One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.Shannon L. Alder
For a while, when I was younger, I was sad about not having been able to carry a pregnancy to term. But I was also honest. There was a big part of me that had always wondered about the wisdom of even trying.
I have spent my adult years as an invalid. There was a real chance any child I bore would also be unwell. How would I have coped? I have barely enough energy for myself, let alone to be an adequate parent. We made peace with being childless many years ago, and as I have aged, I have come to be grateful for the freedom and space that childlessness has bestowed upon me.
So, please, stop telling me how sorry you are that I don’t have children. Stop asking me who will look after me when I am old, or if I am worried about that. Stop telling me that I could have adopted, or fostered, or tried alternative therapies. Stop telling me it’s not too late. Trust me, it is. I’m 53. I’ve had a hysterectomy. I have no desire to be a parent, or to create a family beyond what is already in my life.
I love my childless life. I have many children within my circle with whom I can spend time, and shower love and affection. I have time for me, time for you, time for my calling, time for my writing.
Not all women without children regret their situation. Not all women need to be defined by motherhood, or to have it as their crowning achievement.
I also have friends who are deeply, deeply saddened by their inability to conceive. Some have trauma that will never end. For them, your comments on their childlessness are cruel barbs, and inconsiderate in every way of all they have gone through and are now reminded of again with your tactlessness.
A woman’s body is her business. Her status as a human is all you need to know. You don’t need to ask if she has children, or if she is thinking of starting a family, or make jokes about not leaving children too late, or comment on what she’s missing out on by not being a parent.
I was interesting as a person before I had children. Oh, yeah, that’s right, I never had them. Oh well, I’m still interesting. And when I connect with you I’m interested in who you are first, before any other role you may have, including that of parent.
One other thing. If you have a childless person in your family, don’t expect them to be the one to give up their life to look after your aging parents, or your disabled sibling, or to be the unpaid help for your own family. Unless that’s what THEY want to do. People are not rendered less than because they did not produce offspring. Their life counts as much as anyone else’s.
Are we cool with that? I hope so.
Much love, Nicole xx
12 thoughts on “Stop Telling Me You’re Sorry When I Say That I am Childless”
Very interesting take! There is still such a stigma around childless women nowadays, as though we are not already under tremendous pressure. Excellent read! I myself have turned 30 with no children due to divorce (I am still unsure if I want kids) but the pressure on women is still very real. I wrote a blog piece about my experience on this too. Feel free to check it out 😊
Thank you. Childlessness was a choice I made, along with my partner, years ago. I didn’t like the way the world was overcrowded and I didn’t like the way society is going. The world can get along just fine without any offspring of mine. Some days I muse on what could have been, but that wasn’t where my choice led. It didn’t even occur to me that it was anything I should be ashamed/sad/defensive over because I’ve always accepted people as they are. (in fact I’m more inclined to comiserate with them if they have kids, because as far as I can see, and as defined by my partner ‘I’m me, not someone’s Mum and nothing more’) but apparently some people feel the need to sympathise or make helpful suggestions, and if all else fails, pitying looks. Thank you for being you, Nicole. I wish more people would ‘get it’
Thank you for this blog Nicole, insightful and wise and sensitive as always. I’m grappling with the challenge of my pain and sensitivity of childlessness being wedded to such a socially conspicuous situation. I can’t hide that I’m childless, like I might be able to hide other types of grief. It’s highly socially conspicuous whether you do or don’t have children. I haven’t quite yet found the right armour of words and responses to protect my heart, to diffuse the sensitivity of the subject and stop the person asking more questions and seeing that I don’t want to talk about it. I wish they just wouldn’t ask, but as with so many things, those who don’t know the difficulty don’t realise the problem with asking!
When people I ask me if I have children I reply “no it didn’t happen for us” & it generally says it all without too much else needing to be said unless I want to. It helps me to have that sentence ready without having to think or engage my heart or memories. It’s been 15years now that I’ve been saying that… It’s easier now. Time… it helps…. sending you gentle hugs & a bit of understanding – I hope xxx
Totally cool with that. You know my story and vocation, so love how you’ve spotlighted this experience in your post. Wishing you every blessing for your delicious, childfree life. Much love, sx
When I hear someoneis childless, I ask without thinking by “choice or design” it is what comes to mind. Right or wrong
The question is a question that everyone asks not realising the implications of the answer. I do it too in an attempt to make small talk, its not small talk its a deeply personal question. I say sorry because i quickly realise im an idiot for asking and i wasnt prepared for the emotion attached to the response. I should probably explain my sorry. Ive been in a few uncomfortable situations lately where ive realised the gravity of the question for some.
Tldr: i say sorry not bc you dont have children but bc im an idiot for asking an insensitive question that everyone asks everyone with out realising how the question can hurt.
There’s an arrogance and presumptuous around that sentiment. I feel sorry for these people who think women are “only good for one thing” and aren’t actual self-realised, whole people. They’re missing out on knowing a little more than half the world. Maybe the proletariat put this ideas into society so that women would produce more workers? The myth that that’s all women are good for – they’re either mothers or whores – I think is a (white) male construct. Keep women down and pregnant without a choice.
I think anyone who choses to be an aware, caring mother is AMAZING.
My reaction to any pity is usually – “Really? I’m not upset about it – I love my life. Maybe think before you say things like that – you don’t know what people have gone through to be where they are.”
Love reading your blogs. I can so relate – and I learn some amazing things. You are the best!
Sending love and thrilled about your big move to your tree house.
Love this Nicole! I have not had children as result of varying health and relationship reasons. I go along a sliding scale of utter devastation that I won’t be a mother to quiet realisation that as an unwell person bringing a child into the mix could have created a whole new set of issues. It has been a long grieving process and I won’t lie I am scared that there will be no one to care for me when I am old and I question what my legacy will be. I do get jealous when I see people who seem to pop babies out like rabbits but I try and remember something that my Grandmother always said that everything happens for a reason so I am trying to just sit with that
I hear you loud and clear. You & Ben have showered me with parental love over the years and I am eternally grateful for that. LOVE you both BIGtime. On a personal note as a predominately single Mother of 3 adult children I am still surprised by comments of some folk..oh! you must be so sad not to be a grandmother…honestly NO I am not! I support my children to live ‘their’ lives fully & having children does not define them as a human being. Plus, I am so lucky that I can enjoy my friends grandchildren. I buy them books, puzzles and make them clothing sometimes just like any Nonna/Mimi. Plus, I get paid for babysitting. My life also is not defined in my ‘golden’ years by being a grandparent! Oh! and I do know the pain if you did want to be a Mother/Father as I watched my treasured Sister & my sweet Bro-in-Law go through IVF for 11 years with no success. Over the years that I struggled as Sole Parent, I often more times than I have admitted was jealous of their freedom, their financial stability and yearly overseas holiday’s. I am more than a Mother! BIG BIG hugs to you ALL…XXXX
Ah, this old chestnut. Thanks for the reminder, and I hear you xo
Definitely cool with that. My husband and I decided not to have children 47 years ago when the climate was more hostile towards those who decided not to. We never regretted our decision. I wish people would think real hard about the implications of parenthood and not just the “feel good” stuff. Too many children born to parents who shouldn’t have.