When I turned 30, many of my friends were having kids and I wasn’t. I lost track of how many times someone said to me ‘You’ll regret it when you are older,’ or ‘who will look after you when you are old?'
What annoyed me the most about these words is the underlying judgement. Despite the words being well-meaning, the assumption is I have not thought my decision through, weighed the consequences or made the best choice for me.
I made the choice many years ago that I did not want to have children. I played mummy and daddy when I was kid growing up in the 70s and 80s but knew that was not the path for me. I focused on career, travel and having experiences. When I got married, over two decades ago, my husband and I had a frank conversation about my choice. He was happy with it and we got on with our life.
But the judgement did not stop. So many people thought they knew what was best for me, based on societal norms. I was an anomaly.
People have said some awful things to me over the years, without stopping to think about how these comments may impact me. Thinking it is their right to cast judgement. Things like, I am selfish for not having kids, I am not doing my bit for society, I’ll never experience unconditional love, I don’t know what I am missing.
When people open their mouths to cast judgement, it would be wise for them to take a deep breath because they just never know who they will offend or upset. What gives people the right to judge anyway? I always find this confounding because no one is perfect, no one has the ultimate life, so where do they get off enforcing their opinions on me? It is not expressing interest or concern; it is just rude.
I am now in my 40s. Guess what? I still do not want to have kids. I know who I am. It should be ok for me to have this choice without the judgements.
Sadly, that is not the case. We live in a world where many think they are entitled to an opinion and can voice this opinion wherever they want … even if they are wrong.
I wrote a book about being child free last year.
While writing A Child Free Happily Ever After, I spoke to many women who had been criticised, humiliated and ostracised because of their choice to not have kids. What was interesting in speaking to these women is they do not judge women who choose to have kids. They do not walk around saying to mothers ‘you’ll regret that,” or ‘don’t you just hate that your body isn’t yours anymore,’ or ‘isn’t it a tragedy you don't have peace in your life now.’
Yet, they have had to politely deal with comments like:
- What do you know about kids, you know nothing
- Only mothers understand true love
- You are not a real woman unless you have had kids
- You can’t join this group because you are not a mother
- Your life must be empty
- You don’t understand life
- I feel so sorry for you
- You are missing out
- Isn’t your biological clock running out?
- Your husband must be so disappointed
- What about your parents – how selfish not to give them grandkids!
The sad thing is that anyone who is different or does not adhere to social norms is open to attack. We live in a world where social media gives people a voice to express whatever they want. Women who have too many children. Women who are fat or too thin. Women who breastfeed or bottle feed. Women who are high flyers. Women who work low paid jobs. Women who dress a certain way. The list goes on. Polite comments turn into intrusive ones quickly.
It is time we stopped focusing on the negative and focus on the positive. We all add value to the world. Start supporting the women around you, even if their choices are not the ones you would make.
About the author
Tanya Williams is a self-confessed career woman, who runs her own digital marketing business. She says being a mother has never been part of her life plan, yet she is still forced to explain why she never wants children, which led her onto writing her own book A Childfree Happily Ever After.