A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting on the naughty step in some obscure corner of the Internet dominated by angry, middle-aged mums. It all started off quite innocently, really. To find some form of escapism from the stress and drudgery of student life, I went outside for some fresh air, meditated, then jotted down some changes I could make to my lifestyle and attitude that would make me happier spent an hour scrolling through my Facebook feed. It was my lucky day. I came across a page that featured parents who regretted having children.

Now if there is one thing I hate, it’s overly smug parents, or smug mums if I’m being specific. ‘Yes I made that thing and I pushed it out of me and it looks like me and hopefully it will act like me because it’s a narcissistic extension of myself whose potential I will nurture/destroy with my dysfunctional parenting style.’ Deep breaths, Susan. It’s not that deep.

Anyway, I tagged my best friend in the article with a comment that went along the lines of ‘you don’t need children when you have red wine.’ In my opinion, this comment was as harmless as it was true.* Apparently not. Out came the Mummy Army waving their fists in the air.  

‘What a selfish thing 2 say I luv my little ones wldnt eva give them up N THESE PEOPLE DNT DESERVE THERE KIDS !!!!! I feel sory 4 youre empty life HA!’ Oh Deborah, please. Give it a rest will you.

‘Wonder what this girls mum thinks of her. Having kids is the most selfless thing u can do.’**

I was beyond flabbergasted. How does one get angry when someone else does not want children? Apparently it is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a vagina must be in want of a child. I was some perverse exception to the norm.

We only have to analyse the language used when talking about women that have no children to see how they are regarded in society today. ‘Childless’. To me, that suffix is at once insulting, patronising and ignorant. Maybe I’m childfree. But do you ever think about that? No, because you only ever think about yourself. So rude.  

Here’s a thought: plenty of women have their own reasons for wanting to be childfree, none of which need to be justified or approved by those that do have children. For me, the doge puppy beats the human puppy on every level. Sadly, I cannot conceive puppies naturally, so no childbirth for me. Share my sorrow, comrades. Secondly, I believe I am scarred for life from a primary school sex education lesson. After a weird cartoon about the importance of being hygienic, in which two characters would repeatedly tell each other ‘eurgh, some of your bits ain’t nice,’ the class was treated to a video on childbirth from the 80s. There lay madam who was screaming her head off whilst the camera slowly descended to reveal a potato emerging from what I thought was a mohair dungeon. This is trauma at its finest.

Moving away from unnecessarily graphic primary school learning resources, bringing a child into the world is not the only achievement of which I’m capable. The fact that I don’t want them does not make me selfish, stupid, or a horrible person. So, enough with the ridiculous responses. The thing that bothers me most about the situation is the fact that most of the ignorance I’ve experienced comes from other women.

‘You’re just being childish.’

‘You’ll change your mind.’

Don’t patronise me with that irritating knowing smile.

‘Men want babies. You’re stupid if you don’t have them. No one will marry you. What are you going to do alone for the rest of your life?’ Oh, I don’t know. Not shave my legs and enjoy the extra layer of warmth every winter? And how does this decision make me stupid? I’m a relatively bright individual and this personal decision has absolutely no impact on my intelligence. FYI, if I do become a mother in a parallel universe, I’m sure I’d be a decent one. It’s not like I don’t have all the basic information. I know how babies are made (they are ordered online, duh) and I know what’s necessary for them to be healthy and happy (e.g. clean its tank regularly), SO THERE.

To end this rant succinctly, I impart upon thee some of my sage wisdom: we need to move beyond the notion that womanhood is dependent on motherhood. Quite frankly, anyone that follows and prescribes this view to other women is nothing more than a nincompoop.

*Important general life mantra: red wine over everything.

**Mummy Army grammar mistakes 100% not exaggerated.

 

Pooja Bokhiria

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