“You’ll never marry. And you’ll never have children.
The clairvoyant who told me this 30 years ago in Melbourne’s western suburbs might have looked more like a factory worker than a prophet, but he was spot on.
I had known I’d never have kids ever since I was a little girl. Or maybe I’d decided it all those years ago. But that didn’t make hearing it out loud any easier.
No, not then.
While I knew that I didn’t want the marriage and the children, I spent years torturing myself with wacky therapies and ‘self discoveries’ to find out why I didn’t want the picket fence, a husband, two and a half kids and everything that comes along with that.
I’m sure I had some ‘a ha’ moments along the way … maybe during equine therapy when both horses left me standing alone in a paddock full of bull ants and flies.
Or deep in the lush green rice paddies of Bali where I paid a small fortune to get in touch with my true being while wishing I was running up a large tab at the pool bar.
Or maybe in past-life regression therapy when I was told I was a mean man in my past life who treated women appallingly. So now I had to pay a price in this life …
Needless to say, none of these or the many other ‘therapies’ I tried, helped (except possibly the pool bar drinking).
I still felt completely inadequate. How could any woman who didn’t want a family not be broken in some way or just completely selfish?
These days I don’t give it a second thought.
I revel in the fact that I am happy. I don’t take my life for granted. It’s a lucky one, with work I’m proud of, great friends, a yearly overseas trip, a clean and tidy house I love, and a dog who is pure joy.
And there’s something else Barry the clairvoyant was right about all those years ago.
“You’ll always be surrounded by lots of children,” he said.
Well yes, it has turned out pretty alright. In fact, it’s an important part of my life.
I’ve always been the crazy indulgent pretend and real aunt to friends’ kids and my sister’s kids.
My nieces started having ‘magical’ experiences at my place from an early age.
We went to theatre in the park and stayed up all night telling stories and eating icecream and lollies.
We made up our own language and told stories of our own land. I have always been unpredictable and extravagant with the kids, and make every visit special.
When my younger niece turned 12, I gave her an indulgence of 12 different cuisines and we went to some of Melbourne’s top restaurants throughout her 12th year – French at Bistro Thierry, Greek at Gazi, Peruvian at Pastuso, Spanish at Movida.
Not to be outdone by 12, her 13th birthday saw the gift of 13 new experiences from an artisan chocolate making course, to trips to Alice springs, an indulgent weekend in a suite at Crown Towers and a wildly expensive trip to Sydney to stay at Pier One and eat at Icebergs.
A few years ago I started to bond with another close friend’s three children.
Recently her little one, who is eight, started calling me Parent C.
Because families are no longer just nuclear, her school permission forms list Parent A, Parent B, Parent C and Parent D. I’m Parent C.
Next week we are having a sleepover and the week after I’ll be sitting next to Parents A and B as she performs in the State School Spectacular.
I cherish my role in the lives of all my kids. I love being Parent C.
I don’t bemoan not being anything more but what does annoy me, and has for many years, is other people’s assumptions that my solo life must lack meaning or substance.
Or the belief that having never been a mother myself, I can’t understand and feel for a child who has lost her mother.
Or indeed, overhearing someone say I have a sad life because I don’t have children.
I chose the life that works for me. There’s no measuring device to know just how much I feel compared to mothers, but why are we intent on measuring things?
Why is it not enough that I care?
Because I do: For all of the kids I am Parent C for.
At 51 I reckon I’ve got two sets of children left to hang out with. I am a godmother to two under 10 and my friends – two dads to a couple of cuties – might be needing some special PANK action (Professional Aunty No Kids).
I know I’ve expanded the imaginations of the young children I’ve looked after and taken some older ones on adventures of a lifetime.
I’ve been there for them to talk about icky things they don’t want to talk to their parents about.
I am an outstanding Parent C. And I’m more than aaarrriggghhht with that.
But at times the judgment I’ve experienced for my choice hasn’t been. More than that – it has really hurt.
And that is not alright.
If it takes a village to raise a child – and I believe it does – when will us childless Parent Cs (and Ds and beyond) be accepted for who we are?
We don’t want pity. Just pride.