Lynette Fay: Is it OK for a woman not to want to become a mother?
The conversation around parenthood is an interesting one, and it's tricky. Some aspects of it are still taboo and I don't know why that is
IS IT difficult to have a conversation around having a family? Are we too opinionated about the decisions of others?
I lived a child-free life until recently. It was great. I loved my freedom, jumping in the car and heading off on an adventure – but at the back of it all, I can honestly say that I really wanted a baby. Thankfully, that happened for me, and it happened at the right time.
Some day I will chronicle my thoughts about my nine months of pregnancy – the conversations, the comments made to me, both welcome and inappropriate – will stay with me for ever. Every now and again certain opinions shared during that time float to the surface.
This week I couldn’t help thinking about the ‘your life is over now’ comment that I heard time and again. The people saying this to me were alluding to the fact that free time would become limited and I probably wouldn’t get out to restaurants or to the pub or concerts as often as I would like to.
I never agreed with anyone who said this to me. I was all good on nights out and craic, thanks. Then came a global pandemic which ensured that I didn’t experience the fear of missing out. What I did miss out on was precious time with my family. I’m cross about that.
I could never work out if the people who made the ‘your life is over now’ comment were in some way angry or resentful about their own choices. They might have thought they were being funny. They were not.
The conversation around parenthood is an interesting one, and it’s tricky. Some aspects of it are still taboo and I don’t know why that is.
I am always conscious that I never know someone’s situation. I think of people who are trying desperately to have children, on as many IVF rounds as they can afford or mentally and physically endure. Some people are in relationships where one partner wants a child, the other does not.
Single women and men would love to become parents – this situation can be more difficult for women because of the dreaded tick tock of the biological clock and the increasing volume of the odds of getting pregnant, because they are stacking against you.
Then there’s the conversation around being child free by choice. I spoke about this in detail on my afternoon radio show recently. Is this a difficult conversation? I thought that it might challenge the audience, then I asked a few questions on Instagram stories, and every single reply was the same. Is it OK for women to decide that they don’t want to have children? Is a woman who makes this choice in any way less as a woman? The responses were emphatically yes and no, in that order.
I watched the documentary To Kid or Not to Kid in which documentary maker Maxine Trump tries to work out whether or not she wants to have children. She covered so many different stories as she deliberated.
She met a woman in her early 20s who wanted to be sterilised, an irreversible procedure, but she was resolute in her thinking. Another woman knew the moment she saw her child after giving birth, that she had made a mistake. Another had five kids and was happy out.
Counsellor Margaret O’Connor runs the arekidsforme.ie website which offers help to those who are not completely sure whether or not becoming a parent is right for them. She said that we live in a very pro-natal society, which can devalue parenthood and make it difficult to admit how difficult a responsibility it can be.
She also told me about women making the decision not to have children and then having to almost ‘come out’ to family and friends about a decision they had made for themselves about their future.
Imagine the psychological pressure of this if your nearest and dearest were not understanding of your decision.
Deciding not to have children can be viewed as selfish to some, but in a world that is much too overpopulated as it is, the decision not to have children is also deemed responsible.
Does not having children leave life empty? It completely depends on the kind of life you want to live.