Today is International Childfree Day. It’s a holiday to celebrate the women who have either chosen – or life has chosen for them – to not have children. I found out about this International holiday from a support group I stumbled onto online. They even have a childfree retreat for women without children. I never thought to even look for a support group for women without children. I never knew I might want or need one. I’m not sure I really do need one. What I do know is that society is hard on a woman who doesn’t have kids. We are heartless monsters, cold frigid beings, and the worst name for us… selfish.
It hurts to be labeled these things. For other women (and men) to look at me in a new light when they find out I’m 42 and that I don’t have children. Their faces turn and twist when they find out that I don’t plan to either. This is definitely one of those things there is a double standard for when it comes to women vs. men. Men get off easy when they say they don’t want kids. It’s an acceptable statement. They are still considered lovable, fun, smart, and capable. Women who don’t want kids are considered flat out evil.
I swallow these feelings on a regular basis. No one ever asks me why I don’t have kids. If my answer were that I didn’t want them, women would hold their children a little tighter. The hushed “stay away from that lady” would pierce the silence that followed my horrible declaration. If my answer were that I never had the chance, women would fawn over me and say “It’s never too late!” If I gave them a sad answer and said that I couldn’t have children, I’d get a lecture on adoption or even worse, sad faces averting their eyes from the childless woman that I became right before their very eyes. There is no right answer for a woman without children. In most people’s thoughts, the idea is an anomaly.
I went back to school to be an art teacher. I have always loved kids and I love teaching people new things. Ultimately, I would have liked to have been a fine arts professor at a Junior College or a University. I taught for a few years at an after school program for the arts that are missing from school’s these days with budget cuts set about by our government. I loved it. I loved the kids. I loved sharing art with them and expanding their minds. I had favorites and I loved to try to turn my least favorites into beloved students through mentorship and attention.
I have always loved kids. I started babysitting when I was 13 years old. When my sister was born, my mom told me that I would call her “my baby”. I would hold her and love her all day. When I was 26 years old, my internal clock was ticking so loud I even considered in vitro fertilization. I was single and decided not to do it alone. I had so many friends who were single moms and I watched them struggle and sometimes fight just to get food on the table for their little ones. I didn’t want that life. If you had asked me when I was under 20 years old, I would have said I wanted ten children. I thought I wanted a huge family with lots of kids and people around. I still love lots of people around me. I still love kids, but in a different way now. I love kids that I get to spend time with and have fun with and give them back to their parents for the hard stuff. The tantrums, the crying-because-I’m-so-tired stuff, and the generally naughty ages/times in children’s lives.
When I passed 30 years old, I started to love my life sans children. I had more freedom than my counterparts with children. I could do anything I wanted, go anywhere I wanted, any time I wanted. I had no restrictions. I had no one to think of other than myself when making life decisions. That sounds selfish doesn’t it? To me, it doesn’t at all. If you know me, you know that I am incredibly generous with my time, my love, my ideas, and anything I have to give to another person. I found my place in a world that doesn’t involve kids and that’s okay. I’m a cheerleader for others. I love to support women of all types, encourage people to go after their dreams, and show people what positivity can bring into their lives.
Now I’m 42 and I found a new passion in life… writing. I’ve always loved to write but never made it much of a habit unless I had a creative writing class or needed to write papers for other classes. My sweetheart and lifetime companion, Dennis, and I just moved to the Oregon Coast where I’m inspired every single day by the beauty of living in the forest on a lake with the ocean just a few miles away. I can hear the crash of the waves from our house when the air is still. The fog rolls in over our home each morning as it does on the beach. I’ve found my sanctuary, my place, my home on this earth. That inspires me more than anything ever has.
I wake up every day and say hello to our kitties. I love that the day can take me anywhere it wants without interruption of making breakfasts, taking children to school and practice and sports. I love that the day is mine and mine alone. Being childfree wasn’t always my choice and it certainly wasn’t my plan as a young person, but now that I am here, living it, I love it and wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m trying to learn that it’s okay to be in love with a life that is childfree. The world takes all types of people to make it an interesting place to be. To me, being childfree is the ultimate feminist expression. The most visible choice a woman can make.
Of course, most women with children make a choice too, but not always. Society raises little girls to grow up, marry the prince, have babies and live happily ever after. Society does not teach little girls that they have a choice. They can choose not to have babies. They can choose to find another princess to love instead of a prince. I do find it enlightening to see society changing though. To see more women choosing - children or not - but of their own volition. More and more women every day make a conscious expression about having or not having kids. I applaud women who truly take the time to consider whether a life with children is the life they want. I applaud women who are standing up for themselves when they are childfree but not by choice. Nature prevents some women from ever having children physically and society prevents those same women from having children via adoption due to the ever-rising costs of doing so.
It really all comes back to us as women. We can live and teach and breath and love in a world that supports the other women around us or we can continue to label each other based on our choices. There are more women in this world than men. We can be the change that we want to see – I know it’s cliche but it’s true. The next time you meet a woman who doesn’t have kids, don’t judge her as a mother of two who doesn’t understand women without children. Instead, look at her as another woman standing beside you making the choices that she wanted to make just as you did. When all of us can do this, maybe, just maybe we can change this world for the better… for the children.
UPDATE: I found this great Ted Talks video about a woman who shares the same feelings and wants to be child free. It felt good to hear another woman's words. Take a look...
UPDATE 3/11/18: I came across this poem today – it is Mother's Day in the UK. The poem was inspired by Mother's Day, written for all of the women without children. The author is Jani Franck – click here to read more by Jani.
For all the women who are not Mothers, on Mothers Day.
I woke up thinking of us, the not-Mothers.
The ones of us who won’t get breakfast in bed, burnt toast and cold eggs made by clumsy little hands. Not a hand drawn card, or a hastily bought bunch of flowers, or daffodils from the garden. We won’t get a long distance phone call from a grown child off traveling, or at Uni – or a Special Lunch Out. Not today, at least.
The women who are asked the question, again and again – ‘when?’ and ‘why not?’ as if there was something terribly wrong with us.
Sometimes, even we think that might be true. As if there was some secret we’ve not been let in on.
The ultimate sacrament of childbirth, birthing you into full womanhood. Like we missed an important final exam and can’t get the certificate that says
‘Yes, you are a Grown Up Woman now’.
Even though that’s not true, of course.
This is for the women whose wombs just wouldn’t, couldn’t, start to grow a life.
For those who felt life growing, perhaps many times – but those tiny ones slip away so easily.
Sometimes, we have to choose to let the tiny ones go, because we are not ready for them.
And nobody remembers the really tiny ones, except for us. Especially today.
For the ones who went through the terrible lottery of fertility treatment – and didn’t win the prize.
For the women who just didn’t meet the right father, at the right time.
For the women who find it’s too late, for the Crone comes to sit with us all, gently holding our hands as the bleeding slows and stops – much sooner than we were expecting her.
For the women who love a man who cannot father children. This is a silent sorrow, for it’s not our secret to tell or solely our pain to bear.
For the women who love a man who doesn’t want to be father, and who after many tearful all-night conversations, make our peace with this.
For the women who love women, whose love can make everything but new life. Not yet, anyway.
For Transgender women.
For the ones who decided that our beloved vocation, our calling, wouldn’t allow us to be Mothers, too. A hateful, painful choice few men have ever had to make.
For the ones who think that seven billion (and counting) of us is probably quite enough, and couldn’t bring ourselves to ask Mother Earth to feed another little mouth.
For the ones who can’t afford to give a child what it needs, perhaps materially, perhaps emotionally – perhaps both. Who loved our imagined little ones enough to make that choice.
The women who have lost a child. You will always be a mother, though you get no card today.
The women who simply never felt it was quite right for us, without even quite understanding why.
We women who have noticed friends and relatives drift away after having children. The friends of years vanishing into a bubble of motherhood. Leaving us with no children in our immediate circle to give us the company of little ones at least, because it’s fun to hang out with little ones.
The ones who feel joy, of course – but also a deep, unspoken sorrow, when we watch one of our sisters glowing with pregnant bliss, or breastfeeding a little one, or catching the look of perfect love between a mother and child.
Of course it does hurt, sometimes.
Whatever our reasons for having none of our own.
We women who know, of course, that we do so many, other, valuable things.
We are the women who mother other women’s children, who are the birth mother of businesses, projects, ideas, gardens, animals, vocations, art, books, poems, blogs, scientific research, films, communities, causes and so much else……
That being a mother is just one way to be a woman.
Just one way, but one way that is held up as an impossible ideal – even for mothers. The perfect Mama. The perfect woman.
This isn’t because I want your sympathy. Because I don’t, we don’t, especially not today. This one little post, today, isn’t for all the lovely Mothers.
The Mothers I do respect and celebrate, and admire. I wonder daily how you do the amazing, important, difficult job you do. We should give you flowers every day.
Today, this is for the ones who are still waiting.
For the ones who know the waiting is over.
This is for you. This is for us.
Written by Jani Franck
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