A few weeks back I posted I’m Not Having A Baby about the reasons I have not had children. Some of those reasons were chosen by me and some were a matter of circumstances. In that post I promised to come back to this issue and talk about how I feel about all this. Since then I have to admit I have been procrastinating. I know how I feel but putting it in print is another thing. But I was spurred into action today because I was confronted with the image below on my Facebook news feed.
So according to this I haven’t known love. Crap! And presumably I’m not going to know love. Crap, again!
It says that any man or woman who hasn’t had children hasn’t known love and presumably they would go as far as to say that those childless people won’t know love. I’m not about to get into a discussion about what love is but this much I know: I haven’t had children, and nor am I going to, but I have loved, and I have been loved. So yes, I have known love without the need to “powder a booty”. I’m inclined to see this image as completely ridiculous and for some people I am sure it would be quite hurtful. For where I am at it is insulting but not surprising.
That said, at last count there were more than 7000 people who ‘liked’ it and as far as the comments went maybe 10 percent were objections and the other 90 percent loved it. So yes, perhaps I’m in the minority but it suggests to me that most people don’t stop and think about how true or otherwise this is, let alone how it might be for people who can’t, or have chosen for good reasons, not to have children.
The thing is though that I am in the minority anyway. In my last post about this I mentioned that Statistics New Zealand reported that at the last census, 13 percent of New Zealand women had no children. So the statistics related to the likeability of this Facebook post are probably about accurate. I am making a broad assumption that those who objected did not have children, although I accept this may be unfair. I know that there are people with children that recognise that the rest of us are human too.
What interested me from my last post was the range of comments I got. There were some who totally agreed with what I see as a valid decision to not have children, and some who had made that choice for themselves. Others were totally blown away that there is a sense in the general population that being without children is not valid. I don’t have any explanation for why the wide variety but it made me think about how other life choices perhaps influence the kind of support or criticism someone can get when they don’t have children.
For me, the first part of my life was pretty conservative. I was in a Christian environment where for many marriage and babies were expected. It was almost seen as somehow part of my Christian duty. I’m not saying all Christians think that way but I grew up just expecting that my life would include a husband for life and children. I just assumed life would take me in that direction. Now it doesn’t include either of those things, and I strongly suspect that I would be dead by now if my life had gone down that track.
Something that I missed out on was strong role models of people who hadn’t gone down the marriage and children track. Those who weren’t married were almost pitied. It was like they had failed. Those who were married but didn’t have children were assumed to be unable to have children. Again, perhaps a failure. I didn’t have anyone in my life who had consciously made those choices and I could see was living a positive life.
In New Zealand we had a female Prime Minister (Helen Clark) for some years and she had chosen not to have children. Actually even though I might not agree with her politics I did find it refreshing to have that type of role model in a position of power. That said, only last week here there was a public spat between two Members of Parliament (both women) because one tried to suggest the other could not contribute to a debate on child laws because she had no children. Quite rightly the response was, “I haven’t been to Antarctica but I know it’s cold” (NZ Herald). I noticed that it was the childless MP who came off best.
I said I was going to talk about how I felt and I haven’t really done that yet. Actually I feel fine with how things have turned out. I am happy that I don’t have children, although I accept there are aspects of life that I don’t have because of that. I have nieces and nephews, three of whom live nearby so I see regularly, and I love them but being an aunt is very different from being a parent. I’m very clear about that. There are things I miss out on, and one thing I am aware of is that I won’t have grandchildren. Actually I feel a little sad about that because I think it is possible for grandparents to contribute so much to the lives of their grandchildren.
Yes, there are occasions when I think it would have been nice to have children, but I was so terrified of being a bad mother that I don’t believe I could have been a good mother. In the same way it would be nice to be in a long-term relationship but life as it has been lately hasn’t allowed that to be a reality (without literally killing me). That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future, but it’s not going to make me or break me.
I admit that I feel very out of place in a room full of mothers. Actually it’s about the last place I want to be because I seem to have absolutely nothing in common, and nothing to contribute to the conversation. I’m not interested in talking about the things they talk about, and I find it refreshing when children don’t have to be the sole topic of conversation. Actually I’d feel more comfortable discussing rugby with a group of men than a group of mothers discussing school lunches. Believe me, that is saying something! The thing is that I simply don’t fit and when the inevitable question of how many children I have comes up, there is an uncomfortable silence when I reply. No one knows what to say.
But actually I’m glad I am on my own right now and I’m glad I don’t need children to make me who I am. I get really concerned when I hear people hanging out to be in a relationship. They don’t know how to be alone. This can be a big issue for people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It’s like we need that person to give us a sense of identity. Perhaps I’ve been lucky that this hasn’t been such a big issue for me, rather I find it difficult to be in a relationship and easily feel trapped and suffocated.
Women (and I don’t often hear men express a similar wish) who only ever wanted a husband and children are beyond me. I don’t understand that because I never felt that way myself. Not long ago a woman said to me she was nothing without her husband and children (both had just left her), and I felt very sad. Sad for her that she viewed herself so lowly, but I admit there was a part of me that felt she was telling me I was nothing because I didn’t have those things.
I’m not nothing. Not having children (or a partner right now) doesn’t make me any less of a person. I guess I really want to get across to anyone who will listen that a partner doesn’t make your life complete, and children don’t either. They are not a necessary ingredient to a healthy sense of self. They are both a wonderful gifts if you have them, but they don’t influence my worth as a person.
“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.”
― Nic Sheff
- I’m Not Having A Baby (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Mama’s Arms (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Being Childless by Choice (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com)
- Confessions of a Former “Non-Breeder” (melissajenna.com)
- Being Child-Free [Less humorous post this time.] (casualnatural.wordpress.com)
- Do We Secretly Envy the Childfree? (slate.com)
- When Motherhood Never Happens (jezebel.com)