Thoughts and ideas to inspire, uplift and affirm the childless and childfree, by circumstance and by choice
I’ve been thinking about the period of uncertainty that often comes before committing to, or making peace with, non-motherhood – and the glorious ‘take off’ that can follow. Of course, not every non-mother goes though this. At one end of the spectrum, there are those who never wanted, and perhaps were even born not wanting, children. At the other end, stories of ‘miracle births’ late in life and promises associated with ever-advancing technologies mean that a phase of uncertainty can last several decades.
From what I read and hear, the end of the phase often seems to be determined by a number. Forty (which I am only a few years off myself) seems to be a loaded birthday for many women. I was interested to find this observation in an article written by Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
“Childless at 48, I’m now old enough for the question of motherhood to have become merely philosophical.”
For me, the end of the period of uncertainty wasn’t really number-based, it was more that I’d had enough of being in limbo, only half-committed to my work, unsure of what to plan for financially, unclear about what I wanted in relationships and vague about the kind of home I needed to be setting up. To quote Shriver again, “I like(d) the idea of turning a page” and for reasons I discussed in this post, I decided against turning it by pursuing motherhood.
But the more I read and think about it, the more I feel that the moment the phase ends is a very significant one in women’s lives. I’m sure different choices and circumstances lead to a huge array of different reactions, but for me it was an experience of taking off. Suddenly I could set a range of goals I was genuinely excited about and get behind them 100%. I could also pace myself and relax into some of my plans, because they no longer had to be compressable into a ‘before baby’ time slot. There were risks I could take that would have felt unwise while trying to hold onto the stability I’d have wanted to provide for a child.
In my utopian vision of a future in which women are properly supported in their efforts to find happiness and contentment in all reproductive choices and circumstances, a celebration would take place at this important turning point. It would be a gentle acknowledgement if it was a matter of finding peace in resignation, a glorious fiesta if it was a matter of joyful liberation, or something quiet and peaceful for a pair of introverts like H and me. Either way, it would be acknowledged as a hugely significant new beginning, on a level with marriage or new parenthood. The focus would be on the vast array of possibilities that now lay open and the range of Hallmark cards for the occasion would feature images of freedom, adventure and peace. The gifts would be travel tickets, books, white furniture and precious breakables (to be placed on low coffee tables) :).
If you’re interested in reading about the possibilities that open up when a woman becomes committed to non-motherhood, you might enjoy this post about hedonism and minimalism or this post about travel.
But in the meantime, how about you? Can you relate to a phase of uncertainty? Would help a new non-mother celebrate her ‘take off’?
[The gorgeous image heading this post is shared with permission from Sweet William.]