Childless by choice: Kate Haddigan explores the taboo surrounding a woman’s decision to remain childless, and explains why she’s perfectly happy to play the cool aunt…
Before I begin, let me point out, I am not some ball-busting career-crazy dragon that works twenty hours a day and snaps at my office minions if they dare so much as glance in my direction. I am not an idealistic dreamer who believes my life will be expensive couture and exotic holidays as soon as I catch a break (or win the Euro Millions). And I certainly do not hate children. Most of my friends have kids and in turn, I consider the offspring my friends too. You’ve never had worthy advice unless a seven year old has told you what to do about your latest life drama. Recently contemplating career options, I was asked “Why not just be a super hero?”
Ahh, but of course, little one.
Whilst I’m unsure as to what kind of super hero I could possible want to be, there is one thing I know for sure. I will never be a “Super Mum” with a hand-painted mug declaring me as such.
Growing up, I hated baby dolls. I thought they were really creepy. When I asked my mother what happened to the Disney princesses after they married their Prince, she replied that they probably had babies. Disappointed by the answer, I would write my own stories about how the prince and princess went on to enjoy a life in a really tidy castle, have dinner parties with their friends and do all of the things I thought grown ups did.
My mum loved being a mother. She still does. But I saw her give up a career she loved because she never wanted us to come home to an empty house. I would catch her looking at travel brochures for Paris and Venice, but instead cheeerfully smile as we went on another family holiday to anywhere that sold Candy Floss. My mum is a devoted, selfless woman. She gives her all or her children and is a shining example of what a mother should be. I had an excellent role model, so what’s the problem?
I just don’t want to have to compromise my life in any way. I can move town or country whenever I like. I can book a holiday whenever nd not have to time it with school holidays. I can get a whole nights sleep and not worry about being woken up by crying or bed wetting incidents. And that’s the way I like it.
I often get comments that suggest I am selfish for admitting this. After all, we’re put on this earth to make babies. Are we, though? Arguably the fact we’re on this earth, living and breathing at all is a massive meaningless blip in the universe, and we’re all dallying along in complete futility, desperately trying to assign meaning to our days. OR, maybe, I was put on this earth to do something else?
I love my friends passionately and am always there to support them through whatever crisis. And yes, that can sometimes involve childcare or baking cakes for their son or daughter’s bake sale at school the following day, whilst they sew a costume together for a fancy dress party that weekend. Maybe I’m meant to be the cool “aunt”? Maybe I’m meant to be a good friend, a considerate daughter, a loyal girlfriend, a benevolent boss? How about a dedicated gym-goer? An excellent coffee maker? The world’s best giftwrapper? There are infinite options out there for us all.
More and more women are deciding not to have children, yet we still have a need to defend our decision. In one place of work I was questioned with such increduality and disbelief that I eventually cracked and told the questioners that I was “barren” and couldn’t have kids. Potentially an insensitive and overly dramatic way of dealing with it, but hey, they never questioned my reasons again.
Because, why should I have to have a reason? If a stranger told me they wanted two boys and a girl I wouldn’t ask why. I would smile and ask what names they’d picked out. As a friend wipes snot off her little munchkins nose whilst simulteneously preparing a child friendly pasta feast and still has the time to ask me “Who will look after you when you’re old?” I never snap back with “I don’t know, I thought we were friends, maybe you’d stick me in a nice granny flat next to you?”. They made their life choice, so please respect mine.
The problem seems to be, people feel sorry for childless couples or women that choose not to have kids, assuming that she must of course be unable or maybe she left it too late. They think we’ll wind up alone with a house full of cats, polishing our various oddities that we collect compulsively as our lives were left empty and hollow for want of a child.
Do not feel sorry for us. And certainly not for me. I have a career that I enjoy, the time to see my friends and have interests and hobbies. I have the disposable income to go on trips and holidays a decent amount and when I tidy my house it stays tidy, and I cannot begin to tell you how hapy that makes me. I have a wonderful relationship, with a man that also lacks interest in having children. We have our own plans as to how we want to live and fill our lives. And so what if that includes having loads of cats? Cats are awesome.