Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Childless By Choice or By Chance

At my book club a week or so ago, we discussed the use of the term "childless." I say "we" but, actually, I started the discussion. Someone used the term innocently, in a comment, and I admit I ranted a little. I hate that word. And the slightly condescending implications it packs. Not that my friend was being condescending in any way. Not at all. Still... use of that particular term to describe a couple who do not have children always rankles. 

Hubby and I do not have children, a fact I'm sure you've surmised if you've read my blog before. I don't usually discuss the fact that we don't have kids. Or the reasons why that happened, or didn't happen as the case may be. It's nobody's business but ours. But what I am not shy about discussing are all the assumptions made by people, by society, if you will, about the state of not having kids. I'm sure that most people, friends, and even some family, have no idea why we never had children, or how I feel or have felt about it. They just think they do. 


I love my nieces to pieces.

I love kids, don't get me wrong. I especially love teenagers, which is a good thing considering I spent my entire professional life with them. I'm not terribly comfortable around babies, which is understandable according to friends who say that they weren't either until they had their own kids. I particularly love my sisters' and brothers' kids, and my nieces' and nephew's kids, and the kids of close friends. As a teenager and a young twenty-something I always assumed I'd have kids. Someday. When I thought about it, which wasn't often. There was a period in my early forties when I felt quite sad about the fact that Hubby and I were not going to be parents. But life goes on. And I have never felt that my life is in any way tragic because I'm not a mother. Not at all. 

And I get miffed when people assume that should be the case. Or that not having kids imbues me with some characteristics which they assume I must have. Or other characteristics which they assume I don't have. Or when they condescend to me and go all chatty, filling their awkward pauses because they assume I can't bear to hear others talk about their kids. 

Like one day many years ago when a group of friends were gathered for tea or lunch or something. They all talked for a time about their children who were still quite young, and then one friend put her hand to her mouth, and looked at me, embarrassed, and said," Oh, so sorry, Sue. We've been taking up all the time talking about our children. How's your cat?" I may have muttered an expletive there, people. In fact, I know I did. 

And it was the best possible come back I could have made. We all laughed. And, after that, my friend and I quite often talked about her boys. One in particular was so like me as a child, that she used to laugh and say that knowing how well I turned out was her saving grace when dealing with him some days. Wasn't that a nice thing to say?

When Hubby came in from the  garden a few minutes ago, he asked what I was writing about today. I told him, and he said, "Oh, Suz. Just be very careful." I took in what he said and then began to worry that I might offend many of you, especially as Mother's Day is approaching. So please, please, understand that I'm not trying to make light of the sense of loss felt by those who long to be parents and are unable to have a child, or minimize the tragedy felt by those who have lost children. I'm not trying to say that being a parent isn't a huge responsibility, and very difficult. In fact I sometimes wonder how my young friends who are juggling careers and children do it. 

I'm just saying that we're not all cut from the same cloth. And society needs to stop assuming we are. 

That's it. 

And we should all stop using the word "childless." Especially when it is such a loaded word, with all its attendant implications of loss, and less-ness.


Now if you're interested, have a listen to this Ted Talk by Christen Reighter. It's quite moving, especially when she talks about her choices (which while not the same as mine, have resulted in the same outcome), and especially about her experiences with a very paternalistic health care system. 



Phew. After that, I feel that it behooves me to say something silly. Or ironic. I'm  not usually so ranty, nor so serious on my blog. Not because I can't be serious... or ranty... but because it's just how I roll. And how my family rolls. We're the ones telling funny stories about the deceased at funerals. I remember at my grandfather's funeral reception, my mother and her brothers were joking in the kitchen. Only the related by marriage types were looking dour. Ha.

So, if I always lighten the mood with a joke or a comment about lipstick, and you don't like that... well... take it up with my mum. 



Now, it's your turn. Have at it my friends. But be gentle if I've raised any hackles, okay? 


87 comments:

  1. I think that was very fair. Practically all my friends have children, but not all and we have never had any tricky conversations about it. I also think that in about fifty years time this will be a perfectly commonplace way to live and we are still, as a society, getting used to the idea that there are women who simply do not have children - for whatever reason - and who are not viewed as tragic figures. More importantly, who do not view themselves as tragic in any way. The world has got wider for women and our roles are less stereotyped. Choice is important; so is the right not to lay out your reasons.

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    1. Thanks, Ann. I agree. Choice and respecting others choices, especially those which differ from our own, is so important.

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  2. THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS! I have had the same experiences, and it makes me nuts. Some people have kids, some don't. It makes no difference to their characters. Get over yourselves.

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  3. I'm still in the thick of the kid-raising years, and it's never occurred to me to feel bad for people whose lives have taken a different path (other than those who are open about infertility struggles). If anything, I'm jealous of their free time and awesome vacations. I love your blog - this is my first time commenting, but I've been lurking for years. Thanks for giving me a glimpse into a world so unlike my own - retired, Canadian, and child-free :)

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer, and thanks for your comment. Infertility struggles is a whole other issue, isn't it?

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  4. Oh Sue! Your anecdote about cat query did make me laugh out loud. Agree with hubby it's a minefield. So many reasons why women don't have children and such a diversity of experiences. I think things are improving in relation to women and indeed couples who don't have children but change is slow. Bit like attitudes to spinsters ( finally got to read the Kate B book btw). No simple answer. I like the way you've covered this. Iris

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    1. Thanks, Iris. You always get my jokes. Hope you enjoyed the Kate Bollick book.

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  5. Yes,I like the way you've covered this,too! And your hubby is a wise man
    I've never understand people who are nosey about it- either one don't want children (and there are so many different reasons why ),so-why to ask?-or one can't have-so,why to ask? Or something else....
    Dottoressa

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    1. Exactly... why ask... and why assume you already know.

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  6. I much prefer the term child-free and use it often myself.

    It was very clear from the age of 11 that I didn't want any kids. People told me for years that I would change my mind. It never happened. I'm not sad about it.

    I have two younger sisters and was often left looking after the youngest when she was a baby and I was 11 so that may have been the turning point for me.

    I love my nieces and enjoy them when they come to visit.

    That is enough for me.

    I was really set back on my heels last year when someone at the checkout at my grocery store wished me a "Happy Mother's Day". I did the Canadian thing and politely accepted her wish all the while seething that someone should make assumptions as such. As if being a Mother was the only valuable option.

    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

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    1. The wishing Happy Mothers Day to every women over twenty is a new phenomenon, isn't it?

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  7. Childfree is the term my young friends who didn't want kids use. My belief is that those who are the thing should define the language for the thing. <3.

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    1. Hmm. I'll have to think about which term I prefer.

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  8. Thank you for this post. I have had the same experiences and been viewed as selfish because I don't have children. I have lost "friends" because of this issue but I guess those were not true friends. I'm also amazed at the number of people who ask me who is going to take care of me when I can't care for myself.

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    1. Your last sentence! Yes, I've heard that one many times! It's sad if that is a driving reason to have children.

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    2. I have had people ask me who will take care of me in my old age. Seems like a funny reason to have children.

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  9. I have been though this... Happy to not have children...

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  10. Well I’ve got to comment on this . We never wanted children & to be honest it wasn’t quite so odd 50 years ago . Reliable birth control was available easily at last & women were being encouraged to flee the ‘kitchen’ sink . There was also a serious movement not to overpopulate the world . That doesn’t seem to be mentioned any longer , except David Attenborough ( love him ) maintains it is still the Earth’s biggest problem . It was also accepted that some couples couldn’t have children & three of my many aunties seemed to have full , busy lives without them . Now it is seen as a ‘right’ & science will help if you have problems . Things have changed & perhaps it seems more odd not to have children these days . Like you , I don’t want to belittle the deep maternal urge which lots of women have ( & men too with their paternal urge ) but not everyone has it . I never had the urge to peek at babies in prams or play with baby dolls or cuddle tiny babies . However if there’s a dog anywhere close by I’m all over it . Hubbie reckons I have an aristocratic streak - send the kids to boarding school & have time to adore the dogs :) I don’t want to get into the benefits or otherwise as it totally personal to each of us . I see lots of perfect families & it’s great to see love & mutual respect between the generations but there are many permutations . It isn’t like the “movies” . All I would say is , I don’t regret our choices - & it was very much a joint decision . Brave to introduce this topic Sue .
    Wendy in Scotland just now

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    1. Maybe that's it...I'm aristocratic... just with cats instead of dogs. That Max is so smart:)

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  11. Well said. I have 3, but that was our choice. My 2 daughters do not want kids, as their mom, I know the reasons, but no one else's business. They know we fully support them in their decision, but I feel for them, especially right now, as their brother and their cousins are all having babies, and they feel the rest of the family wondering. It is a mine field. And I can attest to the validity of the YouTube presenter's description of her interaction with the medical community. One of my daughter's has been through the same bias. It is infuriating. You handled this difficult subject well.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. It certainly is a mine field. My mum never asked, nor assumed. For that I'm very thankful.

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  12. As always plenty to think about here, and so beautifully expressed. And the cat story is priceless! I do detect a bit of discomfort in myself as I consider situations where I have perhaps been insensitive to valued friends in my droning on about my fascinating children. I do try to edit myself a bit. As for making value judgements about others' choices - I don't get that. Is it supreme self confidence in one's own choices, or perhaps discomfort and envy. Finally, the (I think fairly recent) phenomenon of wishing people other than one's own mother a happy Mothers Day, I too find it weird and inappropriate, but I'm sure kindly meant.

    ceci

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    1. Thanks, Ceci. I don't mind my friends "droning" on about their kids. I like it. Makes me happy that they're not avoiding talking about what's important to them. It's the tip-toeing around the subject, assuming I'll be upset, but never asking. When my friend said that about my cat and I told her to ---- --- (you can guess the blanks) it cleared the air and all was totally comfortable after that.

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  13. My first husband and I were trying for children, and during that time is illegitimate (sorry to use that word) 18 year old daughter came into our lives and lived with us for 3 years. Well, that changed my mind about having children, especially with him. I had a window into how he was going to behave with our child, and it was not pretty! long long story!!! My second husband never wanted children so in some ways I was lucky not to have had any with the first! At this age now my late 60s, I am very happy to have remained childfree. I must add that in my thirties and forties while at parties or get-togethers, that when asked my other women if I had children, and my answer being, "NO,", that the conversation immediately stopped. They had no idea how to relate to me.

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    1. Ah yes... I've had those conversation stopping moments. Perhaps they expected me to expand, and they didn't know whether to say "Oh I'm sorry" or "Lucky you." :)

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  14. Thoughtfully written piece on a topic that can stimulate various emotions...my heart does go out to those couples who wish to have a biological child and cannot for whatever the reason. My husband and I made a conscious decision before we got married that we would not have children...BUT that didn't mean we don't love children. Both of us were educators working with teenagers for 30 plus years and we loved our job as well as time spent with nieces, nephews and children of dear friends. There are many wonderful ways to contribute to the development of healthy, well rounded youngsters besides giving birth to them. When you look at the number of children in foster care it makes a person wonder if many more individuals should examine very closely their reasons for having a child...bringing a new life into this complicated, overcrowded planet is worthy of a great deal of thought. We are childfree and always feel content with that decision. Cheers, Alayne

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    1. Thanks for that, Alayne. There are all kinds of ways to help bring the next generation along... teaching being a really important one of those.

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  15. Well said, I am raising three granddaughters because their parents chose drugs over their children. Just because you can have kids does not mean you should. We are raising the girls to have a choice,and not think they must have children just because they can. Their lives are valuable as they are, and not dependent on having children.

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    1. Good for you to step into that difficult breach. And for teaching your granddaughters that their lives as valuable just as themselves.

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  16. This reminded me of my own childhood. When I was growing up, and even as an adult, I had three aunts, 1 on one side and 2 on the other, that for different reasons did not have children. These are the aunts that I was really close to, and was treated special by them perhaps because they had more time for me. I adored these women and called one of them my alternate mom. The love of these women shaped my life in a positive way, and no one could say they were any less because they were child free. Actually they were MORE. We all have to learn how to appreciate women for what they have to give, not what they have produced.
    Loved your post.

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    1. Thanks for saying that about aunts, Diane:)

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  17. Hi Sue
    Thank you for your honestly on this subject. I watched the video and emailed it to myself. My reason is for education! Subjects like this teach me on how words matter. Plus the choices women make in what is right for them.
    My older children and their partners have individual outlooks on what is family. Child and child-free and pets. I care deeply for these delightful additions to our family and would never intentionally hurt them with my words. Subjects and videos like this teach me to be thoughtful.
    In my situation, (I've become the wiser) I have heard...you don't have grandchildren, how old are you kids! or... having one one child is very lonely for that child! or ...they don't want kids?...the list goes on. I guess this is my rant today! We have choices!! Thank goodness!
    End of story! ;-)
    Respectfully,
    Robin

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    1. Rants greatly appreciated and welcomed, Robin. I have heard friends say they complain to their children about not providing grandchildren. Even in jest.. that kind of comment is pressure of a sort. Lovely that you are accepting of all your children's various choices.

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  18. Another thought-provoking post, Sue, written with clarity, nuance and empathy. Living a life with or without raising children is a bit like savouring the perfect Christmas orange or the best bloom-skinned Mac. As for me, I love my nieces and nephews to bits and understand how similar, loving attention from other people has shaped my character and still enriches my life. The same goes for my own children. In the thick of child-rearing, it’s sometimes hard to recognize that our kids are each their own person and belong only to themselves. To be independent, we all separate ourselves from our parents, in a way. We are all independent souls, and to be child-free or not makes no difference. Hmm, think I’ll see what fruit I can find in my fridge.

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  19. I could have written your post. Probably the most annoying thing ever said to me was "I don't know how people who don't have children can be good teachers." Like you, I was an educator.

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    1. Of course, I couldn't have written the post as beautifully as you! But the content would have been very similar!

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    2. Thanks, Judy. Lots of Judys commenting today:)

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  20. Such a good post! It was always a conscious decision on my part and my husbands not to have children. Yes, some people find us hard to relate to and have no idea what to talk to us about. Some even say 'so, so sorry for you.' A few years ago while visiting family, my 33 yr old niece (zero children) asked me, her 60+ yr old auntie if I had ever regretted not having children. The entire room went quiet. I replied 'not yet.' She smiled and hugged me. Somehow I think I gave her permission that this unusual concept was okay.

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    1. What a good response! While I wanted children, I have no regrets for the way things turned out. Life has been full!

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    2. What a lovely reply. I must remember that for next time I'm asked.

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  21. I have never used or heard others use “childless “ in a condescending way. Of course, I’ve very rarely heard it used in conversation. I suppose that’s because the people I associate with would not be describing or judging a person based on their procreation choices. It seems like a factual, non-judgmental adjective to me, but now that I know that some find it offensive, I will delete it from my vocabulary. I do feel a bit sorry for the innocent friend who had to endure your rant.

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    1. Perhaps it sounds condescending to me because it's so clinical sounding. I'm not sure. I've just always found it so. Don't feel too sorry for my friend. We've been friends for long enough for me to be on the other end of a few of her rants over the years:)

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  22. Thank you for this thoughtful post, very well said. Suz from Vancouver

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  23. Beautiful post! Very insightful! Thank you for sharing my Talk with your readers--I'm glad it resonated with you as you explored this topic for yourself. Keep up the thought-provoking posts! <3 Christen

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, Christen. I was very moved by your Ted Talk, and it was clear that your live audience was too.

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  24. I appreciate the candor of this post, refreshingly honest and obviously, thought provoking. My husband and I chose to have one child and an acquaintance described us as "nearly childless." I believe that to be the most stupid comment ever! Perhaps the significant takeaway from this discussion is tolerance for others who have chosen, or are living with a choice made for them, a path that is different from ours. Let's try to walk two moons in another's moccasins before we make assumptions.

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    1. A friend mentioned that the other night when I explained at a girls night out what I was writing about this week. She said there seems to be an unspoken hierarchy among parents who have more than one. What's up with that, I wonder?

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  25. We don’t have children either. Or better said I don’t have children. When I met my husband I was 34. When the relationship was looking steady I was 36 and started thinking about it as I always assumed I would have children. It took 5 minutes on the phone with my parents to decide that for me, at that age, with my character, it was not a very good idea. My two best friends got their first child ar repecti ely 38 and 40. All three of us are happy with our choice. My husband does have a daughter from a previous marriage and although we get along beautifully now, it is not the same as your own child. The fact that her mom made me look like the enemy and Nicky responded accordingly, didn’t help as you can imagine (I had nothing to do with the divorce by the way.)
    Luckily nobody has ever given me any strange remark on not having children. Isn’t that odd? Because I do recognise the judging and assumptions you are talking about. Perhaps it was easy for me to deal with any remarks as not having children was by choice? I might never have noticed any remarks?
    Anyway, good post!
    Greetje

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    1. By the way I was surgically sterilzed when I was 40. No hassle from the doctor at all. Perhaps because I was already 40?

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    2. Thanks for this perspective, Greetje. The Netherlands is way ahead of us on this issue, I'm sure.

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  26. Thanks for your post, Sue. I enjoyed reading it a lot, as I always do.
    Having kids or not having kids makes a fundamental difference in what shape your life takes, I believe. Nobody who has kids - for whatever reason - will ever truly know how it feels to live a life of somebody who doesn´t have kids - for whatever reason, and vice versa.
    I do have children, and I would and do happily answer questions about how that feels, what our life is like and all things related. Talking to a person who doesn´t have kids, I find it interesting on how their life feels etc.
    That´s why I would ask them, to explore what´s different in their lives and find out about their mindsets. Maybe I´m just a nosy parker but then I always wanted to learn about who people are, learning about their experiences etc. I always found our similarities and differences interesting.
    Questions about them not having kids was never meant to be condescending or them having to justify their choices or some such. I never felt that questions about me having kids are offensive, on the other hand. I´d assume the person who asked would genuinely, benignely want to know. Both ways, it never occurred to me that those questions could be perceived as offensive, as long as they´re not asked in an offensive vibe, of course.
    I wonder: Are questions about having children or not offensive regardless of the asker or their intention? I understand they are if there are expectations tied to the questions or if the asker really is after a justification rather than just a simple answer.
    And I wonder on how many toes I stepped over the years by never considering that asking how and why could be perceived as condescending.

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    1. I don't think that anyone has ever asked me in the way you're describing. I would have welcomed it from a close friend or family. Probably not from an acquaintance because it's a bit too personal. It's the comments like "it's probably for the best that you haven't had children" which are so hurtful. I think referring to the fact that I didn't "settle down" until I was almost thirty. Such an advanced age! Ha. It's the awkward pause when someone asks me if I have children. This I recognize is often from them not knowing if they should ask further or what. Or people arguing with my reasons when I explain our situation. Not helpful. And most hurtful are the comments made in my presence by people whom I love, which are so old fashioned, and so lacking in empathy. Blows me away every time. I know I'm sensitive about the whole thing. My sensitivity grew and grew for a few years, and has now abated ... mostly.
      Thanks so much for weighing in on the discussion, Ines.

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    2. Of course you are sensitive about the subject, Sue. So many values and beliefs are attached to it. So often there´s judgement involved about who should or shouldn´t have kids or what a person must be like if they don´t want to have children or how less worth living a life without children must be. Yesterday while shopping I heard one woman positively bragging to another about the amount of grandchildren she has. I wonder how she would have felt towards her children if they didn´t provide grandchildren, if she would have felt they failed her somehow.
      If someone asked me why I had kids (and wanted an honest answer), I´d say because it was the done thing. I never thought about not having kids and now I´m lucky to be happy to have them. : )
      And don´t get me started on the whole kids who will take care of you when you´re old thing. Why would I want to be as independent and self-reliant as possible from puberty to whenever age "old age" starts only to then give up everything I achieved to let my kids take care of me? Not to mention the burden it puts on the grown-up childrens´ shoulders.

      You mentioned another hurtful und thoughtless comment about being a teacher while not being a mother. Some of my teacher colleagues do have children, some don´t, and wouldn´t you believe it: There´s no correlation between them being a parent and a great teacher. Unbelievable!
      Please keep on writing the way you do!

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  27. I confess: I let all my friends know that I'm childless by choice and that I really am not into babies, kids or teenagers. One day at lunch, one of my friends tried to show me a pic of her grandchildren and I could not summon up a shred of interest. I tried not to be rude--I made a joke about my lack of interest. But I just can't conjure up delight. I haven't a spec of Mother Instinct. I heartily wish other women wouldn't assume that ALL women are into children. But when another friend at the lunch passed around a pic of her new Boston Terrier pup, I went berserk with glee. That's how I roll.

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    1. I have a couple of friends who are unabashed non-lovers of babies. I love little kids... and teenagers...babies make me nervous. I'm not particularly maternal, but than again my sisters, and many of my friends aren't either, or not obviously maternal, anyway. And most of them have kids. I can't identify with the puppy glee... now cats are an entirely different matter.

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  28. Oh yes, it certainly is a minefield! We have one child. We were married for 10 years before she came along and for the first five years, neither of us wanted children...ever! Then, well, it just evolved. And then I couldn't get pregnant. Now, I am not one who drools over babies, at all!! But you know, it was the hardest time of my life. I was desperate to have a child. I cried every day. So, in two years time and with some mild medication, I got pregnant, had a lovely pregnancy, totally easy birth (at age 38) and even had the girl I wanted. But you just never know any person's reasons or very private workings, do you? I have gotten so much grief for just having one... oh, the comments. It is amazing. So, just like being "child free", even having one is seen as what, undesirable? Anyway, thank you for this very important and interesting discussion!

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, Lobby. There are so many shapes and sizes to this issue, aren't here?

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    2. Libby, I can totally relate. Parents of only children are also stigmatized, in my experience. I was always amused by people commenting about "Aren't you worried that your son will be 'spoiled' being an only child", blah blah. Not really, since I was also an 'only child'. LOL
      In my observation, only children seem LESS selfish than children from larger families.

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  29. I'm very sorry that you've been hurt by people's comments to you about being childless or child-free.
    I think that in the same way the decision to have a partner in life or remain alone is a universal, collective experience, it's the same with having children, or not. I can't imagine a novel about a couple that is childless where there isn't at least some reference as to why. It would be too big of a gap in their story and would be distracting to leave it out. I think it's sort of the same in life, which doesn't at all mean that anyone has to disclose or discuss their reasons, but in the absence of knowledge, people tend to make assumptions or look for clues to "connect the dots" - I think it's human nature. I have friends without children, some I know a very detailed story about, and others where the topic has never been discussed. Of course I wonder what their reasons were - whether it's my business or not. In the absence of knowledge, one presumes that there's an interesting and important story. Of course I would never ask and I want to be very clear that I make no judgements about their decisions at all.

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    1. You're right about the gap in a person's story... I love the comparison to a fictional character. And of course we all fill a gap with details that we eek out or imagine. And if someone whom I trusted asked me to expand I probably would. But it would have to be a special person. I've started to explain on a few occasions but was shut down by argument. Which sounds weird, but everyone wants their view to be right so hence the argument. I know that many people think that either you don't want kids, end of story, or you couldn't have kids, end of story. When the reality is often so much more complex than that.

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    2. I can't imagine anyone arguing about the subject - incomprehensible and so insensitive. And like most big life choices, of course the reality is complex and not one reason. And also no right or wrong decision. xo

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  30. Terrific post, Sue. I am also "childless" though I have step-children from my second marriage. When I was younger I was asked questions about it, but not so much now. (Loved the answer "not yet".)

    I don't understand the artificial division between those who have children and those who don't, surely there are an infinite number of reasons as to why in both cases - in any event it boils down to love for our fellow human beings not just blood relations.

    The only complaint I would make is that(very rarely) somebody will say "Oh, you wouldn't understand, you don't have your own children." I am tempted to launch into a Merchant of Venice style speech ...if you prick me do I not bleed etc.

    Sue

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    1. Yeah... I get that "prick me do I not bleed" sentiment. Because of course if we've never had children we can't know exactly what it's like... but I have to say that many of us are pretty empathetic and have good imaginations. I once had a friend say "you can't imagine what it's like"... and I thought but didn't say because she was upset at the time... "I certainly can imagine. I'm doing my best to imagine. But I admit that I can't know." Still despite allowances for her being upset, I felt rebuffed for my attempt to help during a difficult time.

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  31. Thank you for your post. My husband and I are in our late 40's and child free and we found it interesting how in our mid 30's the question changed from,"When are you having children?" to " Are you having children?" We have been told that. "God will bless us" to other odd and not appropriate comments. We are just child free. Like you, growing up I always thought I would be a mother, but it never happened. We have 21 nieces and nephews and another 8 step nephews, ages 5-37 so have always had children in our lives. We have had some for days, weeks or months. We took 3 teen nieces and nephews on a road trip to Wyoming and Big Sky, Montana and other such adventures. I was laid off from my career and then it was worse as when asked at get togethers, " How many children do you have and then where do you work?" I would reply " no children, no job." That always was met with great silence. I love children, had 3 brothers I helped raise, babysat a lot growing up and volunteer with children at church and school. I have changed diapers, fed babies and interestingly enough, my husband and I did overnight daycare for a 6 week old infant until he was 9 months. That was educating. I have been a juvenile probation officer and hosted birthday parties, gone on university visits and loaned out handbags and jewelry for proms. I have accepted I won't be a mother and feel bad I won't be a grandma. My oldest brother died at 46 leaving behind 3 teens, so we have played a bigger role in their lives, and it is ok. We travel when we want, have more money and are mostly content. We are headed to Ohio to celebrate our niece's graduation with her Pharm D. I am always amazed at what people think of child fee people and have had many comments about sleeping in and eating bon bons all day. I let them think what they want now. My younger brother and his wife had their baby die at 23 weeks and people assume they have never been parents. I feel so bad when they deal with that. Life happens and people don't know and don't need to know and need to let it be. This is always a strange holiday as my sister-in-laws think I should wait on them because they bred. I married into a family where the dad is one of 12 and my husband is one of 9 and had a paternal aunt have her 3rd child by an "oops" at 48. Constantly fertile. It is interesting. I am glad they have been able to have children. I get tired of people's assumptions but let it go for the most part This weekend of Mother's Day, will, I think, always be a bit painful. Someday I will spend it by myself and on a beach, preferably in Barcelona! I really appreciate your thoughts and putting this out there. I am blessed with children in my life and I hope it had given me more empathy knowing not everyone gets to be a mother.

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    1. I'm coming with you...to the beach in Barcelona, I mean:)

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  32. Am only 5 minutes into the video and have to add I had a friend use abortion as birth control in college and has never had children or wanted them and I told her Planned Parenthood would tie her tubes as was told a Dr. would discourage a woman from doing this and make them wait. My mom was in her mid 30's with 4 children and her doctors, both Catholic, did not want to tie her tubes. Wow! So glad women have more options. Pregnancy can be deadly and I don't think there is enough of a discussion about this in the United States.

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  33. Oh my, this hits home. I did not want children until my 30's when I changed my mind and had two sons. It was one of the best and most difficult things in my life. Our oldest son really wants children and his wife does not. They married young (age 21 right out of college)when it was not an issue for them, but ten years later it is. I'd love to have grandchildren, but I want to support both my son and his wife and it's really, really tough. The TED talk speaker is ultimately correct. No child should to have a parent who does not want him/her.

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    1. It's so difficult when one person wants children and the other doesn't. As a parent of a potential parent it's a tough situation for you too, Lynn.

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  34. I once had a discussion with my mother who was born in 1934 about when she was in her 20s she had no choices. You got married you had children the end. She went on to say if she had had the choice she may not have me and my sister. What? I do not have children. My niece and nephew are two of the most wonderful young people I know. I'm very happy with my decision as is my sister with hers.

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    1. I wonder what my mum would say to that question. Interesting comment, Lynn. Thanks.

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  35. Thank you for your post! I appreciate it very much. I have one child and she made the decision not to have children. She asked me if that was okay with me and I told her that I had no right to factor into that decision, that she had to do what was right for her. She is now in her forties and feels her decision was the right one for her. I am proud of her and she has a full and happy life. And, what more could a parent want for their child?

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    1. Such wise words. Really, shouldn't all parents want what makes their child happiest? I don't understand the pressure out on children to produce grandchildren.

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  36. Thank you for addressing this. It's funny that here we are in the 21st century and there is still so much sentimentality and censure around whether to have children. I grew up in a large family, helped raise my siblings and never wanted children. My husband did and I had two children. I love them dearly, was a good parent, and love kids (was also a teacher). Still, if I chose again, I would not have children. And certainly will never pressure mine to have them. Love your writing!

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    1. In some ways the sentimentality is getting worse, I think, not better... FB doesn't help. Good for you to let your own children make up their minds without pressure.

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  37. Thank you for writing this. I do not have children. My first husband and I were very happy with our decision. I have no regrets. I do get comments that surprise me but I have learnt to deal with them. I have noticed that younger woman are more vocal about their decisions regarding children and seem to be able to feel more support with them. That makes me very hopeful.

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    1. Interesting point about younger women. Next time I'm out with my younger former work colleagues I must do a casual survey about attitudes towards parenthood choices.

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  38. I’m rather late commenting, due to travelling but to echo others comments ... thanks for writing, so sensitively about this topic Sue. I always knew I wanted children and feel blessed that I was able to ... my heart goes out to everyone (men, as well as women) for whom this isn’t the case...
    I will never understand why people, sadly, often other women, constantly pressurise and ask questions about something so personal. I was married for seven years before the birth of my first child and believe me the pressure was immense, constant comments from family ... sometimes I wanted to scream at their insensitivity but I just smiled and tried to let the comments “wash over me” Looking back, I’m thinking perhaps I should have been more honest and then the comments may have stopped.
    I would never say anything to my children or indeed to anyone that lead them to feel I had expectations... this choice is theirs and theirs alone, as it should be.
    Rosie

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    1. It seems that we are always constantly trying to live up to family expectations when we're young. Good for you to not put added pressure on your kids!

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  39. I meant to add, that I think and hope, my children’s generation are much more supportive of each other’s choices. As others have commented, no one should be made to feel that they should have children and/or guilty if they don’t. Certainly no child should feel they were unwanted ...
    Stu was right when he suggested caution with this topic ... I’ve struggled with how to phrase things ... but as I said, you’ve dealt with the subject so sensitively ...
    Rosie

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  40. Hi there...great way to open a discussion! as individuals it is indeed NO ONES business why we don't...or do have children. That said I love the Happy Mother's Day greeting so many of us were given at stores or restaurants or wherever...on Sunday...how wonderful to be included in a generation of cool nurturing women!

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    1. It's hard to know which way to jump on that issue... like the whole thing about not wishing people Merry Christmas, in a way.

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All comments, ideas, commiserations, questions, complaints... are most welcome.