Childless or child-free?

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There are supportive communities online for those who are childless by circumstance and for those who are childless by choice. I’ve never felt that I can totally identify myself with either label.

I’m not keen on any term that defines you by what you are not. It seems rather negative. There has been much discussion about this topic on Gateway Women, a site conceived by Jody Day to bring together, and celebrate, women who don’t have children for whatever reason. She coined the term ‘nomo’ (not a mother). Again, the term certainly isn’t for me for the reasons stated above, but the site has some interesting articles and is a good place to go if you’re seeking solidarity with others in a similar situation.

In short, people who didn’t procreate shouldn’t have to be defined by that very fact. However, and all too often, women of my age are.

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12 thoughts on “Childless or child-free?

  1. ‘In short, people who didn’t procreate shouldn’t have to be defined by that very fact. However, and all too often, women of my age are.’

    But I think that’s true of women of our age who are mothers too Paula. 40-something women don’t seem to be definable by society as anything other than a mother or not a mother. They can be other things as well of course, but those other things appear to be less important than they were as a way to define us in our 20s or 30s.

    • Very true. I suppose it depends who you are – some women are perfectly happy to be defined by their motherhood alone. Did you notice something in the media recently about motherhood and being a writer? Perhaps Woman’s Hour?

      I guess that the whole labels issue comes into play when we have to answer ‘The Question’: Do you have children? (Often aimed at women over the age of 35). When the answer is ‘no’, explanations are usually solicited and it’s at these times where a label might come in handy to avoid lengthy personal spillings. Not so if the answer is ‘yes’.

      But I do understand that it must be frustrating, as a mother, to be defined by that alone, especially when you’re talented and successful in other areas of life. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t…

  2. Your blog is brilliant! So is your artwork. The miscarriage cartoons say it all. Wonderful comment about the biological clock and the whole culture of blame: ‘you should have had kids in your twenties!’, etc.
    I too am coping with illnesses, thyroid problems since my thirties, leading to diabetes, coeliac disease, etc, etc and we’ve been trying to conceive for seven years. Now I’m 50 and I still can’t give up, it just hurts too much. You’re right: bodies just go wrong but it’s so hard to accept that.
    And I write. I’ve been writing an epic for years but there are days when even that seems completely pointless. Why is it that all our self worth as women hinges on this issue? Has there ever been any man who’s been defined by whether or not he’s managed to become a father?
    Thanks for a refreshingly different look at this whole, wretched subject.

  3. Hi Carol,

    Thank you so much for your heartfelt reply. I really appreciate it. Keep going with the writing! I do know some men whose families have interrogated and guilt-tripped them about grandchildren, but, yes, you’re probably right, it’s probably not such an issue for men being asked The Question. Best wishes for your future health and happiness 🙂

  4. Pingback: Pshh…It’s Over-Rated « My Happy Dance

  5. I hate the fact that our society seems to think women are defined by whether or not they have children and that childless women (by whatever means) are defective.

    Child-free people accept parents’ choice to have children. Why do people think they need to question those who choose NOT to have children?

    • Yes, I’m not overly keen either! I wonder if it’s partly to with the fact that once people have children they can never look back/ can’t imagine life without therefore can’t imagine others’ lives without, which is quite blinkered but possibly just human nature at work. I think it can also be about wanting to see their own decisions affirmed and mirrored.

      • I think you hit the nail on the head, Paula. I think people in general want constant reaffirmation. And there is also the “sheep” and “lemming” factor. We wouldn’t want for anyone to be different!

        I also think many old thoughts and beliefs are still in play, one being that a woman’s primary role is to be a mother. I recall getting more than a few side eyes from people when they would question why I wasn’t in a hurry to get married, to have kids and my response that I didn’t really care whether or not I had kids. I am a full-time stepmother now (the child lives with us) but I don’t feel it’s the end all/be all of my existence and I don’t think my life would be meaningless if I wasn’t a parent. I also don’t think that marriages are solely for the purpose of having children although based on some other blog posts I am following, it’s shocking how many people do.

        BTW, I married my husband at 35. I had not been married for more than a month before I was being besieged with people asking me when I was going to get pregnant. This continued for 5 years, with constant reminders that I wasn’t getting any younger, before they finally gave up. Frankly, I don’t understand why someone else’s reproductive decisions are anyone’s business but their own!

  6. Yes. There was a comment by a religious figure in the UK earlier this year – about marriage being for the purpose of having children. That gave the childfree/less community on Twitter a bit of heat at the time so I recall! The reproductive decisions of others’ aren’t anyone else’s business, I agree. I don’t ask people why they don’t have children – I don’t think I ever have – if the info is offered then fine. I do admit to wondering sometimes but that’s because of my own experience I suppose. Thanks for your thorough and insightful comments!

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