Friday, 3 April 2015

"You'll change your mind when you're older"

A new post! I return from my self-imposed something-of-an-exile!

This topic has come up at work recently (I work in a family law department - the fact that children come up in conversation is hardly to be unexpected) and I thought it merited a discussion. Thankfully, my coworkers are not the type of people who thoughtlessly say the things I'm about to talk about, but in my experience they've been in the minority whenever I utter those dreadful words "I don't want children".

... the smelling salts are over there, by the way. I put them there especially.

If you're wondering what this topic is doing on an illness blog, bear with me. It will become abundantly clear as we go on.

First off though - I'm not writing this to make any kind of dig at anyone who does in fact want children - or has put said decision into action and has them already. You're in the majority, and I respect your decision equally as much as I respect my own. It really is a topic that deserves the "live and let live" approach.

There is something of a set group of responses that are usually trotted out in response to the above daring declaration. I'll look at a few of them in this post, hopefully point out why they're idiotic, and then explain my own thoughts.

"You'll change your mind when you're older."

Hello there, Ghost of Christmas Future. Pray tell, who invited you?

Putting aside the likely false assumption that you've somehow journeyed into the future of my personal path through life and seen the evidence of this, I see very little reason why you express this with such sweeping certainty.

Using a different example, when a child at a young age states their desire for a certain career when they are older and through studies and experience they achieve said ambition, this is congratulated as "driven" and "ambitious". Unless the child in question says "The Hands of Blue" or "The Dark Lord Sauron" anyway. The fact they had made this decision at a young age is not questioned once it is made real.

Why therefore is it expected that having made a decision at a relatively young age that you do not want children is foolish, whimsical or just dead wrong? If it is accepted that a person can "know what they want to do with their life" in terms of career - isn't the desire or lack thereof to reproduce just another aspect of that same life?

As it happens, the decision for me has not wavered once in twenty five years. There are very good reasons it will not alter in the future.

(Put simply, yes. I've had my head screwed firmly on for a good few years now.
Image from

"You don't know what real pain is until you've given birth."

Can we be clear about something here?

Pain is bad. Pain happens when your body tells you something is wrong - consider it a message of "Stop doing that, you imbecile". There are many different kinds of pain. Everyone feels pain differently.

So why are we competing about it? Why do you want to own a kind of pain more special than everyone elses? Is there someone out there I don't know about who is distributing pain cookies to the winner? Do you have any idea just how idiotic that comment actually is? Why am I still talking to you? 

"You're not a real woman if you don't want children?"

Take off everything after "real woman" in that sentence - because I honestly don't care what the context is, that is a disgusting thing to say to another person. If you've ever even thought this you should be ashamed of yourself.

Plenty of women out there cannot have children for many different reasons. Are they no longer to be accorded the status of "real women"? In the same breath, are men who suffer from fertility issues not "real men"?

Some food for thought - just because I have little interest in children and no desire to have them does not mean I'm a monster. I'd never harm a child. I'm perfectly capable of being a half-decent "auntie" - I'll watch endless Disney repeats ad nauseum without complaint and I give good hugs. Should a child be left in my care I'd give it my full attention and keep it out of harm's way just as much as physically possible, because I am not a monster.

A lack of interest and traditional perceptions of what a "maternal instinct" is does not make me a soulless vessel without feeling. It just means I think differently to you.

"You'll be much happier/your life will have more meaning when you have children."

At what point in this conversation did I express I was in any way unhappy, or that my life lacked for meaning and purpose?

If that's how you feel about your own existence, then that's absolutely fine. I worry a little about whether you were just sitting in your bedroom drooling for the however many years before you had children for you to make such a sweeping statement, but it's entirely up to you.

Having said that, how dare you assume my life is in any way lacking just because it is different from yours? What other metaphorical lines in metaphorical sand do you draw for the standard of existence of another person? Would I be much happier and feel greater fulfilment if I had your job, your lifestyle, your experiences?

Everyone's life is their own. Stop imposing your square peg onto someone else's round hole and expecting it to change shape. I am well aware I am in the minority in my disinterest, but beating me over the head with your majority status will not change anything.

(Another good, solid reason why you're wrong. 
Image from pinterest)

Me, then.

Putting my general disinterest aside, I have known for as long as I can remember that children were not for me.

There's a rather eerie passage in David Gemmell's Legend where Druss discusses how he knew he would die in his sixtieth year. He states he could never imagine sixty one - he just saw empty black if he tried to do so. That's roughly the same as me with the matter of having children - I am completely incapable of imagining myself with them. The idea is almost an alien one.

On a more practical level, with Petunia hitchhiking my body would not pass its metaphorical MOT with flying colours. If we put aside the potential havoc a pregnancy could very well wreak upon me, when I am symptomatic I am not in a position to be responsible for a dependent. I can't always think straight, and pure instinct can only do so much to combat cognitive dysfunction. I wouldn't always necessarily be physically capable of averting something dangerous. There have been days where I could barely look after myself, let alone another small and vulnerable life.

For me that alone is reason enough. I don't feel in a position to reasonably have a child dependent upon me. That is in no way a judgement on mothers with health conditions - I'm sure you cope admirably, and more power to you - but it is purely the reasoning I've come to in my own mind and fully accepted. To put it bluntly: my castle, my rules.

In conclusion, and to answer that last ignorant question - I am fortunate enough to be happy with my life. I am also fortunate enough that I am fulfilled on numerous levels by my life without the addition of anything else.

A final thought - people who do not want children are almost always questioned as to why, but I've yet to see the questioner and respondent be reversed all that often.

If I have to have a reason to not want children, doesn't it continue logically that you should also have one for wanting them?

"There is the door. Be sure to take all your pompous second-guessing delusions with you."
- Kellanved, The Malazan Book of the Fallen

Have any readers encountered the above or similar? What are your thoughts? 

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. Oh, how I wish there was a "Like" or "Love" button à la Facebook for this post!

    I seem to have been lucky thus far in that whenever the subject of child-rearing is broached and I utter those fateful words, I usually get a response of "Why?". Once I explain I have severe medical issues that I have to face daily, they're usually understanding. If, however, I know they're going to push the issue further than I can be bothered dealing with, I simply tell them I can't have children. That usually prompts a change of topic in conversation.

    On the very odd occasion where I'm pushed and pushed for a "real reason" - because, don't you know, EVERYBODY has health issues, dear; that's no reason to deny yourself a baby - I rattle off the list (severe crippling clinical depression, severe anxiety, social anxiety disorder, seasonal affective disorder, PTSD, OCD, fibromyalgia, asthma, endometriosis and polycystic ovaries) and tell them that if they had the same problems, would they want to chance having a child and face antagonising already existing problems, creating new ones, possibly passing some onto said child, being unable to guarantee the ability to look after the child properly, etc. Then I start on the "denying [my]self a baby" part - a baby/child isn't just something for the mother to tote around as some kind of accessory or to bear just for the sake of it - the point is to bring a new person into the world, rear them to the best of your ability, and hope that they become a good person.

    The above exchange was, almost unbelievably, between myself and a doctor. Not just a locum, but a doctor I'd been seeing for a while. I've since switched doctors due to the reasoning that if she can't understand what my medical issues mean for my day-to-day life and wants to push bearing children onto me (we've had that conversation more than once), then how can she treat me appropriately?

    Oof, I've just realised how much I've ranted on for, so I'll leave it there!

    Here's hoping that soon we won't have to explain our decision to nosy/pushy/ignorant people anymore.

    Take care,
    Samantha-Claire x

  2. This is a subject I'm very interested in as I have seen it from several angles. Like yourself, I never wanted children. I could never imagine myself with them. I actually didn't like kids very much truth be told. As an only child, I felt a tremendous amount of pressure to produce a grandchild for my parents. I wondered how I would explain that I 'selfishly' didn't want to have children and was intent on denying them the grandchild they wanted so badly. I worried about it for some time. I come from an Irish catholic family, so you can imagine the viewpoint of a woman deciding she didn't want children. I had decided, like Veysketh, when the time came where I was pushed due to the lack of interest in childbearing, I would simply say I couldn't have children to be left the hell alone.

    I was standing in your shoes so I agree completely with what you've said above. I think I can shed a little light on the ignorance of some of those people. When I was 33, out of the blue, I realised my mind had changed. I actually wanted a child. I still didn't coo over babies and children like co-workers. If anything, I felt uncomfortable and didn't understand how they felt. I felt like there was something wrong with me due to my lack of maternal feelings (obviously there wasn't). Put a dog in front of me however and you would get that same cooing and smiling inanely and wanting one so very badly. Anyways, like I said. I changed my mind. I don't know why. It wasn't due to pressure. It wasn't a 'ticking clock' and worry my time was running out. I didn't fear missing out. I didn't do it so someone would looks after me in my old age. That's always struck me as such a selfish statement. I just realised one day, I felt differently. That is why, some morons feel placed to tell you that you'll change your mind one day as you're still young. Purely because this 'change' does come to some women, they feel well placed to impart these gems of wisdom with you. I think it probably is well meaning on their part, if a little patronising and narrow minded.

    Then, I come to having a child with a chronic illness. I've probably had Fibro for about 6-10 years longer than when I was diagnosed. It took almost 3 years of constant doctors visit to get a diagnosis. All in all, I've had it now officially for 9 years and unofficially probably at least 15 years. Something I will tell women who suffer from Fibro and want to have kids, is to think very, very carefully about that decision. I love my son desperately and wanted to have 2 children and not another only child, like myself. Having a child made my Fibro shoot from relapsing but manageable with common sense and proper management of how much I do each day, to almost as bad every day as I was on a bad day before. I have gone from working full-time and being an over achiever to being unable to work at all, not even part time. I take at least a week recovering from attending a short gig. When my husbands family come over from England to visit, I'm in terrible pain for weeks after they leave due to various day trips we have to take. My life is very different from how it was before. My husband also cannot work as he has to care for me and help with our son. I was working back to being a bit better, but having open surgery for gallstones, instead of the keyhole surgery it should have been, threw me right back in time and a year and a half on, I'm still in poor health.

    In short, deciding to have children when you have a chronic pain condition is a risky decision. I made the decision before my illness stepped up a gear and as much as I love Isaac, I don't think I would have made the same decision if I had a taste of how my life was going to be. I'm unable to do all the things with him I wanted to and I don't want him to have an example of 2 parents not working....CONT

    1. Just chipping in to say I feel you about not recovering from open surgery. I've never managed to regain the level of fitness I had before my operation, and it sucks. xxx

  3. ......CONT

    I think your decision is your own and should always be your own and it's a sensible one given your health problems. I'm in a wierd position of being the only mum out of ALL my friends, both in real life and online. I have friends in their 30's and 40's who never wanted kids and are still in the same position and are very happy, in long term, stable relationships and having full and rewarding lives.

    It should always be down to the individual to make the decisions that's right for them. Trying to make someone feel somehow lacking or wrong for making a different decision than you is ridiculous. It most definately does work the other way though, as I find my FB timeline constantly filled with anti-marriage and anti-breeding (as it's so delicately put) posts. I sometimes feel like I am being lumped into a group of people who weren't strong enough to decide not to have children. We are all sheep and have dull, boring lives with nothing to make us feel valid. so we have kids. That's not the case at all.

    People just need to learn to concentrate on their own lived and own decisions and stop belittling other peoples decisions. After all, it's got absolutely naff all to do with them. :) xxx

    (How that's for waffling on? I needed 2 posts as I went over the 4096 character limit, lol!

  4. This is a great post. Like you and Lis I have Fibromyalgia and my body has had two attempts at incubating a wee host but it cooks the babies in the wrong oven (my jokey way of explaining ectopic pregnancies.) After my 2nd one I STILL wanted to try again even though I'd nearly died of acute blood loss after my fallopian tube ruptured.

    I was desperate to be a mum, and some days I still am, but I'd never want to end up dead in the pursuit of motherhood, and I'd never want a child carer if my health worsened either. My hubby made the decision that he didn't want kids (probably based on fear of me dying) and had a vasectomy last year. I still have the odd day where I get tearful because things have panned out the way they did, but in some ways it's easier to say 'It's not safe for me to be pregnant' or 'James had a vasectomy' than I imagine it must be to say 'I don't want kids.' People do think it's unnatural not to want to be a parent, but that's bollocks, and women get far more shit about it than men do, which is not fair.

    I never thought I wanted kids. Hell, even after my first ectopic pregnancy I didn't want kids, even though I was terribly sad to have lost a child. It took me about 7 years after that to realise I DID want kids.....but things didn't go my way. I know, like Lis that if I had become a mum I'd be in a world of pain too. Being childless for me is not an easy thing to live with, but I totally support anyone who has nary a maternal or paternal bone in their body. You can't live your life for someone else.