real life

There's something familiar about the women on tv who don't have kids.

It’s International Childfree Day today.

And although I think we’ve come a long way to be accepted, women who choose to not have kids are not represented in pop culture.

I understand great storylines need conflict. But as a childfree woman trust me I have plenty of drama in my life that is not centered around my uterus.

Just in the past month I’ve had a trip to the outback, come up with a new business plan, organised an international wedding and honeymoon, had work conflict, been let down by a friend and supported by another, my partner started a new job that makes him grin and I had my heart filled by my hilarious nephews. Plenty of storyline fodder there.

And yet – in movies, on TV and in books, when a woman is childfree by choice she’s portrayed as a heartless killer, a workaholic, a sexaholic or a gossipy spinster leaning over a fence.

After wracking my brain,  asking friends and diving deeply into the internet, here are a few childfree characters from TV shows that I can come up with:

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So that’s nine childfree characters (hopefully there will be more so please list them in comments because I’m tapped out of ideas).

It seems pretty good, right? That is, until you consult Google and find out there are 2,102,494 TV shows in the world.

So why is it important to have fictional characters who are childfree by choice?  Well, fiction is a reflection of society. Fiction has the ability to inspire us, move us, make us learn, makes us change — it matters that we can look to the screen, big or small, and see someone who looks like we do.

It’s important to see yourself in fictional storylines and for others to see childfree stories as normal.

Related: 8 things you should NOT say to a woman who doesn’t want kids.

I was struck by this when reading a beautiful story by Mamamia contributor Lola Jennings-Edquist.  She said seeing lesbian storylines on TV helped her accept she was gay.

“Before I completely had accepted (my sexuality) within myself, I remember seeing Alex and Marissa on The OC and Naomi and Emily on Skins, and it just helped me,” she wrote.

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She added that she watches “a lot of LGBT TV shows like Pretty Little Liars, Grey’s Anatomy, The Fosters and The L-Word because they’re something I can connect to.”

“We need sexuality for everyone. Not just some,” she concluded.

I agree wholeheartedly.

And the same argument goes for why it’s important to have a prominent characters who don’t have children and are happy with the choice, because that helps send the message that expectations have changed. It matters to have TV writers not include pregnancy plots as part of some sort of notion of “having it all.”

The storyline for Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show was groundbreaking – a childfree lead character in 1970.

Nothing shits me more than movies like Just Like Heaven, Four Christmases, Life As We Know It: Films where filmmakers create childfree characters, only to then have them “fixed” by meeting the right person/getting pregnant unexpectedly/getting stuck with a child and loving it.

I long for a movie, TV show or a book where the girl stays single and is happy with a job she loves but it doesn’t dominate her life.  Or girl meets boy (or girl), they get married and it’s not expected that the next thing they do is pop out a child.

We need more childless women — and more childless couples — depicted in our fiction. We need to represent those who have decided they don’t want children and are happy with it; we need to show that that choice is acceptable, and normal.

I have no problem with parenting story arcs and I’m not saying have less of them I’m just putting a call out to creatives and writers to think about childfree when they are next confronted with a blank screen.

Because as Maya Angelou once said: “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story.”

If you can think of other child-free characters in pop culture please list them in the comments below.

Related: 

OPINION: “Why are we so afraid of women who don’t want children?”

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