Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Won’t Know You Want a Kid Until You Have One

“You won’t know you want a kid until you have one.”

We’ve all heard a version of this. It’s the kind of warped logic that comes up when you say “I’ve never wanted children.”

The BBC New Magazine challenged this assertion in an article titled “The Women Who Choose Not To Be Mothers.”

This piece quotes a childfree step-mom who doubts her preferences will change with the arrival of a child, and a therapist who acknowledges that childless and childfree women can, and do, live very satisfying lives, despite the lingering stigma:

Julia Wallace, at 40 a step-mother to three children who live elsewhere: "They say, 'you don't know what you're missing, you won't know until you've had a child that that's what you wanted to do'. That's a hypothetical question - if you've got no motivation to have a child in the first place, why would you do it? I wouldn't chose to become a nurse on the chance I might love the career once I get there."

Beth Follini counsels women agonising over whether to reproduce. It's a decision she herself has struggled with. Until her early 30s, she hadn't wanted children and told her partner so. "Then I just started to feel this urge. I spent a year or two battling it out and in the end I decided I wanted a child. But I know that if I hadn't, I would have a very different but equally fulfilled life."

Many of her clients do not want children but feel pressurised. "Often this pressure comes from friends who have had children - 'you don't know what you're missing' or 'you'd make a great mum'. Or joking that you hate children. Sometimes it's from parents hoping for a grandchild."

But it can be the most passing of acquaintances who pass comment.

“Many people assume if you a single and child-free that you haven't met the right man yet. But if you are in a relationship, they ask 'when are you taking the next step?' A woman's fertility status is still very much considered public property.”

Follini is right. For some reason, people feel compelled show childfree folks the error of their ways. But is anyone really swayed by this?


Kristine said...

I've heard the same thing about heroin.

Big Heather said...

nope, not swayed. I have had plenty of "examples" in my life that have shown that (a) you do not need children to lead a fulfilling life and (b) you can be a very positive influence in the life of a child without being their parent.

Life as an aunt is FANTASTIC!

Laura S. Scott said...

Ha, ha Kristine!
Big Heather, you are so right. Some of the most influential people in my life were childless teachers. In fact I wrote out one of them in Two Is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice. She was my english teach in high school and she was a great role model for childfree living.