I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic
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.