Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
When I first made my decision to stay childless/childfree it felt a little like, well, freedom.
Previously, I had wondered how on earth I would be able to keep up all the different parts of my life that I found meaningful if I had a child to care for, since there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day as it was. It was a beautiful thing to realise not only that I didn’t have to give anything up, but that I could actually shape my life even more closely around the things I felt genuinely passionate about.
But along with that freedom came another feeling I hadn’t anticipated – a very distinct kind of pressure. It went something like this: If you’re not going to be a mother, Olivia, then you had better make up for it by being crazily, crazily successful in some other field. You have a whole lot of extra time and energy to account for, so anything you fail at for the rest of your life will be ten times the failure from now on.
To be perfectly honest, I haven’t entirely moved past this feeling. But I have learned to be aware of it and talk back to it. I’ve also learned to take advantage of it as a motivating force that gives me courage I might otherwise be lacking.
The most useful thing I’ve realised about the feeling, though, is that I am pretty sure it is the exact equivalent of the pressure some of my friends-who-are-mothers experience regarding the careers they’ve decided to compromise, or else forgo. Their internal dialogue seems to go something like: If you’re not going to pursue a career, Olivia’s friend, then you had better be crazily, crazily successful at motherhood to make up for it. You have a whole lot of extra time and energy to account for, so there is no excuse for anything less than the happiest, healthiest, most sociable, super-advanced children ever to be brought up by mother-of-the-year.
The reason this has been a useful connection for me is because it locates the pressure outside of my own personal circumstances and places it in a much broader context. Lots of women, regardless of whether they have children, careers, both or neither, seem to be living with the feeling that they signed up to be all things in one lifetime and have reneged shamefully on their agreement. In fact, none of us have agreed to, or reneged on, anything and its a horrible inner dialogue that needs challenging.
I’m not sure that this pressure is a childfree thing. I think it might be a woman thing.
If you’re interested in challenges faced by childless and childfree women, you might enjoy reading about bias in the ways our life stories are represented and the doubts and ‘what ifs’ some childfree women experience.
But in the meantime, I wonder if anyone relates to the pressure to be a super-non-mother?