I always assumed I’d have babies. It was part of my life plan. I spent my childhood role playing being a mum. I never considered my life without children. I wasn’t told it was an option. But here I am, without children at forty-six. I am part of a minority group which is often treated insensitively. Women like me — who don’t have children.
My heart goes out to anyone who — for whatever reason — is unable to have their own children. I feel their pain. But I’m not here to tell anyone else’s story, only mine, and I made a conscious decision not to have children. It’s a decision many women can’t understand or relate to.
The choice to have children is rarely questioned. I’ve never heard a woman being asked, ‘Why did you decide to have children?’ But for those like me, the questioning is relentless. No answer is good enough. When someone gets a tattoo, has their ears pierced, or leaves a job, others may question their decision once, but a woman who chooses not to have children isn’t left alone. I have had to defend my choice for two decades.
Thankfully, trends are changing — it’s becoming more acceptable not to have children, but for me as a Gen Xer, being childless makes me part of a minority. During my teens and twenties, I was subjected to assumptions from others. It was always ‘WHEN you have kids,’ never ‘IF.’ In my thirties I was on the receiving end of relentless concern, and orders from family and friends. ‘But you HAVE to have kids.’ Into my forties, I’ve had to deal with misunderstanding and denial. ‘Oh, it’s NOT TOO LATE to have a baby.’
People always cite examples of someone they know who conceived in their forties. Is it an attempt to change my mind? Not having children is a reality that I’m actually okay with. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I did have children, but it is with curiosity rather than regret. Other women seem to be the only ones who have a problem with the life I have chosen.
There is an assumption associated with childless women — that they don’t like kids. I love kids, and I’ve hardly ever thought about the tick tick tick of my biological clock. I don’t even know if it’s a real phenomenon? Could we be conditioned to fear this looming deadline? These may be more societies’ fears perhaps, not our own.
If we are the kind of woman who is nurturing and maternal by nature, we don’t need to give birth to utilise these traits to generate love and kindness in the world.
Many childless women give motherly love naturally. All women are worthy. Not just those who give birth. We are all juggling different challenges and have different strengths to offer. I believe we are all here to support each other and have an input in the next generation.
In my upcoming memoir, Where Have I Been All My Life, I explain in detail why I chose not to have babies. I hope my book helps women to be less judgemental and to respect one another’s unique and personal choices. As we educate ourselves on what true freedom means, we can become role models for the next generation of women and empower them to make their own decisions instead of dutifully doing what is expected of them.
All of us women are victims of social conditioning and the patriarchy. We have tended to define ourselves and our significance when we take on a role that ‘looks after’ someone else. This feeds the martyrdom within us. But our true worthiness will never come from a socially constructed role. We don’t need to be a wife, partner, a mother, or any other title, to be worthy. We were born worthy. The intimate choices we make in our own lives are no-one else’s business.
We can choose our paths wisely by taking time to question our true motives when faced with any of life’s big decisions. We are here to live our own lives, fearlessly, with or without children.
Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. If you want to hear more from me, please like my ‘Lisa Benson Author’ page on Facebook or follow me (lisabensonauthor) on Instagram.