Last year a woman who runs a networking group for mums came up to me and told me how much she enjoyed my books, my work and how much she wished she could have me speak at her event. “If only you were a mum!” she finished with, “then I could have you along, but oh well.”
There are so many things wrong with that sentence but let me just start with this one.
Being child free for me is a choice. One that I’m incredibly grateful for. My now-husband and I sat down about a year after we got together and decided that having children just wasn’t for us. But can you imagine what her comments might have done to my mental state if it wasn’t?
I know too many gorgeous friends and family who have struggled to have children. Some have had years of IVF, some have had success with it, some have fostered, some have adopted and some have sadly accepted where they are at. All, at some point in time, have had to endure well-meaning friends, family and strangers ask them when they’re going to have children, berate them for not trying harder, telling them if they just stop stressing it will happen for them and on and on it goes. All have talked about the energy, the frustration, the sadness and at times the anger that comments such as the ones above create.
Or let’s ignore the obvious question as to why I need to be a mum to talk to a group of mothers about being financially well and having successful, profitable businesses? I mean, really?!
Of course, now that I’m on my soapbox, let’s talk about the weekly challenges to my child-free state I receive from other well-meaning parents. It’s weekly now but in my thirties it was at least daily. These went from ‘are you sure you won’t regret it one day’ to my very favourite, ‘who will look after you when you’re older’. A small, petty part of me wanted to double barrel these questions back but every time I smiled sweetly and bit my tongue.
Thankfully, as I said, for me it has been a choice. One, that in our day and age, I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to make and to have found a partner who wanted that same choice.
I know most people aren’t malicious or deliberately hurtful – they’re ignorant. If you don’t know someone who is struggling with fertility then of course you’re going to barrel right in and ask when someone is having children and offer well-meaning suggestions. I also know that many others receive their own versions of these questions. From ‘when are you going to meet someone’ to ‘when are you having your second child’ or ‘oh wow, three children, was that a choice?”
What do I hope to achieve by writing this? To have you stop and think before you ask next time, before you comment, before you exclude. To stop and think about whether challenging people on their life choices is serving anyone. To be incredibly grateful for all that you have and for that to be enough.
Because, as Brene Brown posted this week, “Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And if you’re really paying attention, most people have a story that will bring you to your knees.” Yes, we can blame all of this on ignorance but what if today we all chose not to be one who delivers one of those hundred little tiny cuts. Because for my girlfriends going through this, that’s exactly what it feels like.
Personally, I just find it bloody irritating and I know that many of you do too if the reaction to my Insta post this long weekend was anything to go by. I mean, do you think the guys are going on with this shit? So, ladies just f*king stop it.