but I'd argue there are a lot more who work extra hard to make up for any shortcomings, plus are better at juggling workloads and getting a lot done in a short amount of time.’

For some, say Hilary Duff for example who recently opened up about how becoming a mother helped people see her as an adult, the obsession with whether career women have children can be a blessing. But for others like Amy, it clearly wasn’t.

Women who choose not to have children are labelled selfish, shallow and immature.

Does not having young children of her own stand Harris in good stead then? Her step-children are undoubtedly an important part of her family, but they also have two other parents and are near adults. Well, no. Because women who don’t have children also bear a huge stigma of being mistrusted by society for deterring from the supposed norm. In fact, according to psychotherapist Zoe Krupka, women who consciously choose not to have children are often wrongly labelled ‘selfish, shallow and immature’.

‘There's this kind of cultural ideal that [as a woman] you're supposed to want to nurture and care for,’ Dr Krupka said on ABC podcast Ladies, We Need To Talk. ‘So when you say, “I don't want to do that”, it's like you're not a real woman.’

According to a 2002 study by Sherryl Jeffries and Dr. Candace Konnert, women who remain childless voluntarily are perfectly happy with their decision. Examining regret and psychological well-being among 72 middle-aged and older women who were either voluntarily childless, involuntarily childless, or mothers, they found that ‘when compared to involuntarily childless women, voluntarily childless women show higher levels of overall well-being, rate themselves as more autonomous with greater environmental mastery, and are less likely to have a child-related regret.’

Ultimately then, when you make a decision to have children or not, it’s society that has the problem, not you. And given the obsession with Kamala Harris motherhood status, it’s clear that’s still the case. But perhaps we should be focusing on her many amazing career achievements instead.

This is a woman who, as Attorney General in California, won a historic $18.4billion mortgage settlement that helped more than 84,000 families in California on the heels of the financial crisis. She created a Hate Crimes Unit prosecuting hate crimes against LGBTQ teens and laid the groundwork for same-sex marriage in California. She defended California’s landmark climate change law and protected the Affordable Care Act all throughout her tenure as Attorney General.

Quite frankly, with a resume like Harris’, focusing so intently on whether or not she has kids is insulting. It might give you some insight into her character, but actually the much better clue as to who she is and how she will lead as US Vice President is in her CV.

*name has been changed

Read More:

The Internet Is Obsessed With This Powerful Video Of Kamala Harris Telling Her Four-Year-Old Niece She Could Be President

We Can't – And Shouldn't – Pretend That Kamala Harris' Clothes Aren't Political

Meena Harris: ‘Our Fate Rests In Each Other's Hands’

Click through to see Kamala Harris' wardrobe in action...

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SEE: Kamala Harris's Wardrobe In Action

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