Monday, 11 December 2017

The surprising irrelevance of choice

When I was interviewed for the article that was published last week, the reporter and I had a conversation about labels, and I shared my view that I dislike both the childLESS and childFREE arguments, as I wrote here. Six years on, the No Kidding community adds the qualifiers “by choice” or “not by choice” much more frequently. So I got thinking about it again, concluding that - if I had to give myself a label - I am now childfree not by choice.

What I realised, though, and was even surprised by, was something much bigger, and that was how the use of this description now feels academic to me in 2017. I completely understand why others might want to use these terms, and I have done so when it felt right too, but now, when I have spent more time alive knowing without doubt that I would never have children than I did planning or hoping or grieving, the state of being without children is now my norm, regardless of how I got here.

Many years on now from my losses, the idea of choice (or not) no longer (or very rarely) enters in to how I feel about my life. I am a woman without children, and sometimes that's good and sometimes that's not so good, but most times it is irrelevant whether I chose to live this way or not; it is simply my reality, my life. I am pleased to say that the passing of time has therefore delivered a freedom from that pain that I could never have imagined back in those early days and years.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Our tribe isn't quite so invisible these days

The article came out on Saturday, both online and in the Saturday newspaper’s magazine, with photos and, gulp, a video of me speaking in the online version. So far I’ve avoided looking at the comments, and suspect that is the reason why I feel so surprisingly relaxed about it.

I loved the cover of the magazine, the words they chose and the question asked. 

The title of the article too, was The Invisible Tribe, although with articles like these, and with the publicity many of the No Kidding bloggers and websites (Jody Day’s Gateway Women was specifically mentioned in the article) are getting (it helps to have a No Kidding Prime Minister here), I hope we are becoming more visible. And most importantly, more accepted.

Finally, although the article was pitched to me to be about being childless at Christmas, I think that it grew from that, and in fact turned into something much broader and rather good, but didn't deal with the difficulties childless women/men/couples might face at Christmas. In my interview, I told the reporter that I had decided to ignore all the “Christmas is about children” hoopla, and that I had, over the years, reclaimed Christmas to be mine, but unfortunately, this encouragement to women without children that Christmas can indeed be for them didn’t make the final edit. So I’ve noted that again, and have linked to a more detailed, seven-year-old (to the day) Christmas/holiday post here, to remind us all to think about how we can make the holidays work for us.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Defining myself

I've been thinking a bit lately about how weird it is that my name will soon once again be used to represent the opinions of women without children. Yet being a woman without children is only a small part of my life. Sure, I write about it because it is an area I have some expertise - both of my own feelings but the feelings of many other women who have either been through loss or have been unable to have children at all. It helps people, and I feel useful. After all, what a waste to have all that knowledge that could help someone, or could help others understand people in their lives without children, and not use it!

But I don't define myself as a woman who doesn't have children. After all, simply the language we have to use to describe that situation - a woman without children - relates back to the thing we don't have, and implies either loss or lack. For many of us, at some stage of our journey, there is loss and lack. But for most of us, in time and as we learn to embrace our lives without children, to reclaim our lives, we are happy, busy, and content. Normal!

So I prefer to define myself in many other ways. I am a family member and friend and neighbour, a carer, a traveller, a writer, a counsellor, a feminist, a when-I-can-be-bothered cook, a very amateur but enthusiastic photographer, and so many other things. In fact, about five years ago I wrote a post listing 100 things I am, rather than focusing on what I am not. It's worth reminding myself of that again. And reminding anyone else who visits that we are all so much more.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Feeling nervous

On Saturday, a newspaper article is due to come out that will talk about how women without children feel about this time of year, in the lead up to Christmas, and yes, I’m probably going to be in it. It is good that they intend to acknowledge that there is an overwhelming focus on children at this time of year, and that advertisements always show parents and children, never single women or men, or couples without children.

But I am nervous, because this will be in the newspaper of our city, New Zealand’s capital and my home for the last 30 plus years. People I have worked with will open the newspaper and – perhaps – recognise me, and read whatever the reporter chose to quote from me, judging or pitying or mocking or empathising. I’d feel so much happier if I had control of the words that will go in the article, but sadly, that’s not how journalism works!

Still, I have to breathe deeply, and embrace the vulnerability, reminding myself that the people I care about already know who I am and how I feel (largely). I have to hope that someone will read it and feel a little better, knowing they are not alone. And I have to hope that it will cause some people to think just a little more about those women and men around them who don’t have children, and try to make this time of year a bit easier for them.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Seven years on

In November seven years ago last week, I began No Kidding in NZ, and that November, I wrote a post about another November, a much more difficult November seven years earlier. In my first month of blogging, I was able to celebrate the healing power of time, and this is something that has become somewhat of a theme here on No Kidding.

I began writing here for two reasons. The first was to find my tribe. I'm confident I've done that - though of my blogger friends, I've only managed to meet Klara so far, but think I'll be able to add someone else to that list later in the summer. I'm very grateful for you all, for the support I get, and the insights you give me of your own experiences.

The second was to pass on what I'd learned over the previous years, both from my own experiences, and from those of the many many women I worked with going through infertility or loss.

Seven years on, I still get enormous fulfillment when I know my words have been able to help, and I can only hope that I will stay relevant for those who visit, looking for their own tribe.