Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

On being childfree – and broody

I am positively childfree. I am also, at this moment in time, hideously broody. As I wend my way through my late 30s and my ovaries realise that they aren’t going to get to drop any baby-shaped bombshells into my life, they have started up a screaming match with my brain. ‘We want a baby!’, they yell. ‘Tough s**t!’ yells back the rest of me. ‘We’re busy doing all the other things we’ve always wanted to do, and are in some cases finally getting to do after getting sidetracked by life, and that we won’t be able to do with a child!’

Some people would, I suspect, see this as betrayal. Like any minority which feels got-at or – to overstate the issue in this case – oppressed, it is tempting to overstate the positives of one’s own position. I’ve found plenty of people on childfree forums who loudly assert (methinks they do protest too much?) that all children are vile, that their choices are the only sensible ones.


Perhaps to attribute my own feelings at the moment to hormones is biologically reductive. But one of the things that I’ve always seen as being important in being ‘out and proud’ about being childfree is admitting that it’s not paradise – any more than the situation in which those tedious people who insist that they’ve found the meaning of life by procreating find themselves is paradise. No big life decision is, I suspect, ever going to be 100% right or wrong, or result in unalloyed bliss or despair. There is a small part of me that looks at my adored nieces and goes: ‘oops. Only got a few more years, and a vasectom-ied husband. Is this a mistake?’ But the vast majority of me still says: ‘no, it isn’t’. I think I find anyone who insists that their position is the only correct one off-putting, whatever the subject – religion, politics… babies.

Fortunately, most of my ‘parent’ friends and family don’t feel the need to see the fact that I’m broody as some kind of victory; those who have inclinations that way probably dropped out of being friends with me some time ago. Most of them have the sense and grace to recognise that my choices suit me, and even to admit that they have twinges of jealousy about my life, just as I have twinges of jealousy about theirs. I’ve certainly long gotten over any need to be smug about the absence of nappies/night-time wake-ups/public tantrums from my life, and I find childfree people who still push this issue increasingly annoying. It’s a valid part of the process of getting to be personally comfortable in what is still a controversial position, but I suspect it’s a style of interaction which should have been sacked by the time we’re out of our 20s. Most of us are, hopefully, grown-up enough to recognise that a twinge of jealousy doesn’t necessarily make bringing a whole new person into the world a good idea. And some of those friends and family with kids even get to acknowledge that the lack of my own children frees me up for babysitting and general extra-familial adoration duties which enrich the lives of their own children – who I get to hand back at the end of my shift.

And here, by the way, is a very moving blog post which is kind of about the flipside of this position.

5 comments on “On being childfree – and broody

  1. mlynxqualey
    April 5, 2013

    Oh, I’m sure Pegah was fine.

    Thanks for sharing this. I wonder sometimes, “Should I have had these kids?” Not for me so much — although sometimes for me — but for the planet (which probably doesn’t need more humans). But mostly I’ve been scared away from child-free essays/posts. This doesn’t go for chatter from my child-free friends, who tend to be mellow about it, and forgiving of my decision to procreate. But the loudest voices seem to say: You’ve made an awful unforgivable idiotic mistake in bringing children to this world, go hide your head in shame, etc. etc. etc.

  2. Nora Lester Murad
    April 5, 2013

    Oh, being a woman is often so…so…well, you put it well in this post. We search for the elusive “right” way to live and end up torturing ourselves with self-doubt. This post made me want to invite you for coffee ice cream with hot fudge in a place near a beach playing music from the sixties. Since I don’t know you and don’t know where you live, I’ll just have to eat it by myself….

  3. hkshuckleberry
    April 6, 2013

    We make decisions, we live with the consequences. There is no right or wrong answer to some questions. Having children for most is just ‘what you do’. At some point in your life you start thinking about it, in many cases it is following some kind of urge.I find the decision not to have children admirable and as far as paradise is concerned, the stage of pure bliss ends as soon as the ‘outside’ world enters into you happy little parent-child bubble and confronts you with the far from blissful realities of every day life..

  4. Pingback: Elizabeth Jennings/The Unknown Child | Sarah Irving

  5. Jen
    November 21, 2014

    There’s going to be regret and loss if you choose to become a parent or not. 99.999% of people who are CF never regret it. Parents, on the other hand? Lots of them regret it. Or, they don’t EXACTLY regret it, but recognize the loss of certain things in their lives. Either way, it’s a gamble.

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This entry was posted on April 5, 2013 by in Childfree, Women and Feminism and tagged , , , , , .
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