It is probably to do with the fact I’m newly married, but I’ve been recently asked, more than usual, about the fact I do not want children. It isn’t something I’ve kept quiet about over the years, but I still struggle to find an articulate way to respond when people ask “really?” or say “you’ll change your mind” or “I felt the same, but look at me now.”
I don’t have a great answer to any of the questions or statements my position often elicits and I’ve aggravatingly slipped back into using lines like “never say never” or “I like kids but…”
There is, of course, the argument that people shouldn’t ask these questions on this topic, but I’m not too worried about that. I’m very much of the opinion that people should talk about personal issues, in reasonable places and at reasonable times, of course. Having seen the pain not talking about depression has caused so many friends and members of my family, I am a strong proponent for being open and honest when it comes to discussions that should heal and help more than harm.
I expect I would mind the questions if I did want children but was there some physical reason I couldn’t, or if I was trying and not succeeding to conceive, or dreadfully, if I had lost a child. I can understand the distress such questions would cause in those cases.
But none of those relate to me. I have always known I wasn’t going to be a mother. I don’t have language to describe it because it is such an ingrained and natural part of my identity, such as my eyes being the colour they are, or why I love being outside.
I’m not closed to the possibility that my upbringing or my genes have caused me to feel this way rather than it being God’s design, but I do know this is who I am, having given the worries about it to God. I have examined this part of me deeply. I do not accept that I am rejecting a path God has planned for me, or even something that all women, and by extension couples must to do, all positions which have been levelled at me in the past.
I would like to have an articulate way to describe my position (I don’t call it a choice.) I’m a reasonably articulate person, but I have noted that when I flap or ramble in response not only do people take what I’m saying less seriously, but I get grumpy with myself for the mess it leaves of the conversation. I understand why people would believe me to be changeable on this issue because I haven’t yet managed to find language to describe just how immovable I am on this subject.
I also find myself worrying about offending my friends who do have children, or who are planning on having them. I worry that I am insulting or upsetting people who are trying for children or who have suffered loss. But I recognise that I am making gross assumptions about their opinions and positions. I can only be honest to myself, sensible about these conversations as a whole and sensitive and kind where I do have more information about who I am talking to.
I joined a Facebook group for people who are planning to be, or are childless, childfree or whatever word they choose to describe their position. I have to say, I don’t like either of those terms as childless sounds like it isn’t a deliberate decision, and childfree sounds like it is celebrating being without something dreadful.
Yes, Facebook – my first mistake. I wanted to find some like-minded individuals who perhaps would help me find language to describe what I’m struggling with. I joined this particular group because a writer I admire had reposted a blog by one of their members which I found intelligent and challenging on the precise subject I was researching. I was sorely disappointed not to find similar in the group, although I shouldn’t be surprised. I went back months and months in the postings, and apart from the odd useful blog link, it was full of people whinging. Men and women were raging about how parents let their children behave in public, about mums who choose to breastfeed which apparently is undignified and alarming. They were complaining about their friends who do little else but moan about their kids. They lamented people who had the audacity to challenge their choices. The irony was overwhelming.
There was also a strange abundance of pet posts. Almost every other post was describing something cute their cat had done that day, RIP posts for dearly departed hamsters, pleas for prayers for dogs with cancer. Again, I have nothing against people who love their pets (I’m a cat woman) but honestly, the unidentified and unintentional metaphor was stunning.
It made me very frustrated because the last thing I want is for people to think I don’t want children because I don’t like them, or that because I think there is something superior about remaining child-less. I don’t think there is something inherently better than parenting out there for me.
So, although I respect the ideas of the project that runs the group, I’m leaving. Through writing this I’ve focussed my thoughts a little. I really should stick to processes like writing because I know it helps, rather than looking in places I know probably won’t.
So if you ask, I might babble, but that doesn’t mean I’m uncertain. So what do you think? Is it ever acceptable to ask questions on this subject.