Guest Post by LynnS
As a child, I vividly recall one Christmas in particular - for weeks beforehand, all I wanted was a Glow Worm, nothing else. (If you're a child of the 80s, you might remember!). My relatives seemed slightly puzzled by my choice. They kept asking me why I didn't want a Cabbage Patch doll or Tiny Tears, and they kept insisting I'd change my mind. I stood firm, though - I told them that I wasn't interested in "some stupid, boring doll", even though it seemed practically every girl I knew wanted one.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I woke up on Christmas morning and found a Tiny Tears doll and no sign of a Glow Worm anywhere. Strangely, though, I wasn't surprised I'd been given a doll. I knew I was expected to play with it and at least give the appearance of loving it. You hardly need to be a psychologist to see the pattern emerging. . .
Other incidents come to mind: when my cousin gave birth to her first child, I congratulated her on the card and not her husband. My mother told me I'd forgotten to put her husband's name down and I told her I didn't. Why should I? She'd done all the hard work, not him. My mother was scandalized, of course, and insisted I add his name but I knew I was right.
I also remember when I was about twelve and letters were sent home from school about the Rubella vaccine. I asked why we needed it and when my mother explained why, I crossed my arms and earnestly pointed out that I didn't need it because I wasn't ever going to have children. (Of course, I had to have it anyway. . .)
In retrospect, it's glaringly obvious that I was what you might call an "early articulator"!Tellingly, every time I tried to express my feelings, I was pressured, patronized and occasionally treated like I ate babies for breakfast. Unfortunately, some things are slow to change. . .
As I progressed through adolescence, I was bombarded by messages from the media and society in general that motherhood was the greatest experience a woman could have. A childless woman was ( for me anyway) rarer than a unicorn sighting. (I'd never even heard the term "childfree").
The few childfree women I knew were objects of pity and scorn, if not downright viciousness - even though they all seemed far happier than almost all the mothers I knew. From quite a young age, I sensed that the derision these women faced was prompted by jealousy yet nobody was willing to admit it.
I was old enough by then to recognize the financial and emotional strain parenting put on a person. My own mother often seemed stressed out, depressed, frustrated and resentful. I was puzzled by this: she was the first one to lash out at "career women", as they were then called, yet motherhood didn't seem to make her happy. Odd as this may sound, I was grateful things turned out that way: it forced me to open my eyes and think and decide for myself. It meant I learned to disregard society's expectations, no easy thing in staunchly Catholic Ireland in the 1980s, and understand that no one could live my life for me.
When I was 20, I started reading feminist works by authors such as Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf, Susan Faludi, etc. Inspiring as they were (and still are) there was still something I couldn't pinpoint until years later: even feminist writings seemed to assume that women were or would be mothers. A turning point for me came when I stumbled across a copy of Ellen Peck's The Baby Trap in a used bookstore. This book had a profound and lasting effect on me. I felt relieved, thrilled, vindicated. It confirmed what I'd always known and I was so comforted to know I wasn't alone, that there were people out there who shared my feelings. For years my not wanting children had almost felt like a dirty secret.
I was 23 when my niece was born and even though I could see the appeal of babies and why a woman would want one, I still had not the slightest desire to have one of my own. My youngest sister was born when I was 14 so I have some idea of the level of sacrifice, exhaustion, worry and expense involved.
My 30th birthday was a milestone for me, like it is for many people. It was actually quite depressing because I seemed to be the only one who wasn't a mother - it really brought home how isolated I was, even though I've never regretted my decision. Despite being on the receiving end of a few snide comments of the "just wait till you hit thirty" variety, the older I get, the more certain I am that I've made the right decision for me.
Over the years, I've gotten every bingo going - I'm sure most Purple Women will know what I mean. The one that I get most often is "it's selfish not to have children".
Ahhh, that old classic. Except it cuts no ice with me.
I tell people if they look it up in any dictionary, it'll be defined as being concerned only with one's own welfare with total disregard to others, or something similar. Exactly how does my choosing not to have children affect them? It doesn't really - except that it makes them consider their own choices. If that makes them antsy, all I can say is that they can't have been that secure about their choices in the first place.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that I have wondered what will happen when I get older. Will I look back and regret not having children? I truly believe that I won't. And if I do? I would far rather regret not having children than having children and regretting it.
I never volunteer the information that I'm childfree - not because I'm embarrassed about it, but because I can't be bothered wasting energy explaining and defending my choice. I make it a point never to ask anyone about their children or if they have any in social settings. It saddens me that in the 21st century society persists in glorifying motherhood, while women who choose not to become mothers are all too often viewed in a negative manner.
There is hope, however. I believe that generations to come will realize that parenting is a choice and not a predetermined, unalterable path. If people really think about whether or not to have children, the happier everyone will be.
Ask any Purple Woman and they'll tell you that not conforming to society's expectations can be difficult sometimes, no matter how happy you are with your decision.
Remember that the path less traveled has its own rewards.
And remember this piece of advice my grandmother gave me which I've never forgotten, and never fails to make me smile:
"If it won't make you laugh, it won't make you cry either!"
[Editor's note: AlphaGirl reviewed The Baby Trap for us last year. If you are interested in picking up a good book in the childfree genre, just click on the book review topic a little lower in the sidebar to see all our reviews. If you click on the link under the title "Feed Your Mind" and purchase your next book via Amazon.com, you will be supporting this site!]
Technorati Tag: Childfree
August 06, 2007
Guest Post by LynnS