This guest post was written by someone very dear to me. It was my idea, I wanted her to put these words down for me, and I am so honoured that she actually agreed to share her thoughts and experiences with us all. I know it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own little world, to assume that everyone you meet wants and has the ability to live a life similar to your own. But really, we all need to stop and think about what we’re saying to people, about what sort of information we’re demanding from them. No matter how close you feel to a person, you can never really know what they’re dealing with, and how their experiences may be affecting them. I think we can all learn a thing or two from this beautifully written post…
Fern messaged me recently and asked me to write about how sucky/annoying/stupid it is to have people asking about if/when you plan on having babies. I almost said no. Not because I can’t relate to this topic, but because I have a whole lot of hurt about this topic. And it’s an extremely personal topic.
It’s also something I never thought about when I was younger when I used to ask other people these same questions.
I’m 36, and I’m married to a lovely guy. I always thought I’d have children when the time was right, now I’m worried that we’ve left it too late. And I’m worried that I’ll never be ready to have kids.
Why? Because I have health issues – anxiety and depression (that i’m starting to get under control I hope) and other physical health issues. I’m also old enough to have heard all the horrible birth stories and the late night kids vomiting stories from all my friends. I know that having children isn’t a bed of roses. And I’m scared okay. I’m really scared of all kinds of things – whether I’ll have healthy children, whether I’ll like my children, whether I’ll be a good mother or enjoy being a mother. Honestly I’ve analysed all these things to death.
In my early to mid twenties having children would have been hella wrong for me, I was in two really bad relationships (which I won’t get into) and was not mature enough to handle having a child. When I broke up with my horrid ex, I remember saying to my friend that it was okay because I still had time to have children. And she told me that my chances of fertility were dramatically decreased now. And that hurt a lot.
I met my husband when I was in my late twenties, and he was studying hard, trying to get qualified to get a good job, which I really admire and respect.
Over the years, people have pressured the crap out of us to have children. This was at times when we were on one small income, when we we were barely scraping by, when I was really struggling with my health and we weren’t ready to have children. And you know what people said, “Oh you’ll find a way to manage even on a tiny income.” Or my personal favourite, “There’s never a good time to have children, you just have to do it.”
That’s just so disrespectful. Sure, it’s true if we had accidentally gotten pregnant at that time we would have made do. But I wanted my husband to get a full education, and for us to have some money coming in so that every day wasn’t a stress just to feed ourselves. How rude though to assume that our choice to wait was wrong, this is such a personal choice, why would anyone think they know better than the potential parents?
I have huge respect for families who live on small incomes. I think you’re amazing, and I don’t have judgement around your choices, but for me this wasn’t something I wanted to do.
Now we’re here, and we’re older than a lot of people who have had children, and all I constantly get is, “Don’t leave it too long.” Thanks for the reminder, I didn’t realise what my age was. Please, tell me again in case I didn’t know. For your information, with my health issues, we’re not even sure what my fertility will be like.
I don’t want to get into a personal conversation with everyone who wants to comment on my childlessness. Because it hurts. I don’t want to get into the details of how I feel to someone I’ve only just met, or someone who isn’t a close friend. The fact is that I do want to have children, and being asked about it hurts. Seeing my siblings having children hurts. In fact, anything around having children just hurts at the moment. It’s just a lot of raw pain.
Being in this situation has also made me evaluate the messages that are given to women. And I’m working on trying to accept the following: having children does not define me as a woman or as a person. It doesn’t make me less smart than other females, or mean I’m somehow lacking. It doesn’t mean that I don’t know what real love is (despite those annoying cheesy Facebook posts that I see pop up every few months in my newsfeed).
I have immense respect for people who have children, as well as people who don’t have children. The heartache for people who want children but can’t have them is so very, very painful – and I feel for you.
I also respect people who choose not to have children. That’s okay. There is nothing wrong with you, so please don’t let anyone make you feel less than. It takes great courage to go against societal norms. And if you’ve made this choice, I hope you have people around you to support you, because I know from childless friends that all you’ll hear from some people is “Oh, but you’ll change your mind.” Whether you do or not is your own business, and it’s noone’s business or right to tell you that your decision is flawed and likely to change. This is your life, not theirs.
At the core of it, motherhood is about biology. Being a mother is the result (usually) of having intercourse with a male and getting pregnant. This is not an achievement, it is the result of biology. A result that some people try for years to make happen, but can’t.
Being a good mother is another thing, this is a true achievement, and nothing to do with biology – in fact some of the best mothers didn’t even give birth to their children. I respect all mothers who have good days and bad days, and keep on trying to do their best for themselves and their children. I know so many good mums, including Fern, and I know it’s not an easy job, but it is a rewarding one, and I know that you love your children, beyond all else. I’m happy for you.
As for me, I don’t know what will happen in the next couple of years, I’m just working on taking it day by day at the moment.
So that my friends, is how I feel when people make comments or ask questions about having children. It’s okay to ask people if they have children, but please don’t ask them if they want to have children or if they’re trying to get pregnant, or any of the other myriad of comments and questions that can be hurtful.