I just read (again) a list of things women without children want you to know… (here, if you’re interested, but mostly it just says it‘s none of “your” business) And it kind of inspired me to write something here.
It’s not really something I’m super passionate about but it does come up. A lot.
When you are a woman in a small town who works with the public all day, every day, and look like you’re 22 (instead of 35), you tend to have the same conversation with 9 out of every 10 people. “Are you married? Do you have children?”
That is not to say that I don’t ask people the same questions. They are decent conversation starters. I get it.
What I don’t get is the reactions.
The conversation tends to go a little like this (with some variation but mostly, like this):
Them: Are you married? Do you have children?
Me: Nope. Just me. I’m enough to take care of.
Them: *awkward pause* Oh. Well, enjoy it while you can. You have plenty time.
Here are the problems with this conversation.
- You are assuming I can have children. You don’t know if my cheerful and somewhat tongue-in-cheek response is a carefully crafted defense mechanism. Maybe I had a horrible accident or got really, really sick when I was 13 and had to have a full hysterectomy. Maybe I’ve had multiple miscarriages and want children desperately. That I should enjoy my childless existence “while I can” is not really the thing I want to hear fourteen times a day.
- You are assuming that I want to have children, eventually, because a woman’s lot in life is to bear children. You are assuming that because I am not a mother, my life is somehow incomplete and that I need to be encouraged to enjoy this time of peace and quiet and utter selfishness because being childless must surely be draining me of my overall sense of happiness.
- You are assuming I am younger than I am. Not that this is really a problem; anyone who really knows me knows I stagnated, emotionally and mentally, in my early 20s and being mistaken for 22, 23, 24 years old doesn’t really surprise me. People who guess a number higher than 30 are few and far between and have some very highly developed observational skills. But the reality is, I am 35 and the idea of being in my mid 50s when my eldest child graduates from high school (at this point) is a huge deterrent against the production of offspring.
I’m not really taking offense to any of these things. I am not easily offended. I’m a salty, sarcastic, Irish Scorpio. I am not easily offended. But I understand that there are people (women and men, alike), who could be offended by these things. Especially the first one. An erroneous assumption that someone who doesn’t already have children is physically able, just hasn’t done it yet, can (and should, rightfully) really sting.
The truth is I’ve never wanted children. I didn’t babysit as a teenager. I didn’t want to hold the babies when they were being passed around like footballs. I still don’t. I am largely unaffected by videos of children shrieking along unintelligibly with with music or chasing the cat or any number of other internet standards. Friends all around me are propagating and if anything watching them makes me want children that much less. Those things that everyone says are “different once you have your own” are the things that make me want to catch the first thing smoking to a land where they put birth control in the water supply. It’s a list far too long for me to go into here and it’s all subjective anyway but the moral of the story is I am not and never was destined to be a mother.
For several years, I’ve entertained the idea of adoption, should I find myself with a life partner (husband, whatever) who wants a family. Pretty much, it comes down to the sheer number of unwanted, unloved children in the world who need families. I don’t have a biological need to create a new child so why not love one who already exists and needs love just as much?
Now, to find a life partner willing to work with me on this…