Below is a condensed version of an article from The Age today that I thought was worth posting.
It is so important that we don’t make the assumption that people always get to choose their path in life.
If you’d like to read the full article, you can find it here.
A few things you shouldn’t say to a childless woman
Wendy Squires May 04, 2013
There are two words for the woman who reached over the table, grabbed my hand and in a consolatory tone announced, ”It’s a tragedy you never got around to having children. It’s the most wonderful thing a woman can do.”
Those words are ”shut” and ”up” (the printable response) or, more charitably, ”think” and ”first”. Because it doesn’t take Freud to work out this statement was patronising, assumptive and just plain insensitive.
…I wanted to thump her. Hard. Not just for me, but for all childless women. I’m talking about sisters on IVF; the ones who can’t carry to term; those who’ve suffered stillbirth or the loss of a child; the infertile; those with infertile partners; the ones hoping and waiting on a committed relationship; the ambivalent; the never intended to and don’t feel the need to justify the fact.
Most of the childless women I know do find peace with their circumstances, even if it takes some time. Until, that is, someone comes along and demands their curiosity itch be scratched as to why no kids or, worse, declares you emotionally or spiritually unfulfilled with uncalled for comments such as the one I endured.
I believe children are a gift and not a given in life, and those who receive should be grateful. They should not be offering from on high ”Oh, it is such a pity”, ”a tragedy”, ”you would have loved it”, consolations to those without – even if well intended. People need to stop and think what they are really saying to another with ”you don’t know love until you have a child”, ”I wasn’t complete until I had kids”, ”you are nothing without family” or the deplorable ”don’t you like children?”
A friend of mine who is a well-known celebrity understands this. I was watching when she was interviewed on TV once. The male host skipped through her bio with the clanger, ”You decided to choose career over family …” I will never forget my friend’s face, frozen in a smile that hid the angry tears I knew were welling. I was aware she had not chosen career over family as he so rudely surmised, but that she had miscarried her much-wanted baby late term and was told she would never have another as a result. Like most women there was a backstory to her situation, one that didn’t need ignorant supposition to aggravate.
I was with a girlfriend who had recently been told to give up on IVF and witnessed her pain when the ”you don’t know love until you have a child” remark was dropped at a party…
The simple fact – not that it is anyone’s damn business in the first place – is that most childless women today feel the decision was taken out of their hands through lack of financial and emotional security. According to a study in Australia’s Journal of Population Health, many childless women in their 30s want to have children, but can’t due to reasons ”beyond their control” such as not having a partner, stable relationship, or partner that wants children.
Perhaps in future when judging another woman on her life choices or publicly applauding your own, these statistics should be kept in mind. Not all women are awarded the same opportunities in life and not all women want or need them. Surely we can all agree on mutual respect and consideration of circumstance as a safe middle ground.
Saturday Age columnist Wendy Squires is a journalist, editor and author. Twitter: @Wendy_Squires