Recently I wrote about the fact I don’t want children. It was such an emotional piece to write but I felt it was an important thing to do. My work warned me to prepare for hate mail, so I was nervous. I hardly slept the night before it was published. I awoke to three comments – one negative. This faceless man said I proved that I was selfish because I’d used the word “I” 57 times in my piece. Ridiculous. How could I possibly write a piece about my choice not to have children without using the word “I”? But it prepared me – I had my thickest skin ready.
Then something amazing happened. Of the 180 comments I had about my story his was the only negative comment. I got support from all angles: mothers, single gals who want kids, married women who also don’t want kids even men all saying it was my decision and that’s okay. It was overwhelming. At first it felt really uncomfortable – like being hugged by someone you don’t know. But after a couple of days I relished it. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to hold myself up. To tell myself I was okay. I felt acknowledged and something I hadn’t felt in a long time I felt “normal”.
I guess I was lulled into a false sense of security. I felt bold about my choices and happy and calm. So what happened to me the other night was kind of like a kick in the teeth.
It was at a pub after Melbourne Cup – granted the nation was drunk and so was I. But I met a man. (Cue angels singing – guys hardly ever approach me) Anyway this very handsome bloke sidled up to me, he was a pilot and seemed almost too good to be true. We laughed and chatted for more than an hour. My friends gave me “the look” then made their excuses and left so I was alone with him. I was giddy with excitement.
Everything was going so well. We discussed our love of travel; how we both love our jobs. I was already marking our first meeting report card with an “exceeds expectations.”
After a couple of hours we’d arranged to go on a proper date later that week. Buoyed by my recent article I gently raised the Voldermort topic – the topic that shall not raise its name – I said to him, “Before we go any further I need to be honest with you – I don’t want to have children and if you do I guess we should talk about it.”
At first he laughed it off saying we’d gone too deep too quickly. Agreed but I’m 38 and I’m not here for a haircut, all right?
What happened next rocked me to my core. He leant over and kissed me then pulled away and said “You should never tell a guy that when you first met him. I’m 41 and I don’t think I want kids but I don’t want to be forced into a decision. So you should lie until you hook the guy, then when he’s fallen in love with you, you can talk him out of having kids.”
I was shocked. He then turned it into a counselling session about why I haven’t met Mr Right. His verdict: I’m too honest.
Double what? With a side of WTF?
I tried to talk him around by mentioning I had medical problems which meant I couldn’t carry a child (not proud I went the sympathy vote but yes I went there).
For a guy who earlier in the night said he, “didn’t know if he wanted kids or not and was sick of women pushing their biological clock on him” he suddenly became ready to accept the medal for ‘would-be father of the year’.
With that I knew it was, in fact, a deal breaker and that’s okay. He has his beliefs and I have mine. I said my goodbyes and turned to get my clutch from the bar. When I turned back around he was gone.
I walked out. Then I started to cry. Now I love a good cry. Normally if you play a Qantas ad with the choir singing “I still call Australia home” I’d be grabbing the nearest Kleenex. Well, maybe not this week – screw you Alan Joyce – but that’s a whole other story. But I walked down the street with tears running down my face. I cried for the fact that I didn’t think not wanting kids was such a bad thing anymore. I cried because I’d let a stranger in and he judged me.
But as I walked along I realised these weren’t tears about this bloke. These were old tears that had been stored and hidden for years. I cried because I felt less of a woman because I don’t want children. I’ve thought this my whole life but after my article I thought maybe I was normal – not everyone else’s version of normal but normal nonetheless.
I wish there was a gentle way to say I don’t want kids. But I’m not going to lie about it. I don’t feel mad at him for his choices but I do feel mad that he thinks trapping a guy is the answer. What sort of a relationship starts with a lie?
He said the first meeting was too soon to bring up such a major topic. He’s probably right. But it obviously is a deal breaker so isn’t best to raise it straight away rather then get into a relationship and find out your fundamental wants and needs are different? When is it the right time?
This post was first published on the SMH hereShelly Horton is a journalist. Editor-At-Large of S in the Sun-Herald and regular on Channel Seven’s Morning Show and Sunrise.