single and childless. fail?

I’m single.

And childless.

AND in my mid thirties.

I know! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! (and also, my womb!)

I love my life. I laugh a LOT. I’m happy. So why is this considered a FAIL?

Society screams it at me every day… I’m *supposed* to be with someone, and be raising a family, by now. SURELY! And because I’m not, there must be something wrong?

Funny thing is, I’m actually completely happy being single, and childless. (I can see you now, rolling your eyes in the ‘she doesn’t know what she’s missing’ type of way. And maybe I don’t, but I’m ok with that. Because I don’t know what I’m missing…)

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t say I don’t like the idea of a cutesy dude by my side. (Especially one who brings me cups of tea.) And, I do like kids.

I love hanging with short people. Especially ones like this…

But I just don’t want any kids of my own. And that’s not a new thought for me, it’s just been something I’ve mostly left unspoken because of the (strong) reaction you get when you make a statement like that.

And before you throw your laptop across the room and rant about me to your partner, let me expand on this just a little…

I love kids. Truly. I do. If you know me, you’d know that. I’ve worked with kids since I can remember. I wanted to be a teacher  from way back when I was in primary school, and I’ve worked on and off in various child care roles since I was fourteen. I’ve worked in after school care, I’ve taught, I’ve baby sat, I’ve nannied, I’ve worked with foster kids, and kids in crisis. I’ve been around.

At this point, I don’t want to be a parent.

It’s not a *weird* thing. And it’s not because of anything in particular that I’ve seen or done. It just is what it is. Sometimes, things are, just because they are. Because that’s me.

And yet, it is a massive tension to live with. And I vacillate. I try to make myself want it. And I swing between the two extremes. Of knowing that I don’t want it, and trying to live like I do want it. Because the expectation set before me is that of COURSE I’d WANT to be married. And of COURSE surely I’d be desperate for kids. You couldn’t possibly be whole and happy and complete without that.

Funny thing is, as marvellous and amazing as those things are(and I’m honestly happy for my friends and family who enjoy being married and having kids, and believe me, I LOVE being around them, and most of the time I do wish I wanted those things), I think you can be whole and happy and complete without that…

Maybe that’s just me… but I think I’m not completely alone.

These are the discussions I’ve been having with a number of friends these days. And as we’ve delved a little, we’ve discovered some of us are in similar situations, with similar thinking.

And yet, none of us say these things out loud. BECAUSE WHAT WOULD PEOPLE THINK? Society has pre-determined who we should be, and the roles we should fill, and there’s a massive unspoken(and sometimes spoken!) expectation on us to fulfil those roles appropriately.

And when we don’t, it couldn’t possibly mean that maybe we (as specific individuals) are not meant to fit that particular mould, but rather, it’s deducted that there must be something wrong with us. Instead of us just being people without kids, there’s a weird stigma attached.

One friend wrote “So yeah marriage, babies – not my thing. And I’m starting to voice more things that are not my thing. As none of us have that long to live, why not live true?”

And, as another friend wrote in an email last week, “Just imagine ‘So Aunty Doris, I hear your older sister died last week, must be your turn next hey?’, may not go down so well.”  And so we smile and nod(and inwardly grimace) when ‘Aunty Doris’ says “don’t worry dear, you’ll be next” at our sibling’s wedding…

I read this the other day, by the ridiculously amazing Jayne Kearney… It wraps around my gut, it resonates…

I was once again left worrying for women who do not have children – either by choice or by circumstance. How do they cope in the face of the overwhelming juggernaut of parenting PR? Anyone who has watched a friend or relative struggle with IVF or other fertility issues undoubtedly knows the answer to that question. And so this week I have been asking: where are the narratives about women and men who are not, and never will be, parents? Where is the happy ending which doesn’t have kids in it?

Happy endings CAN look different for all of us.

This is where I’m at. This is simply just a post about where I’m at.

Sometimes, things are, just because they are.

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16 thoughts on “single and childless. fail?

  1. Good on you! I’m not in the same situation – have one desperately longed for, fertility treatment little boy – but have a close friend who feels the same as you but endures all of society’s expectations and harrassment. Which sucks, basically!! Don’t know what happened to live and let live.

  2. I think it’s a blessing to know yourself and what you want in life regardless of what is deemed ‘normal’ by society – or really family and friends – at this stage in your life. No matter whether we are married, single, having kids, not having kids there will always be someone who measures our life by theirs and will be outspoken about it if it doesn’t match up. If we live our lives trying to line it up with others then it’s a sure fire way to end up miserable.

    I’m coming from a similar place at the moment, although also being in my mid thirties and single I do want to get married and have kids but I am now having to face realistically that it may not happen for me and what am I going to do if it doesn’t? It’s finding that balance of not giving up hope but also working through that battle of sadness/guilt/envy when I get those engagement/wedding/baby shower invites.

    Thanks for sharing in such an honest way. 🙂

  3. i’m so glad your blog is back! i think this is something we all struggle with at different points in our lives. for me, since i live with my boyfriend and we’ve been together for quite a while, it’s the marriage questions i face. and honestly, i cannot even BEGIN to think about marriage right now! i have no idea if marriage is for me! and when graduation is looming next spring, it will be questions about career choice and finding a job and “did you choose the right path?”. i was talking to a friend about this the other day: people seem to have no shame about telling you what they think you should be doing.

    here’s my all time favorite quote ever, to remind myself what’s important: “everyone has an opinion about how you should be living your life. the only one that matters is yours.”

  4. I’ve never really had a desire to have kids. It is an oddity, but as I’m also vegan, don’t drink/smoke/do drugs, am a feminist, have vague spiritual beliefs, etc. people tend to find my entire existence a mystery. Oh, and yes, I’m single. I think that if you are confident in your lifestyle choices people are less likely to harass you about it; often times they are just curious. I can completely relate to this though, sometimes it can be tiring being different, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  5. I’ve never wanted to children. I remember being a child myself and knowing that I wouldn’t want it. I’m approaching thirty and I have to deal with the questions and explanations about my choices everyday. My absolute favorite response to my position on children is:

    “Oh, you’ll change your mind” – said oh so smugly

    Nothing makes me want to kick you in the shins more than telling me that you know me better than I do.

    There was this great article/blog post in the NYTimes detailing thoughts and feelings on the same topics. It’s called “The Referendum” and it’s a must read for people like us who just don’t fit in with ‘expected’ life milestones. Check it out…

  6. Beautiful post Jo. While unintentionally I landed up with the husband, house with the picket fence and two and a half kids, if it hadn’t been that way, I would have been equally happy. Being confident within means you make your own choices. Love and light. Lx

  7. Beautiful post Jo. I don’t know what I want yet (probably marriage, since I have found the love of my life, and maybe not children) but I recently had the epiphany that we have the right to choose our own lives. It’s that simple.

  8. Being childless by choice is like being Atheist.

    While people are happy to be either married, single parents, divorced, blended, cross-cultural, mixed race or same sex parents and are reasonably tollerant of other choices within the parenting framework, the rejection of the whole thing requires constant justification from the same tollerant people.

    But in any case, you’ve certainly made me think about some assuptions I’ve made about some people (who I don’t like very much) by providing the story of someone I like very much – you!

    Fight the fight, Jo. You rock.

  9. *applause*

    I never wanted children and people did that thing like Alanna said, the smug all knowing “you’ll change your mind”. It pissed me off so much.
    But then I *did* change my mind. (which kinda annoyed me even more).
    The thing is, I’m happy with my choice but I still maintain that I would have been just fine and dandy thank you very much if I had have decided to stay single and childless. I would certainly have more money and more clothes with less vomit on them, that’s for sure.

    This is just another situation of people thinking that their own flavour of happiness should be the flavour everyone else chooses. ick. like cherry. ick.

  10. Essentially people want you to make the same choices as they have so that you validate them, both the person and their choice. By choosing to be single, childless AND happy you cast a different light onto them and sometimes that’s lighting a place they have tried to hide from. I was determined to be a parent and the choices I made in order to become one have not appealed to some people, including my brother. It’s their loss if they can’t accept my choices and embrace my children, not mine but it makes it harder than it should be. So while I’m not where you are I can understand why you get frustrated/annoyed at the expectations put on you and the lack of understanding/acceptance for your choices.

    Keep casting that different light on people, eventually society as a whole might ease up on those who make different choices.

  11. Jo, as always you write beautifully. Your *about me*, as I previously said is totes awesome. You are where you want to be in your life atm, and owe no one any explanations. Enjoy life, and continue to bring joy to others. That, you are very good at !…… 🙂

  12. Jo, I have a child, and am happily single. I have people around me either not comprehending that I am NOT on the ‘look out’ for a partner, not desperate to find someone, or treating me as if I was a poor pitiful creature. (‘something’s Wrong with her’).

    And also, Jo, I have people around me who know me, love me, accept me. These are the people with whom I share my own love, laughs, and life’s adventures.

    Thanks for sharing openly, and bringing up an issue that so often gets put into the too hard pile.

  13. i’m in a different boat than you – i’m childless but NOT by choice. we’ve tried for a looong time to have a child [and suffered lots of losses along the way] and now face life, yes as a married couple but as just us two and for alot, that’s as incomprehensible as your choice NOT have children BY CHOICE.

    people just don’t get married and then not have children [whether by choice or circumstance] – society says you get married and then you have children, it’s what’s been done for centuries and so when a couple goes against that – well it’s just weird in alot of people’s eyes irrespective if they really have no say in the matter. if we can’t be “normal” by having children and fulfilling the steps [meet + get engaged + get married + have children = happiness] then where do we fit? i feel like an oddity at times because through no fault of our own we have flouted societies expectations.

    “And so this week I have been asking: where are the narratives about women and men who are not, and never will be, parents? Where is the happy ending which doesn’t have kids in it?”

    i love that because it’s true. society deems that to be
    “happy” we must have children – white picket fence, the dog bounding around in the yard and the 2.4 perfect children that IS happiness isn’t it?

    i say no, not for everyone. for some, either by choice or because they can’t have it, they will have to find their “happy” some place else, they will have to rewrite the rules and come up with a set that is right for them.

    “happy” is what we decide, NOT what society decides and if what we decide “happy” is freaks society out – well they’ll just have to toughen up won’t they?

    brilliant post.

    ~x~

  14. I think this is a lovely post on so many different levels Jo. I thought I wanted kids from the age of 12. But the older I get the less I want them. I’m now in my mid 30s and I dono’t have kids. And I’m starting to think I never will have them. Maybe I missed my chance. Some days I’m ok with that. Some days I’m not so sure.
    But why do so many people feel the need to ask me (a) if I have kids and (b) when I am going to have them? And then pass on advice. Life is what it is. It doesn’t always work out the way we plan. My life isn’t any less lived if I don’t have children.
    And finally, I am sick to death of politicians addressing (only) the “working families” or “working mums and dads” of Australia. I vote. I pay tax. I’ve paid lots and lots of tax. But apparently I don’t qualify for consideration in the halls of parliament in this country because I don’t have offspring.

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