Recently I was reading Sarah Wilson’s blog and there were comments about how to recast your life without children. I’m not at that stage yet of course, because I’ve got this go and another one under my belt before I can think about calling it quits and working out what course my life should take.
I was reminded of it again when I watched Julie and Julia (again. such a gorgeous film) the other night. There’s a scene where Julia Child finds out her sister is pregnant. Of course she’s happy for her, but she lets out a sob that shows all her own yearnings for and inability to have a child. Oh Meryl , you do that contained anguish so beautifully. Julia Child of course threw herself into French food and teaching America to cook
Anyway, it got me thinking about what to do if it doesn’t happen, and all the ways I beat myself up about my situation in life. I’m sure the way I beat myself up is similar to the ways others beat themselves up, so I thought it would be worth sharing.
Here are some things I feel about being childless and 46. Defective. A failure. Less. Left out. Unfulfilled. Like I am missing out on the most beautiful feeling you could ever experience as a woman.
Being around a bunch of people with kids – at a bbq for instance – is challenging. What do I have in common with them? Especially when they are all talking about their kids’ development, or what school they are thinking of sending them to. With close friends this is fine – I’m interested in their kids, but acquaintances? And a whole bunch of them? I have nothing to contribute, no experience, no advice to share. And I feel I have no right to be offering an opinion.
The world is geared towards families. Watch tv, even – or particularly – the ads, especially at this time of the year, coming up to Christmas. It’s all about families at different stages. Of course I have a family, but it’s somewhat fractured so I want my own, one that I have made, one where I have developed my own rituals and family traditions. There is a part of the world out there that is geared to singles, but I’m not in that demographic any more – I don’t want to be going to pubs and clubs.
How does the world view childless women? Harshly in general. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s childless, single status continues to be commented on in the Australian press. Who knows if a single, childless man holding the same office would garner the same attention. Mark Latham (a former candidate for PM for those of you outside of Oz) even commented that she lacked empathy because she had chosen not to have children! Mind you, he is a nut job, and a jealous and angry man to boot.
Do you lose an essential part of being a woman by not having a child? Bearing a child is so often seen as the defining moment of a woman’s life, and childbirth a peak experience. Many women say they didn’t know what love really felt like till they had a child or that they didn’t know what life was all about until then. If you aren’t interested in having kids, this isn’t a problem, but if you do want them, it can feel like a huge loss.
A friend of mine commented on a mutual friend once, saying – oh such and such says she’s sooo busy all the time, but (scoff) how can she be? She doesn’t have kids.
Yeah, sometimes those people can be rather condescending.
How, then, does a woman define herself without children?