Now I’ve got a feeling that this post could get me into hot water, primarily because I openly admit I’m probably weird. I suspect I have a condition, along the lines of Aspergers, that hasn’t been discovered yet. My condition leads my thinking to be quite often at odds with the thinking of others. You see, the thought of having children has never even crossed my mind, I can’t say being childless is a conscious decision because I’ve never thought about it. Obviously it’s a bit of a mute point now, given that I’m probably clinging on to one mutant egg that is if there’s any left at all.
I hear lots of women my age mourning the loss of their fertility. In fact, one of the most disturbing incidents of my life came when, as a young, fresh faced, newly qualified teacher, I was invited to a middle-aged colleague’s party. She was as mad as a box of frogs, in those glorious days when teachers could be barking mad eccentrics rather than glorified paper shufflers. Anyway, the party turned out to be a sort of swansong to functioning ovaries. I have a vague memory of a vast tureen of bubbling soup, which I avoided like the plague. Stories of people eating placentas and the like had already deeply scarred my innocent psyche.
As I have already stated, on this issue and indeed many more, I am weird. And the reason I know I’m weird is thus, I have read enough women’s magazines to know that a major bugbear for childless women is that they are constantly being asked when they are going to start a family or indeed why not. Now, I can honestly state that not one person has ever asked me that question and, while we’re on the subject, the same goes for singledom. Most singletons complain about the fact that they are relentlessly asked when they are going to settle down, or whatever the euphemism is these days for getting a boyfriend. But not me! I can only assume that the answer is patently obvious – I am too, whatever my Aspergers type condition will be called once it’s been discovered, to be in the market for a significant other or child rearing.
Anyway, I know I’m not the norm but that doesn’t stop me holding opinions on the subject of fertility and parenthood. I have several friends for instance, who have struggled with conceiving and who have gone down the IVF route. They have spent a fortune on medical interventions and endured untold mental and physical punishment which totally boggles my mind. For starters, obviously given my condition, I don’t get the drive to have a child at any cost necessary. On top of that I don’t understand why they don’t use the money to simply buy one, in the style of Madonna, Angelina Jolie and countless other celebrities or even just go down the more traditional adoption route.
I know the adoption process is supposed to be a tricky business and, really, would we want it any other way? I mean, nobody can surely think it’s a good idea to be handing out children willy nilly. The truth is though; there are lots of children languishing in care homes or in temporary foster care, so why aren’t all these childless women, who delayed motherhood a smidgen too long, rushing to give these children a home? It seems to me that most women want to produce their own offspring and nothing else will do. Now, call me insensitive, but that smacks a little bit to me like ego gone mad. I mean, you either want a child or you don’t and, if you do, would you really have preconditions as to which child? Clearly this is an observation that I have been unable to share, as I sit with a friend who is weeping in desperation, claiming she’d give anything to have a child.
This is only part of the dilemma, however, and the rest is even more perplexing to me. Why do people who seemingly get no pleasure from parenting and who are, to not put too fine a point on it, crap at it, continue to procreate? I speak as a person who has worked with kids from large families which are clearly not working. I hate to stereotype but typically they live with a mother and lots of half-siblings, in a style which would be better suited to living in the wild. I have listened to these mothers bemoaning their lot, blaming their children for everything that is wrong with their lives and yet they continue to have more and more kids.
Many people assume that when you don’t have children it’s because you don’t like them. In fact, I love children, I just wouldn’t want to live with any in much the same way I wouldn’t want pets. I have absolutely no tolerance for inconvenience. Noise, lack of sleep, being unable to do whatever I please, would not agree with me at all - I suspect it’s part of my condition. Indeed, even though it often feels as though it is against the law to say so, I find small children extremely boring and irritating. I avoid anything toddler friendly completely because, the stress of having to maintain an amiable smile whilst wanting to throttle a small tot and its over indulgent parents, can’t be good for me.
It’s my belief that children don’t become interesting until they start secondary school and even then it’s touch and go. The young ones can get on my nerves with their needy fussing but once that’s been knocked out of them – say by the time they are about 14, they’re great. I love all the surly, bad behaviour that drives parents to distraction. Whilst traumatised parents wonder where their perfect little angel has gone, I’m thinking but surely this rebellious, opinionated, eye-linered madam is infinitely more entertaining?
So where do I stand on the subject of children? I think it’s each to her own. True empowerment can only come through free choice and thankfully women are now faced with an array of options. Some, like myself, will remain childless whilst for others this will be unthinkable. Some women choose to be working mums whilst others stay at home. Motherhood only becomes an issue when it is deemed that one way of life is more worthy than another. I admire women who have the patience to entertain toddlers all day or who juggle childcare with work commitments and I hope that they are equally as supportive of my lifestyle choices. It seems to me that there is room for all of us – unless of course you are with the David Attenborough school of thought.