It seems I’ve reached that age and I’m now officially in the minority of women without children.
This Friday I will turn 37 years old.
When I started this blog I was about to turn 29. That’s 8 years as a blogger that’s seen me go from late 20s/early 30s, to 3 years off my 40th birthday. I’m in a whole new tick box on forms now than when I started.
I’ve always received a lot of random emails as a blogger. That exciting day when I got sent an email about a new “hands free purse” that you could wear when clubbing that was basically some kind of cod piece with a zip on it, the “women” who are obviously men who email me asking if I could just send them some photos of me wearing just my tights so they can check they will fit right for their body and the many, many requests from people who love my blog, especially that last “insert post name” one, and want to write a guest post on car maintenance that my readers will LOVE.
Recently, though, I’ve started to receive a few emails asking me to review children’s toys, or publish infographics about nappies, or write a sponsored post about children’s clothes. I’ve never had them before, and I can only assume that at some point over the last couple of years the fact that I am in my 30s has started to see me added to a list called “Mommy bloggers”.
So, let’s get this out there right now. I don’t have children and I don’t want children.
I don’t hate children. My Sister has 2 lovely boys, I like to visit them. Several of my friends have children that I like to visit. I’ve just never had a burning urge to look after one of my own.
When I was about 9 or 10 I was asked to write a piece at school about where I saw myself in 10 years time. I thought I was going to be a Nurse and have, if I remember correctly, 7 children (all named after characters in Little Women and Little Men, because those were the last books I read) I was obviously very optimistic about what I was going to fit in by the time I was 20. My desire to go into Nursing was also largely influenced by a book I’d read, and it took me 10 years to realise it wasn’t all capes, hats and flirting with dishy Doctors and return to my original plan that I was going to be a writer.
It took me considerably less time to back out of the 7 children plan, and by my early teens I was fairly sure I didn’t want to have children.
For 20 years people who know me well, and people who’ve never met me before in their entire lives, have met this with varying levels of shock and disbelief.
My ability to know my own mind has been doubted, whether I will ever feel like a “proper” woman has been questioned, my ability to genuinely feel emotion has been dismissed and I’ve been issued with dire warnings about how much I’ll regret it once my “biological clock” starts ticking and it’s too late for me to fulfilled as a human being.
I’ve never been particularly offended by any of this, but I do find it interesting that it’s the only aspect of my life I’m asked to defend and question, and I’m very aware of how upsetting and intrusive those questions would be if my childlessness wasn’t by choice. I’m also aware that this seems to be the default line of questioning for women without children.
The fact is, seeing as I’m in a sharing mood, that I’ve just never seen children as part of my life. When I imagine myself 10 years in the future I don’t see myself taking a 10-year-old to school. I don’t even imagine myself in 40 years surrounded by grandchildren. I guess I’ve just always thought of a life-long commitment to raise another human being as something I should do on purpose, with desire, forethought and planning, rather than just because it was what was expected of me.
Turns out that whole Biological Clock thing is nonsense anyway.
It was basically invented in the 70s to scare women without children into reversing the declining birth rate, and is a whole load of sexist rubbish. Apparently women don’t come with an inbuilt hormonal time bomb (that men have cleverly avoided due to their superior genetics). For 20 years people have made me doubt my ability to make my life choices based on an idea that somehow my hormones would one day rise up and make me sorry I’d never reproduced, but it turns out women might just be as capable as men of making decisions for themselves.
Interestingly, just as I reached this point in this (probably excessively long) post, another post on Motherhood popped up in my Facebook feed. It seems that many women do regret and resent motherhood. Frankly, if I were to sit down and think about it, like I am right now, the thought that I might have children and then regret it, even if I loved them, terrifies me a lot more than the idea that I might get to 70 and wonder whether I made the right choice not to have children.
As a woman in my mid 30s the pressure to have children is both very subtle, but everywhere. I am in a minority (albeit a growing one) and there are few publications or activities aimed at my age group that don’t include the assumption that you have children. The assumption that you must already have children, or are planning to have them soon, lurks, mostly unsaid, at the back of conversations, and there are unasked questions that hang in the air when you say you don’t have children.
I like my life right now. I like spending the afternoon drinking Pimms on the common with my husband, I like playing Roller Derby, I like spending whole weekends binge watching Netflix, I like going to the gym, not getting up early in the mornings and being able to spend my money on frivolous things and knowing that the only person I’m letting down if I then can’t afford to buy any milk for 2 days is myself.
Of all the things I might regret in my life; not setting up a proper pension 10 years ago, not visiting the Grand Canyon when I had the chance, not buying those gingham peep-toe shoes or taking out that stupid loan when I graduated and then spending it all on pizza and beer, for instance; not having children is the only one that it seems worthy of concern from others, often very well-meaning.
I honestly have never questioned the decision of anyone I know to start a family, though I have been continually surprised by how desperate some people have seemed to make me question my decision not to. I am also constantly surprised by the vitriol thrown by both men and women at women (and it’s only women) who chose to remain childless.
I could rattle on forever about this, but at over 1300 words already, I’ve probably outstayed my welcome! Not choosing to have children doesn’t make me less of a woman, selfish, uncaring or bitter. Like all my decisions, I make them based on how I feel, what I know, and what I want right now.
I’d love to live in a world where having children wasn’t viewed as the “default mode” that must come with a reason if you don’t, where people didn’t feel they needed to demand women explain themselves if they chose not to, and women could expect their fulfillment in life to be based on something other than their ability to reproduce.
In the mean time I’ll settle for not constantly feeling like I have to provide reasons for my life choices, and maybe not getting any more emails about nappies just because I’m in my 30s, but I think even that might be a step too far.