It would be helpful to fit neatly into a box, to be able to find a label that aptly describes my journey to not having children.
That might help me to feel like I belong somewhere.
But as with other areas of my life, it’s complicated.
Here are some of the more traditional labels that could potentially fit with my story:
Childless not by choice.
Childless by circumstance.
Childless because I didn’t meet a partner in time to have children, otherwise known as ‘social infertility’.
But these descriptions only capture half the story.
The following phrases may help to describe the other, more nuanced aspects of my journey:
Childless through ambivalence or indecision.
Childless because of the messages I picked up in my childhood from witnessing my mother’s experience of bringing up two children on limited funds (such as, motherhood is a struggle; motherhood ruins your life, your body, your relationship and your career; motherhood is a financial drain; motherhood is something you wish you’d never done, even though you can’t help but love your kids; motherhood ties you to the kitchen sink and is the last thing you’d want to do, especially when there are so many other, more exciting options such as career and global travel).
Childless because of a faulty mother-daughter bond that left me with a faulty connection to myself and serious questions about my ability to relate to others on an intimate level and especially to any children of my own.
Childless because of a fear that I wouldn’t be able to love a child and that I might harm a child.
Childless because of a fear of being overwhelm and feeling trapped, sad and depressed.
Childless because of a subconscious choice I made not to have children because of all of the above, although consciously it was much easier to blame my situation on my career or on not meeting a partner in time to have a child.
Childless because I spent most of my twenties and thirties harming myself with food and alcohol, before starting a journey of transformation that has required huge amounts of time, energy and money (see my previous blog post – Transformation is Possible).
Childless because by the time I understood that children actually enrich your life and bring joy (rather than all the negative messages I’d picked up), I was close to my mid-40s and in a relationship with a lovely man who, for his own reasons, didn’t want children.
Hovering somewhere between childless and childfree and confused about where I sit.
Childfree but wondering if I’m allowed to call myself that and wondering if it’s acceptable to believe that it’s OK not to have kids and that perhaps it’s a pretty good option after all. In fact, perhaps I chose my partner and stayed with him because he didn’t want kids. I wonder what I’d have done if I’d fallen for a man who desperately wanted children.
As I said, it’s a complex story and there could be other reasons.
The truth is there is no neat description.
And I evolve all the time. What felt true for me last year might not feel true for me today or in a year’s time. And that’s OK too.
In fact, take a look around this blog and you’ll find a number of posts on motherhood and ambivalence (search for those key words), including an article I wrote for the Guardian and an interview I gave to Woman’s Hour. I haven’t reviewed them recently but I know I will have evolved since then, that there will be even more nuances to my story and a deeper understanding of my journey.
And this is my point … this is why I am writing this.
Because I believe the most important thing we can do is evolve, heal and grow – understand how we got to this place (irrespective of where we are at), forgive ourselves for any mistakes we believe we have made, show ourselves love and compassion, find as much acceptance as we can and make our future life choices from a place of deep self-awareness, so that we no longer sabotage ourselves.
As I write this, I’m reminded of a moment on a retreat I hosted a few years back (my next Love Retreat is in October).
I’m walking along the sea front with a retreat participant who’s trying to figure out whether she wants kids or not. (Unlike many of my clients, she was young enough to still have the choice, assuming her body obliged).
My advice? To discover her own truth. To make a choice from a place of deep knowing and self-awareness. To make her choice, rather than a choice dictated to her by her subconscious, by her childhood wounds, by her faulty beliefs, by the messages she received from her parents, or a choice dictated by societal pressures and the need to conform in order to feel a sense of safety and belonging.
And this is my suggestion for wherever we are in our lives, whether we are single and looking for love or lost in our career or our lives and looking for a way through.
We need, or rather we deserve to go deep.
We need and deserve to do whatever it takes to understand ourselves and our motivations.
We need and deserve to do whatever it takes to understand our wounds and our blocks so that we can heal them and overcome them and find a way forward (and this may involve investing in ourselves and taking risks).
We need and deserve to take our past experiences and our past choices and learn from them so that we can build a better life in the here and now and in the future.
I can’t change the fact that I don’t have kids.
I can’t change the way I was parented or mothered.
I can’t change the decisions I made about motherhood or about my ability to mother.
I can’t change what has gone or the choices I made, be they conscious or subconscious choices.
But I can forgive myself.
I can continue to feel my grief, embrace all of my feelings and heal my wounds.
I can accept where I am in my life and love myself completely.
I can use my past experience to create a better present and future.
And I can use my journey to help others.
Thank you for reading and if I can support you in any way, please get in touch.
How I Can Support You
If you’d like my support to heal, grow and transform, please explore the following:
- My book, How to Fall in Love
- My transformational online courses, How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence
- My Dorset Love Retreat, October 28-31.
- My website for one-to-one coaching and free discovery calls