Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
When a woman talks openly about her choice to be childfree (look at the letters after every newspaper article of this kind) among the responses will be at least one threat that she will regret her non-motherhood in her old age, because who will look after her?
I’m going to assume that most readers here will already have considered the moral problems with advising people who don’t want children to have them anyway and treat them as some kind of insurance policy, the practical problems with assuming that children are always an asset and never a liability, and the cruelty of adding fear to the sadness of women who badly want children and can’t have them. I want to come at the topic from a different angle.
I think most of our fears around this issue are to do with the thought of becoming dependent on an aged care system that has a reputation for inhumanity, with no one who cares particularly about our wellbeing to advocate for us. If the aged care system is frighteningly inhumane, the problem is not women and their reproductive choices and circumstances. The problem is the aged care system.
To me, this seems like a problem to get involved in, not be complacent about because you personally have children, or miserable about because you don’t. There are important roles for activists, voters, policy makers, volunteers, healthcare professionals, carers, researchers and people of all genders, ages and lifestyles to play in creating a system that is no longer so threatening that it can actually be used to bully women into having children they don’t want.
If we’re pro-active about our concerns, I think there is lots of reason for hope. As Peter Saul pointed out in his recent Ted Talk about reclaiming the dying process, the Baby Boomers tend to take charge of whatever issue is most relevant to their generation. Aged care is likely to be the next place they will focus their concerns.
But I also feel that as childless and childfree women, we might be able to get together and help each other out. For one thing, there’s a sense in which we have a rich historical precedent in the example of the convent, where non-mothers have always provided each other with aged care. And for another, we’re a significant demographic and we’re starting to find and talk to each other about our passions, our fears, our ideas and our resources. Things are getting better.
Actually, I’m hoping to meet all of you in person some day on an island we own as an elderly non-mothers’ collective where, after our morning yoga session on the beach, we sip cool drinks, nibble tropical fruit and tell each other stories about the beautiful lives we created on our own terms :).
If you would like to read more about the ways non-mothers can be manipulated out of their power and happiness, you might be interested in this post about the ways our personal histories are retold or this book review concerned with the problem of reducing all women to their supposedly universal biological drives.
But in the meantime, what are your thoughts? Is aging something you fear as a non-mother?
[The gorgeous artwork above is featured with permission from Sweet William.]