Being a Woman in Paraguay

Uphill street in AsunciónI’m used to Paraguayans asking how old I am and if I have a boyfriend. But I’m still surprised when people ask me if I have kids. I’m years away from 30; children of my own aren’t on my radar.

But, after a 17-year-old mom asked me if I had kids, I started pondering the connection between motherhood and womanhood. Having children seems to be central to being a woman in Paraguay. Women without children are scarce here. Some women wait until they are older to have children, but most have them by their mid-20s.

You will find many children and many young mothers in Paraguay. But, what strikes me most is how happy every mother is to be a mother. How strong mothers are and how mothers have the last word.

Because children live with their mothers until they marry (and often afterwards too), mothers dictate the lives of their children well beyond the point when they grow from kids to adults. Mothers maintain the home. Mothers manage the family finances. Mothers earn money for the family. Mothers are a source of love and strength. Should a mother and father separate, it is the mother who takes the kids.

I’m left wondering: Is womanhood possible without motherhood in the Paraguayan context?