Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
I’ve written here before about my sense that we live in a culture which offers lots of information about how to be a mother, but very little information about how to be an adult woman in any other way.
In part, I think of it as a blessing. For example, I’m grateful that the minute details of my life are not policed (inwardly and outwardly) for endless possibilities that I am depriving/being indulgent, causing SIDS/flat head baby syndrome, encouraging childhood obesity/anorexia etc. I’m also grateful not to be so bombarded with images of happy, idealised non-mothers that I have to question whether or not I’m ‘doing it right’. It’s good to have something that resembles a blank slate.
But on the other hand, I think one of the difficulties some of us are facing arise because non-motherhood lacks form. It speaks volumes that the handful of labels available to us (non-mother, childless, childfree, DINK, PANK, GINK, nullipara, sparent etc) define us entirely according to what don’t have and are not. They are labels that carve something away from an identity, but then they just linger in that empty space. They don’t say anything about the contours of the shape that is created.
To some extent, we can get around this problem by defining ourselves as something else altogether (an aunt, a writer, or a human rights activist for example). But this is a maneuvre which still seems to me to leave a huge part of a woman’s life gaping open and unaccounted for, perhaps especially during and after her thirties. Speaking only for myself and my own identity, somehow it doesn’t seem to me to answer the question.
One of the reasons I’ve poured such a lot of time and energy into creating the pinboard is that, for me, it helps to lend shape to my life as a non-mother. Even though the women there could hardly be more different from each other, learning about their lives is helping to build my understanding of non-motherhood as a way of life that does have some kind of shape and form – that doesn’t just hover in negative space.
I read so often that we are part of a large and ever-increasing demographic. Those statistics are cited whenever childless and childfree women express their sense of feeling alienated or marginalised or daunted by the feeling of exploring uncharted territory, to belittle the discomfort some of us express. But it isn’t numbers that create norms, it’s culture. And at the moment, I think ours has some catching up to do.
If you’d like to read about some associated problems with the way non-mothers are represented in the media, you might find this post interesting. If you’re interested in speculating about the contours of the life of the non-mother, you might like to read some thoughts about our involvement in charity and social justice or the pressures some of us feel to succeed.
But in the meantime, how about you? Do you experience non-motherhood like me, as a concept that lacks form? Or does it seem, for you, as solid an identity as motherhood?
[The beautiful image above is shared with permission from Yataro.]