Why Don't The Underwoods Have Children On House Of Cards?

Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix.
Pictured: Robin Wright as Claire Underwood.
Warning: This post includes spoilers for House of Cards season 4. Proceed at your own risk!
Any woman who has found herself being pestered over her decision to not have children no doubt whooped with pride during the 12th episode of House of Cards season 4. Thanks to a tense hostage situation involving Governor Will Conway, Frank and Claire Underwood find themselves playing host to the Republican candidate's family at the White House. (Would this ever happen in real life? Nah, but since when has that bothered the writers?)

Conway's the kind of guy who waltzes into someone else's kitchen to help himself to a beer from the fridge while unleashing insults at its owner. His kids aren't much better. They run amok, bounce up and down on the beds, and make off with the President's beloved toy soldiers. We can all feel Claire's migraine coming on. Still, she flashes a tense smile and does her best to bond with Conway's bubbly British wife, Hannah.

Then Hannah goes one step too far. "Do you ever regret not having children?" she asks the First Lady, who spent much of last season trying to cover up the truth about her abortions.

Claire flinches, and Hannah apologizes for prying. That's when Claire drops the mic.

"Do you ever regret having children?" she fires back cooly as the Conway children scream in the background.

By answering a question that crosses the line with one of her own, Claire struck a small victory for women whose uteruses have remained unoccupied. That's not to say Robin Wright's character is necessarily representative of the average woman who chooses not to be a mother.
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Photo: David Giesbrecht/Netflix.
Pictured: Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey in season 4.
Motherhood, and Claire's opposition to it, has been a recurring theme in the show, though less so in season 4. Not having children is a decision both she and Frank made, but it's Claire who takes on the burden of that choice. We learn about her three abortions, one of which she tried to pass off as a response to a rape (it was actually Frank's). We hear her tell a pregnant colleague that she is "willing to let that child wither and die inside you." What we don't get is a fuller explanation of exactly why she chose to not be a mother, besides the fact that she's presented as icy, ruthless, and about as good with kids as Joan Crawford.

This season's interactions between Claire and her mother, Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), did shed some light on the fractures in her family life. Was that tense mother-daughter relationship a factor in her decision, supported by marrying the kind of guy who pisses on his father's grave? Claire and Elizabeth's relationship softens at the end, with the two women reminiscing about Claire's baby teeth. Still, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what she's feeling.

Ultimately, Claire Underwood is an iceberg. She's frosty, yes, but with hidden depths that can be both terrifying and surprising. She has no children, but she has "mothered" a variety of schemes. Some of them, such as her background check bill, ended up being terminated. Others (the Michael Corrigan deal) were lost through no fault of her own.

Claire is not cold because she's not a mother. She's not not a mother simply because she's cold. There must be more to it. Will season 5 pursue it?
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