As I sit and write this, in a favourite haunt of mine near home, I sit opposite a young couple with a small baby. They are cooing and stroking the child’s head and making lots of kissing noises and smiling at the child and at each other, which in turn makes me smile.
It’s a scene I have seen often in my life and it’s a question that gets posed to me with uncanny regularity. “So… when are you and Mr M going to tie the knot and have babies?” I cringe inwardly every single time that the question is posed, mainly because my honest answer is met with abject disbelief more than ninety percent of the time and it’s usually virtual strangers who feel they have the right to question my response; which is usually something like this: [Me smiling] “I don’t want children”.
It’s this apparently unconventional response from a woman that sparks in people a desire to change it, regardless of the fact that they do not know me, my lifestyle, my potential health issues or upbringing remotely well enough to do so.
The rebuttals. I have heard them all!
“What? You don’t like kids?”
“Oh, you’ll change your mind! I was just like you once, then I found my soul mate.”
“You can’t focus solely on your career, you’ll end up lonely!”
“I’m sure you think yourself too selfish now, but that all changes when you have a baby”
“You just don’t understand the mother/child bond” – this one I find incredibly narrow-minded but we’ll come back to this.
The truth is, I am not too selfish, I am not too career driven and I do not dislike children. I completely understand why people have children. To celebrate their love and spawn the next generation, full of promise and wonder. Quite.
Lots, but not all, of my friends have children. Most of whom I like, some whom I absolutely love. I also have a niece who is one of the most beautiful souls in the world!
So what influenced this decision? Was I always this way? The honest truth is simply; no.
I had a somewhat normal childhood (bullying not withstanding). I had a difficult relationship with my brother in my pre-teen and teen years but those issues resolved themselves eventually and as mentioned before there were bigger things at play which we didn’t understand then but because it’s a very personal topic for my brother, I will not get into it here. I also have a sister, with whom I am very close and with whom I have always enjoyed a special bond. I love my siblings and am very protective of them. Lastly, I had and continue to have a great relationship with my parents, in particular my mother.
This brings me back to the response I get from a lot of women and recently one man; “You just don’t and can’t possibly understand the mother/child bond”.
I said that I find it incredibly narrow-minded because I have first hand experience of this bond – I am a child. I understand perfectly well what it is to love someone more than you love yourself, to love someone so much that you would–without thought or hesitation–give up your life for this person. I have five such people in my life–my parents, my siblings and my niece, so to say that I don’t understand that bond may be true of you but it is not true for me.
I won’t postulate as to the reasons why it’s not true for you but as I have mentioned before I am an intuitive empath.
I don’t have to have experienced something first hand to feel, on a visceral level, the pain or love or sadness or guilt or happiness that someone else is feeling. I get a sense of these emotions just by being near some people, which explains why I struggle with crowds and have to spend time alone after social gatherings to decompress and find my centre.
Oft times I will be inexplicably upset, angry, sad or happy and I cannot tell you why exactly but it’s in large part due to the people I have spent time around that day. It’s only because Mr Mr mentioned to me how striking it was that I could identify, empathise, sympathise with and vocalise things he had experienced that I started looking into what an empath is. Furthermore, he is not the only person to have said this of me so, to be told I simply don’t understand is not only narrow-minded but shows just how little you know about me, which then begs the question;
Why do you expect me to answer to you on this very personal matter?
I read a child free and happy blog post a while back and for the life of me I cannot remember who the blogger was but what she said stuck with me. (If I ever find her blog again, I will credit her in full).
This blogger mentioned that she had a friend who could not have children and went on to describe how deeply it hurt her friend when she had to try and answer some very personal questions without actually divulging her real reason for being childless.
In truth, the blogger’s friend was wracked with pain and longing and was ripped apart every time someone questioned why she was childless. It’s one thing to divulge these details to your inner circle but quite another to go into very personal medical details with someone you hardly know well enough. Someone who is trying to tell you what you should feel or do without actually knowing who you are.
When did people become so invasive and when did we feel it was the norm to offer opinions on such deeply personal issues without being asked for them?
I was not always intent on not having children. I was married and those thoughts crossed my mind regularly, especially in the dying throes of my marriage where my reticence to have children was the reason I was given that the marriage was not working.
Cum hoc ergo propter hoc.
In truth, I was not prepared to have children to fix my marriage and when I said to Gerald that he could simply replace me with another womb to get the job done because it had nothing to do with how much we loved each other, he issued me with the ultimatum to have kids or get divorced.
I rested my case. No only was the blame for our faltering marriage being laid squarely and unequivocally at my feet (as it continues to be to this day), it showed me the reason why Gerald refused to do any of the work necessary to make our marriage work; because he did not believe he had any culpability for the breakdown. So whilst I was in two minds about having kids during my marriage, my decision was set in stone when he uttered those words.
Unless a child is forged out of love, in a mutually respectful and caring relationship, what are you trying to achieve by having one? Being a parent is one of the most honourable, difficult roles in life and is chosen far too glibly by far too many people. I have vastly more respect for what my parents did.
In closing I’d like to ask: Why is it then, that women who decide to forgo having children are the ones who have to explain themselves?
Has raising children suddenly become easier? Less costly? Less of a responsibility? Are there fewer dangers in the world?
I do not look down my nose and question why women choose to have children and it would be nice to have my choice respected, regardless of whether you agree with it or not because it’s not your choice to make in the first place.
Thank you for reading.