Friday, 3 April 2015

"You'll change your mind when you're older"

A new post! I return from my self-imposed something-of-an-exile!

This topic has come up at work recently (I work in a family law department - the fact that children come up in conversation is hardly to be unexpected) and I thought it merited a discussion. Thankfully, my coworkers are not the type of people who thoughtlessly say the things I'm about to talk about, but in my experience they've been in the minority whenever I utter those dreadful words "I don't want children".

... the smelling salts are over there, by the way. I put them there especially.

If you're wondering what this topic is doing on an illness blog, bear with me. It will become abundantly clear as we go on.

First off though - I'm not writing this to make any kind of dig at anyone who does in fact want children - or has put said decision into action and has them already. You're in the majority, and I respect your decision equally as much as I respect my own. It really is a topic that deserves the "live and let live" approach.

There is something of a set group of responses that are usually trotted out in response to the above daring declaration. I'll look at a few of them in this post, hopefully point out why they're idiotic, and then explain my own thoughts.

"You'll change your mind when you're older."

Hello there, Ghost of Christmas Future. Pray tell, who invited you?

Putting aside the likely false assumption that you've somehow journeyed into the future of my personal path through life and seen the evidence of this, I see very little reason why you express this with such sweeping certainty.

Using a different example, when a child at a young age states their desire for a certain career when they are older and through studies and experience they achieve said ambition, this is congratulated as "driven" and "ambitious". Unless the child in question says "The Hands of Blue" or "The Dark Lord Sauron" anyway. The fact they had made this decision at a young age is not questioned once it is made real.

Why therefore is it expected that having made a decision at a relatively young age that you do not want children is foolish, whimsical or just dead wrong? If it is accepted that a person can "know what they want to do with their life" in terms of career - isn't the desire or lack thereof to reproduce just another aspect of that same life?

As it happens, the decision for me has not wavered once in twenty five years. There are very good reasons it will not alter in the future.

(Put simply, yes. I've had my head screwed firmly on for a good few years now.
Image from

"You don't know what real pain is until you've given birth."

Can we be clear about something here?

Pain is bad. Pain happens when your body tells you something is wrong - consider it a message of "Stop doing that, you imbecile". There are many different kinds of pain. Everyone feels pain differently.

So why are we competing about it? Why do you want to own a kind of pain more special than everyone elses? Is there someone out there I don't know about who is distributing pain cookies to the winner? Do you have any idea just how idiotic that comment actually is? Why am I still talking to you? 

"You're not a real woman if you don't want children?"

Take off everything after "real woman" in that sentence - because I honestly don't care what the context is, that is a disgusting thing to say to another person. If you've ever even thought this you should be ashamed of yourself.

Plenty of women out there cannot have children for many different reasons. Are they no longer to be accorded the status of "real women"? In the same breath, are men who suffer from fertility issues not "real men"?

Some food for thought - just because I have little interest in children and no desire to have them does not mean I'm a monster. I'd never harm a child. I'm perfectly capable of being a half-decent "auntie" - I'll watch endless Disney repeats ad nauseum without complaint and I give good hugs. Should a child be left in my care I'd give it my full attention and keep it out of harm's way just as much as physically possible, because I am not a monster.

A lack of interest and traditional perceptions of what a "maternal instinct" is does not make me a soulless vessel without feeling. It just means I think differently to you.

"You'll be much happier/your life will have more meaning when you have children."

At what point in this conversation did I express I was in any way unhappy, or that my life lacked for meaning and purpose?

If that's how you feel about your own existence, then that's absolutely fine. I worry a little about whether you were just sitting in your bedroom drooling for the however many years before you had children for you to make such a sweeping statement, but it's entirely up to you.

Having said that, how dare you assume my life is in any way lacking just because it is different from yours? What other metaphorical lines in metaphorical sand do you draw for the standard of existence of another person? Would I be much happier and feel greater fulfilment if I had your job, your lifestyle, your experiences?

Everyone's life is their own. Stop imposing your square peg onto someone else's round hole and expecting it to change shape. I am well aware I am in the minority in my disinterest, but beating me over the head with your majority status will not change anything.

(Another good, solid reason why you're wrong. 
Image from pinterest)

Me, then.

Putting my general disinterest aside, I have known for as long as I can remember that children were not for me.

There's a rather eerie passage in David Gemmell's Legend where Druss discusses how he knew he would die in his sixtieth year. He states he could never imagine sixty one - he just saw empty black if he tried to do so. That's roughly the same as me with the matter of having children - I am completely incapable of imagining myself with them. The idea is almost an alien one.

On a more practical level, with Petunia hitchhiking my body would not pass its metaphorical MOT with flying colours. If we put aside the potential havoc a pregnancy could very well wreak upon me, when I am symptomatic I am not in a position to be responsible for a dependent. I can't always think straight, and pure instinct can only do so much to combat cognitive dysfunction. I wouldn't always necessarily be physically capable of averting something dangerous. There have been days where I could barely look after myself, let alone another small and vulnerable life.

For me that alone is reason enough. I don't feel in a position to reasonably have a child dependent upon me. That is in no way a judgement on mothers with health conditions - I'm sure you cope admirably, and more power to you - but it is purely the reasoning I've come to in my own mind and fully accepted. To put it bluntly: my castle, my rules.

In conclusion, and to answer that last ignorant question - I am fortunate enough to be happy with my life. I am also fortunate enough that I am fulfilled on numerous levels by my life without the addition of anything else.

A final thought - people who do not want children are almost always questioned as to why, but I've yet to see the questioner and respondent be reversed all that often.

If I have to have a reason to not want children, doesn't it continue logically that you should also have one for wanting them?

"There is the door. Be sure to take all your pompous second-guessing delusions with you."
- Kellanved, The Malazan Book of the Fallen

Have any readers encountered the above or similar? What are your thoughts? 

Wishing you all many spoons xxx