When I sat down to write this week’s blog, I assumed it was going to be a piece about my decision not to have children.
Being 38 (internal jukebox starts playing “Time Is Running Out” by Muse) and in the throes of a new relationship, it seems to be the hot topic of the moment.
In part, this blog has indeed, followed this thread but it has also opened up a wider discussion in my head (and therefore, on this page) about what it means to ‘have it all’. It might hit a nerve for some people. That’s okay. This is just my perspective, based on my current understanding of my world. Likelihood is, it’s different to yours.
I actively welcome your constructive thoughts and comments because I am always open to challenging my paradigm, shifting my beliefs and considering things from a previously unseen point of view. I will ask that you are respectful and kind in your feedback. If you can’t be, then I politely request that you fuck off.
Growing up, I always assumed I’d have children, one day. Like most little girls who grew up in the privilege of western culture, I played with dolls, read Enid Blyton books and watched movies where the ‘leading lady’s’ sole objective was to find love and procreate.
I observed my own Mum raise 3 daughters while juggling a full-time job and assumed that was my path too. If I was fortunate, I might even enjoy my career. Then, I’d ‘have it all.’ Lucky me.
I went to university; travelled the world under the weightlessness of my early 20’s and a backpack; then moved to London and earnt a decent wage. I danced my nights away in cheap heels and short skirts; I went on nice holidays; I fell in and out of love on a whim and all of this under a blanket of safety, woven from the belief that one day, I would have it all. Not once did I stop to think what ‘having it all’ actually meant.
I’m not going to bang on about the years of soul searching and desperation that made up my early thirties. They were not happy times as I measured myself next to a metric of happiness that turned out not to be mine at all.
Instead, I will tell you about where I’m at now, at the age of 38 and how, in the last 4 years, I have had the privilege of reassessing and redesigning my life outside of the construct that ‘having it all’ means ‘doing it all’.
Because, it doesn’t.
And I’m not sure where or when the two got confused.
At what point in history did the right to choose, mean I should have to choose it all?
I truly doubt that our bra burning great-Grandmothers who fought so hard for our right to ‘have it all’ wanted to see women burnt out, trying to juggle careers and babies in a society which is advocating women having both, but doing sweet fuck all to actually support her. I truly doubt they were fighting for us to feel shamed for not picking up our kids at the school gate because a meeting overran or questioned by colleagues for not working on a Saturday and breast feeding in board rooms in order to protect our place in line! I’m pretty sure they were fighting for the right for us to choose so why the bloody hell do I find myself defending my choice?
“I would have been a terrible mother because I’m basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people going off and having children.”Katharine Hepburn
I was recently asked of not having children, ‘won’t you regret it?’
And my answer is, ‘no’.
Because how can I regret a reality I never chose; never lived; never had? Why would I give my energy to living in the regret of something that never existed instead of channelling that energy into making what I do have nothing short of fucking fantastic? There is much to be said for making a decision and then making it work.
And unless my ovaries start screaming in the next couple of years (and if they do, I’ll listen to them because I have the right to change my mind) I am going to choose to spend my Sunday mornings lying in bed with a good book and then heading out for brunch.
I am going to choose to work late into the night and still get an unbroken 8 hours sleep.
I am going to choose to spend my money on holidays and white sofas and breakable items which I’ll display on low level coffee tables with pointy corners.
I am going to choose to spoil my nieces and nephews rotten and hold my friend’s babies extra tight as I breath in the divine smell of their innocence because when they’re not crying or shitting, I actually adore children.
I am going to choose my partner every day because I want to, not because we had kids and so now it’s just easier to stay together.
I am going to choose my right not to bring children into a world where money is more valuable that human life; where global warming is threatening our very existence; where Love Island is the top rated TV show and where women are so beaten down by the expectation of ‘having it all’ that they feel like they’re failing at all of it.
And in this choice not to have children, I am acutely aware of what I am denying myself.
And I am allowed to feel the absence of this.
Recently I attended a group meditation (to explain it at its most basic level) at my local Kundalini yoga studio – Sadhana is held at 3.40am every weekday and a visiting Yogi was enough to get me out of bed in the middle of the night to see what this 3 hour practice was all about. It was a deeply spiritual experience and as dawn broke, a woman entered the room with her tiny baby. She lay the baby down on a sheepskin rug close to me and started to meditate. I looked at the baby. The baby looked at me. And suddenly I was overwhelmed with the emotion of sadness that came with the understanding that I will never know what it feels like to be a mother.
My first response was to justify it in my head, to validate myself and so push down this hard emotion of sadness. But pain is always in the resistance. So, my second thought was to allow myself to be the full expression of who I am, to allow myself the contradiction of being human, and to acknowledge the fear and doubt that is part of the divine human experience.
And so, I sat, silent tears streaming down my face as I gave myself permission to grieve for the choice I am making. Because when we choose one thing, we must always lose another. This is the universal law of cause and effect. To fight it, is to try to be everything. How’s that working out for you?
After the tears stopped and the Sadhana was over, I considered my choice. And I still choose to exercise my right to ‘have it all’, by not having children.
It still surprises, shocks and saddens me at the sheer volume of unsolicited comments my decision attracts. Here are my top 10 to date, and my responses to them.
1. You don’t know what love is until you become a Mum
Well just call me the Tin-Man because I’m sure as hell am not loving you right now.
2. You’ll regret it.
Will I though? Which bit exactly? The bit where my vagina gets messed up so badly that my internal organs try to climb out of it? Or the bit where I don’t sleep for 8 solid years and then worry for the rest of my life, before eventually having to stand back and watch my young adult offspring make some truly terrible decisions?
3. But you’d be such a good Mum.
Sweet sentiment but the truth is, I would be passing on all sorts of shit that I haven’t resolved myself yet.
4. Don’t you think it’s unfair on the women who can’t have kids.
5. So, are you going to turn into a crazy cat lady?
6. Once you have them, you’ll change your mind.
But I’m not having them. So this makes no sense. Stop talking to me.
7. But who will look after you when you’re old?
The people I’ll pay with all the money I’ll have because I didn’t have children. Incidentally, probably the same people I’ll pay to look after my Dad who did have children (sorry Roger, but we both know you’re not coming to live with me when the time comes!)
8. Well that sounds unnatural, you won’t keep a man you know!
Funny that because having heaps of sex, heaps of sleep and the freedom to pursue our goals and dreams seems to be working out for both of us at the moment. But sure, screaming at him to pass the breast pump whilst furiously looking for a maternity pad and shooting him evils if he even suggests heading out for Friday night drinks does sound like a sure way to ‘keep’ him!
9. Oh, that’s a shame.
I’m sorry, what’s a shame?
10. What will you do instead?
Travel the world; build a house; hit the gym; go for dinner; lie in my bed; watch movies; read books; have a bath; have whole conversations; buy nice things; pursue my career without feeling guilty or like I’m half arsing it; pee alone; not answer the question “why?” a gazillion times a day; write books; fly first class; climb mountains; dedicate time and money to charitable causes; learn to speak a new language; take holidays outside of the school holidays; spend a month in an Ashram in India. But I’m just spit balling. I can really think about it and give you a more thorough list if you like. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to worry about me. I am executing my right to ‘have it all’ by not ‘doing it all.’ I am choosing a lifestyle. And it’s my choice to make.
Note: There are many other paths this blog could’ve travelled down – the undeniable fact that so many women are economically forced to work when they’d rather stay home and be a full time Mum, or that paternity leave is devastatingly scarce and scant, or that childcare is bullshit expensive, or that there are women and men who are facing the heartbreak of not being able to have children of their own, or that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we work, live and support families. I know all of this. But I wrote, as I always do, from my own experience and from a place of good intent. I trust it served.
I am a huge believer in the power of choice, and I help my clients uncover their fullest potential and then teach them the discipline and mindset to achieve their personal and professional goals. If you’d like to know more about the programs I run, my upcoming retreat or have a topic you’d like me to cover on my podcast, Unashamedly Human, then send me a DM on Insta emily_thatcrazythingcalledlife or email firstname.lastname@example.org