I remember as a child taking our summer pilgrimage from Scotland to Dorset.
My sister and I would bundle into my father’s Volvo. We were allowed to take ten soft toys each. These toys would form our imaginary classes if we were teachers, or our children if we had decided to play families.
I would invariably have an imaginary husband who worked in the City; hence why I was on holiday alone with my stuffed toy family.
I would have two or three soft toy children, a large country house with horses, a Mini (my Nana had one) and a job in marketing in London.
I am going to be forty in a week’s time. And according to my childhood ideals, I should have at least started on these plans by now. But I have no husband, no country house with horses, no job in marketing, and definitely no children!
And I am childless by choice.
I’m not sure when it was that I knew I wasn’t going to have children. It was an unconscious but strong decision that occurred somewhere between my late teens and second year at University.
By then I knew it was not something I wanted to do. This was not a decision I had sat and pondered; more an internal feeling that grew over time, until I was certain. It is a hard one to explain.
In my early twenties, if my plans to remain child free came up in conversation, I would get mild responses.
Don’t worry. When you meet the right person, you’ll feel differently.
When you’re older you’ll change your mind.
You can’t make a decision now, just wait and see.
But as I grew older and my friends and colleagues began to have their own children, the responses became different.
When dating, men would initially think nothing of it and embrace the idea.
But over time—when their minds changed and the novelty of a woman who has no plans to ‘settle down and have children’ had worn off—they would seem surprised that my feelings were unchanged.
I am vain, selfish, cold and uncaring. Not being a mother makes me less of a woman.
However, the worst comments have come from women. And that surprises and saddens me.
One comment that has never left me was when I was told I was wasting my womb, and I should think of all those women who couldn’t have children.
This is not fair.
Having a child is a choice and if I choose not to have a child, for whatever reason, it is my choice. It should not be an expectation.
Being a woman is hard in so many different ways, in so many different cultures and that is why it is important for us to remain united. Comments like this need to be thought through. One person’s ideal is not necessarily the same as yours, and because of that it shouldn’t make that person ‘less than’.
I embrace the idea of being a strong, independent woman, and this is a role I try to model in my job as a teacher.
Although I don’t have my childhood fantasies from the back seat of an old Volvo; I do have my own flat, an excellent job in London, an amazing partner and a strong sense of self.
I am proud to say I have overcome adversities alone, to get to where I am. And I am proud of who I am. I am proud to be an independent woman.
I don’t regret my choice to remain childless. And I won’t regret it when I’m older because I’ll be surrounded by those that love me.
I am childless by choice. And I am a whole woman whether I have a child or not.