I was just settling down whilst the house is quiet and the significant other and parrot are still asleep to read some articles and came across one in the Guardian – a quiz on ‘are you a good parent’.
Don’t you just love quizzes? I do. So I thought I’d take it just to see.
On question 1 – what to do when the kids are making noise when you are watching TV – I lost interest.
I didn’t even find the dilemmas of parenting personally interesting in theory, much less in practice!
So, I decided to use the quiet time to blog instead about my child-free journey and some of the myths that I’ve encountered about people who choose not to become parents.
I am a non-parent by choice.
It wasn’t a choice I always thought I would make but, when the discussions around having children of our own – or fertility treatment or adoption – came up in my serious adult relationships, I just never felt the really strong desire to go ahead and have kiddies.
In my twenties, like many people, I just assumed I would as I’d enjoyed being around young children all my life.
But, when it came to the crunch (so to speak) in my 30s, I didn’t feel that strong pull to take the leap.
My strong pull has always pulled me to create things – art, businesses, communities, creative experiences, political actions.
I felt that having a family as well would mean I did neither thing effectively.
I’m not saying other women can’t do it, just that I know myself and I’m pretty sure I’d not rock the multi tasking involved, I work best when very, very focussed on something. You gotz to know yourself, and I do.
Strong desire is what leads me to make big life changes – I check in with my emotions, and if they are drawn towards something, I follow them, regardless of the expectations of others or what is seen as ‘the best thing to do’.
It works, for the most part – and it certainly has made life an interesting ride.
As a woman who does not have children, I have come across some really silly myths I’d like to dispel right now – because they do not apply to me, thank you.
1) I hate children
Nope. I don’t hate any one age group of humans, that would be daft.
I enjoy spending time with kids very much indeed, and have a God(dess) daughter, who I adore and have watched her grown from the cutest baby ever (I may be biased but she was pretty cute), to a caring and gentle little girl, to a fabulous young woman, and I’ve loved every minute of watching her grow and being part of her life.
It’s fair to say I don’t love ‘all children’ but then I’m not sure many people do!
When we set up The Art House I (and my partner and bestie, both of whom are also child-free by choice) all insisted on making it as child-friendly as possible, and we have.
2) I hate parents
On the contrary, I consider parenting a child to be an admirable and very, very difficult pursuit.
I have nothing but awe for people who choose to do this with their lives, although I do believe that it should be a conscious choice if at all possible – not something you do because ‘it’s what happens next’.
I also enjoy spending time with people from a variety of life experiences, so my friendship group has always included people with young kids, people with grown up kids, and people with no kids.
3) I hate it when parents talk about their children
This is the number one reason people with kids dump their child-free friends (oh yes, we do notice!). There is an assumption that I’m not at all interested in somebody’s life now they have kids.
This, I think, is based on a general social message that being a parent – especially a Mum – is somehow ‘less’ and therefore not an interesting topic for conversation.
I am fascinated by other people’s experiences and love tales of the random exploits of their kids, from babies right through to my friends grown up progeny (many of who are doing all sorts of really interesting things!).
Listen, if somebody is talking about something that they love to do, somebody they love, something that lights them up – I am always going to be really fascinated.
Plus, I talk about Missy the parrot A LOT.
4) I hate the idea of parenting, full stop
Why on earth would I? Just because I chose not to do something that is kind of a really massive deal, doesn’t mean that I hate the whole idea of it.
So much about parenting looks really fulfilling and fun – excuses to draw with crayons again, getting to relive childhood through your own children’s experience, and the deep emotional bond which much teach you so much about your own capacity for love.
As a woman, the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding gives you an understanding of your physical self and allows you to view the Great Mystery of life and death from the inside. How awe inspiring!
Of course, I can see why people choose parenting as part of their journey and there’s aspects of it that really appeal to me – just not enough to walk that journey myself.
5) I don’t understand anything at all about what it’s like to be a parent
This is the sneakiest myth of all.
Of course I do.
Actually, as a non-parent there are things parents confide to me that they would never, ever dare say to another parent (apparently in many parent circles there are a host of taboo topics!).
You may be surprised at exactly how much I understand about what is involved in raising a child, even if I haven’t done it myself.
I have helped single friends with young kids many a time, helped with siblings and nieces – I can change a nappy with the best of them and have, through taking care of kids for a couple of days, direct experience of exactly what it’s like to have sole care of another little human. I understand that this is not the same as being a parent of course, but it does give me a small window into the experience.
My sister also lived with me as a teen – so I have plenty of experience in the amazing, emotional and challenging roller coaster that is having a young adult in your family and home, even one as lovely as she is.
One time she visited, I sent her back to Mum with pink hair, a piercing and a tattoo. In fact, she now draws on people for a living – so I was clearly an ‘interesting’ influence – and Mum wasn’t in the least bit bothered.
When I adopted Missy the African Grey parrot, I remember talking about her all the time to my friends and most of my parent friends commented on the parallels between my emotional journey and theirs.
Of course, I do not treat Missy like a human child and she is not a ‘baby substitute’ (that would be very wrong for her and for me), but the connection we feel to each other and the challenges of learning how to care for her properly were very similar in a lot of ways, and ‘raising’ a parrot has certainly helped my understand my parent friends much better.
6) I must have had an awful mother, to not want to be one myself
On the contrary, my Mother totally rocked the job, even when she had to do it from a distance, as she did for the years I lived with my Dad.
I also had a fab Stepmum and a Granny who was very active in my care, so I was raised by by not one but THREE lovely mothers.
They showed me that it’s not a job you do halfheartedly, or reluctantly.
I guess that’s probably the best reason of all I had for knowing it wasn’t for me – I wanted to give my whole life to art, and I have, and I shall never be sorry for that choice.
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