Parenting, Relationships

“Being CHILD-FREE is a choice and I refuse to be shamed for it.”

Vanessa Cryer by Vanessa Cryer
November 13th, 2014

I was 22 when the episode of Sex & the City “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” first aired and it struck a major chord with me. For those of you unfamiliar with the episode, it involves Carrie losing her beloved Manolo Blahnik’s at a party and is then shoe-shamed by her friend for spending money so frivolously in the first place. Apparently since she’s unmarried and childless, she doesn’t have a ‘real life’ and can’t understand real responsibility.  Carrie starts questioning when we started qualifying each other’s life choices instead of celebrating them.

Ricki-LeeAn article came out a while ago written by radio presenter Bianca Dye titled “Ricki-Lee please don’t grow to regret having a bub”. Ricki-Lee has acknowledged that having children is not for her. For her own reasons, some of which she’s made public, some I would guess she’s kept entirely private and with good reason. Because if you DARE to admit that kids might not be for you, as a woman especially, you get judged. More than judged, you get shamed. Women are often demonised for choosing not to have kids because it seems so foreign, so unlikely and like a slap in the face to everyone who so desperately wants them.

The assumption then becomes that surely someday, you will change your mind. “Trust me, you will”, they say. “You might not think so now, but one day it will all make sense.” As if  somehow you’re not in your right mind. That was something I questioned for a long time – was there something wrong with me because I didn’t want kids? Was I broken somehow? Why was I missing the all-important maternal gene that everyone around me seemed to have so intrinsically?

Bianca said Ricki-Lee’s comments about not wanting kids sent “shivers down her spine” because she would regret those choices once she was older.  Now I’m not gonna go after Bianca, who detailed her own struggles about not being able to conceive once she realised that she did in fact want kids. I know she was just using the platform to encourage more young women to freeze their eggs so they wouldn’t suffer a similar heartbreak if they made the decision too late biologically.  I’ve had friends very dear to me struggle to get pregnant and it was devastating for them. No one deserves that.  I fully believe that people who want babies should have babies.

But it took me a long time to admit that I wasn’t one of those people. Even after I started telling friends, jokes were made at my expense – some I’d laugh off, some were more hurtful than I admitted at the time. My deepest fear was that people would think less of me. As some sort of black-hearted witch who set up gingerbread traps for children.

I still feel like I need to defend myself. Assure you that I don’t hate kids, that I have two wonderful nieces whom I adore and am a loving godmother to my best friend’s little boy.

babSometimes I would deflect the jokes and remarks with “who knows, I might change my mind one day”. It is this sort of comment that encouraged Bianca’s opinion piece.  I know I’ve said that just to get people off my back and maybe soften the devil-image of me forming in their eyes. Perhaps Ricki-Lee is doing the same. Maybe not. But she doesn’t deserve to be singled out as the spokesperson for women who say motherhood isn’t for them.

I would never presume to know how hard it is for my friends who have children, what sacrifices they’ve had to make and how entirely selfless they’ve become. But when people start inferring that instead of having kids and being selfless, you’re being SELFISH by default, that’s a label I can’t and won’t tolerate.

Saying I don’t want children doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. It doesn’t make me selfish. It just means I have my reasons and those reasons are MINE. You don’t have to agree with them, or even understand them, but please don’t make me feel like I’ve failed at something or let society down.

I know a few couples who have broken up because one partner wanted children & the other didn’t. This plays on my mind a lot. What if I meet the man of my dreams and I’m not enough? Will I miss out on a lifetime partner because I don’t want kids? Or are there people out there the same as me, but we’ve been shamed into silence?

My first thought when I considered writing this was “but then everyone will know”. My dirty little secret would be made public. But I realised that’s part of the problem. People don’t talk about it enough and maybe if more of us did say it out loud it wouldn’t be such a surprise to hear it.

Have you felt judged for not wanting kids?  Do you feel like it’s something you can’t admit to other people? Or do you judge people who do not want children?