There was a discussion on Loose Women recently about whether or not to have children. It’s something I don’t really ever talk about because it seems to create animosity – I don’t talk about politics for the same reason. As a society we’ve come a long way in accepting other people’s choices in some areas, gay marriage or gender fluidity for example, but are still stuck in the dark ages in others and babies are one such area.
Deciding whether or not to have children is a big decision for anybody and when you’re chronically ill there is an added dimension. I know that the subject of kids can be hugely painful for some women if they desperately want a child but can’t have one and I don’t disregard that in any way. I also appreciate that if you have offspring you love them with all your heart. However, I don’t share your feelings and that’s allowed. Just putting that on paper I’m already fearful of the response and I shouldn’t have to be. I should be allowed to say I don’t want babies without being scared.
I have never wanted kids. I wanted to get married as a teenager, but when I fantasized about my future husband the image of sharing him with a couple of children never entered my head. Everyone said my biological clock would eventually kick in. So I waited. And I waited. And nothing happened. My biological clock is clearly sipping child free cocktails in the Maldives and watching harassed parents running around after their toddlers with a wry grin 😉
I’m going to go further than the fact that I have no innate desire for kids. Children irritate the crap out of me (if I was scared to say I don’t want babies saying that makes me want to go into witness protection). Just hearing kids playing outside and the inevitable squealing and shouting and crying that goes on is like fingers on a blackboard to me. And parents who let their kids run around restaurants, bothering other people not to mention getting in the way of waiting on staff carrying hot food, should be banned. It amazes me that just because other people love their children they expect me to. I don’t. They’re annoying as all hell, however I usually don’t say that out loud for fear of offending. I, at least, am sensitive to other people’s feelings even if they’re not sensitive to mine.
There is pressure for all aspects of society to be “child friendly” which means there is a distinct lack of space for me as a childfree woman. No-where I can go to escape other people’s offspring. And, here’s the absolute shocker, I’m as offended by that as no doubt many of you are by the fact I don’t like your children. I’m not allowed to say this though. People with kids are allowed to say it’s unacceptable that there aren’t enough family friendly spaces, but I’m not allowed to say it’s unacceptable there are no kid-free zones. God forbid not every woman on the planet is maternal.
When I tell people I don’t have children they either look pitying at me like I can’t have children and isn’t it a shame, assume I’ve chosen a career over babies, or they ask me why not. How fucking rude and intrusive. When I meet a parent I don’t ask them why they have a narcissistic need to produce a mini version of themselves because it’s none of my business (I’ll probably lose followers over that comment 😉 ).
I fake liking children every day. I coo over babies, play with my friend’s toddlers and pretend I’m interested in school reports but the honest truth is I’m thinking in my head “when is it polite to make my escape?”
Historically women’s only role in society was to bare, and care for, children. We weren’t allowed to be educated or to work outside the home, so if we didn’t have children we had no purpose. And, of course, until the advent of contraception we had no choice in the matter. In the modern world, however, all this has changed and statistically 1 in 5 western women reach menopause child free (I’m using the term “free” deliberately, because I don’t feel any “less” because of it). It turns out that given the choice many women don’t want a mini me.
On a fundamental level I feel no need to leave behind my DNA as some kind of legacy to the world. It is enough that I have existed. I don’t feel the need to furnish my parents with grand-children – they’ve already had their offspring. It is not selfish to love my life exactly as it is and to not want to negate my needs in favour of a little person’s – I don’t understand the whole “selfish” concept, it makes no sense whatsoever. Is the fact I’d prefer to snuggle under the duvet on a Sunday morning to taking my kid to play football and standing in the rain pretending to care about a sport I loath selfish? If so, I guess I plead guilty as charged.
Women who have children can be very defensive when I talk about my feelings. I’m not attacking you or your choice, but neither do I expect you to attack me or mine. I love my dog but I don’t expect you to like dogs, let alone love mine the way I love him. I don’t let him bark his head off in the garden because it would be intrusive of your peace and quiet. I don’t let him jump up at people, ruining their trousers with his dirty paws. I wouldn’t let him sit next to you in a cafe while you’re eating and beg. I don’t expect supermarkets or posh restaurants to allow dogs – there have to be some places which are dog free for those who loath cute, furry, adoring animals. We are all different and society should reflect that. There is no right or wrong, just choice.
I’m going to press “send” now. Gulp.