real life

From a childless woman, thank you for not asking me if I'm "thinking about kids.”

Thank you for not asking me the question, “Are you thinking about kids?” This includes me.

Thank you for sharing your children with me, and understanding that I can enjoy time with your children without needing my own.

Thank you for not saying “My life started when I had children”.

Thank you for never saying “You’re a natural,” perpetuating the idea that womenkind’s single highest purpose is to succeed at caregiving.

Thank you for making the effort to discuss topics other than your relationship or your children.

Thank you for not resorting to the alternative which is to ask me how my search for ‘the one’ is going.

Thank you for inviting me over to dinner, for pouring some wine, or supplying it even though you might not be drinking for whatever reason.

Thank you for asking me about my day.

Thank you for not humble bragging about the state of your finances/home/children.

Thank you for not telling me that I won’t really know what being tired is like until I’ve had kids.

Thank you for not making assumptions about the trajectory of my life.

Thank you for not prying when I am not volunteering the information freely.

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Thank you for not dropping hints, discussing my age and using the answer as a segway to fertility, or asking invasive questions about if my spouse wants kids. If you really want to know, invite he or she over and ask them.

Thank you for all the times you arranged a sitter. For the times you included me in discussions about your own experiences with honesty, without qualifying with statements like, “only a parent can” or “I didn’t realise until I was a parent that…”.

To the childless woman, thank you for not making jokes about readiness for motherhood, or implying that motherhood is exclusive to the feminine experience.

Or treating time that is spent single or childless, as time that is suffered through and endured prior to the end goal or main event – the part where life ‘starts’.

These assumptions are caught up in an age-old cultural ritual which is the source of so much joy and pride.

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It also diminishes, excludes and isolates people living life differently.

Experiences outside of parenthood are valuable. Understand that many of us stand on the fringe of society, we smart and cringe and curl internally with each tiny inference a sharp pang, a microaggression.

We smile on by, and continue to return. We buy gifts for your children and attend the outings you now arrange – your hens, your bucks, your wedding, your birthday…

We tire from trying to find words to explain that we can be valuable and lead productive and satisfying lives without being in relationships, or being in relationships without having children.

Not wishing to diminish your experience we skirt around the issue, finding it hard to express that which we don’t want or can’t have – that which you are so proud of.

Thank you to the co-workers who have children but seldom discuss them, as work is often a refuge for those finding fulfilment outside of the family home.

Understand that there are many places in society for mothers to seek refuge – mothers’ groups, home, family, the network of childless friends, co-workers, neighbours – who walk dogs, wrap gifts, deliver lasagna and make tea.

Understand that the plight of those who are childless by choice doesn’t come with a group, or a ritual or a ceremony, that celebrates their successes, or the ways in which they otherwise contribute to the community or environment.

Understand that many women are not childless by choice, and it’s not your business or their responsibility to share the status or reason for their singleness or childlessness.

Understand that as women, each time we exclude others with our assumptions, enquiries or expectations, we shackle those around us.

We diminish them with these questions.

We exclude them because of the experiences that they don’t have, rather than embracing them for their passion, creativity, humour, company or celebrating their non-familial accomplishments.

I apologise to the women in my life who I have affected with these invasive questions, or assumptions or gentle ribbing. We can all recognise the ways we may have done this too, and just try to do better.

Feature image: Getty. 

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