I am surrounded by baby talk. Two of my Line sisters (Sorority) are pregnant, my TV co-host is pregnant, one of my dearest friends just had a baby boy and two of my other close friends are in a race to turn their boyfriends into husbands before their biological clocks run out… both concerned they my run out of time. Then, there’s Oprah. My favorite ‘SingleandLivingFab’ girl said recently in an interview that she is happy with the fact that she never had children. She said, “If I had kids, my kids would hate me. They would have ended up on the equivalent of the Oprah show talking about me; because something [in my life] would have had to suffer and it would’ve probably been them.”
Oprah wasn’t the only A-lister speaking out about not being a mother. Academy award winning actress Octavia Spencer also said last month that she was happy to be child free. “I should be married and have 19 kids. And now I’m thinking my eggs are dying on the shelf. They’re going to go past their expiration date. But it’s what I chose, so I’m fine with that decision.”
Bravo ladies!! Why am I so delighted? Because at a time when women have the right to vote, have the ability to run top companies, we can even run for President of the United States… but if a woman does not achieve motherhood she is stigmatized. I am a bit feed up with the widespread belief that a woman is not a real woman unless she becomes a mother. Furthermore, I am irritated by the constant insensitivity and invasion of privacy that childless women frequently have to endure.
Childless women are not mothers for a variety of reasons. There are those who make the choice not to become mothers because they don’t want to commit to the time or financial obligations that come with having children. Jay Leno and his wife, Mavis, made the decision early in their marriage not to have children. He shares why in an interview with Oprah,“Neither of us really wanted kids, so that was fine. We’ve been able to date a lot because of it.
I can say, “Honey, you want to go to Vegas tonight?” If we had kids, it would involve the sitter and this and that. Before I got The Tonight Show, we were on the road together all the time. I’d be onstage for an hour and a half, then we’d go have the rest of the time to ourselves,” said Leno.
This summer, women who make the choice not to become mothers became a hot topic when Time Magazine published the article, “The Child free Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.” The article examined the fact that there is a growing number of women choosing not to become mothers and explained many of the reasons behind their decisions. In commentary after commentary, childless women by choice were labeled as selfish and liars about being happy without children. Women who decide not to have children can usually handle peoples’ insensitivity.
But then there are the women who really want to become mothers, but can’t due to circumstances. Many prefer to wait for marriage or at least long term love. Then there are the women who have fertility issues and have either miscarried or have never been able to get pregnant. But no matter the reason, childless women are often forced into uncomfortable conversations or situations related to their being childless… especially woman who are in their childbearing years.
I fall into the category of women that really wanted to become a mother, but did not want to do it on my own. I tried to get pregnant during my last two serious relationships, but never did. During that time, I took countless pregnancy tests only to be disappointed again and again. I used to cry every time my cycle started. I was so miserable that I could not even bare to go to church on Mother’s Day. At my church, every Mother’s day they would ask all of the mothers to stand up and the audience would clap and cheer. I would sit there, clapping while holding back tears thinking of how desperately I wanted to become a mother. Eventually I realized that motherhood was probably not what God had planned for me and I prayed for the strength to accept it. And God granted me that. But that is not something I openly share about myself, so most people have no idea why I am childless.
So I know first hand how insensitive people can be. I can’t tell you how many times I have been pulled into conversations about my maternal status, mostly by relatives. Just this Thanksgiving, while with family, the subject of children came up as we discussed the newest additions to our family. It wasn’t long before someone turned to me and said “Jacque, you’re next right?”. Despite being at peace with my circumstances, it still made me uncomfortable and forced me to comment on something that I didn’t want to discuss in that moment.
Of course the people that put you in these uncomfortable positions usually don’t mean any harm. They are guided by what society has taught them, so they have no idea the impact of what they are saying. With that in mind, I’ve come up with some comments and questions that should never be directed to or said in front of a childless woman. Feel free to share with your friends, relatives, coworkers and random strangers.
1. What are you waiting on to have kids? You’re not getting any younger.
2. It is the most powerful creation to have life growing inside of you, ‘There is no bigger gift.”
3. You will make a great mother
4. You’ll understand once you become a mother
5. Becoming a mother the greatest thing a woman can do?
6. Do you have children? (followed by) Do you have a husband? (followed by) Just wait, you’ll find him.
7. Why don’t you have children?
8. Women who are not mothers can’t give advice about mothering (even though were raised by mothers and have general common sense. You think Oprah can’t give you any advice on how to be a better parent based on observations, life experience and a broad base of knowledge???)
9. Can you still have children?
10. Happy Mother’s Day (The worst!!)
The bottom line… no matter the reason a woman is childless, there is always a chance that she is not a mother due to circumstances out of her control. Either way, she is probably very may tired of having to explain her decision. I’d be willing to bet it is a delicate issue for that woman. I hope that others can learn to be sensitive about what they say and quite frankly, just mind their own business.