“We are just not ready yet”. I say quietly to my friend’s mother at the supermarket check in.
“Maybe next year”. I whisper to boss in the lunch room.
“We might try after our next holiday”. I say to my husband’s best friend’s wife’s cousin’s dog, who is sitting next to me at a dinner party.
I feel the constant pressure to defend myself for my childless state. Part of it is because I am struggling with indecision, and part of it comes from people asking me all the time. I feel that I have to make an excuse, rather than saying that I am not sure that motherhood is my purpose.
If I had something meaningful to say like I was writing a book, starting an orphanage or saving some kind of animal from extinction this would make me feel better rather than saying “I am just not sure”. Lately I have been saying out loud to people that I am not sure, and this seems to be going okay. (Like at a wedding last night when a stranger saw me playing with a baby and I said it was not mine. She told me that it suited me and asked “no little ones yet?” No thank you. And yes it does. I like playing with babies, for one hour at a time.)
I ask my husband, who is five years older than me if he feels this pressure to defend our choice.
He said he feels nothing. So I dig a little further.
Do people ask him when we are at parties why we haven’t had children?
“Nope” said the husband. Rarely.
It takes two humans to decide to have a baby the last time I checked.
I know many a men who have told me on the quiet that they would have waited for longer.
I don’t know any men who have been asked if they knew that fatherhood was for them from a complete stranger.
I know it’s something I have never discussed with my male friends.
But it’s okay to ask us? Because we are women.
Are women the only decision makers in this picture? Are we the only ones that feel the guilt about our choices?
We say we are not sure but have to prove that we are still ‘caring’ by being aunties, volunteer workers, artists and authors. Then if you have only one child you have to say that you will have baby friends, cousins, pets – an armed proof plan that your child will not grow up isolated. Do men get asked these things as well?
There has been a lot of articles on the internet of late, talking more about being childfree as a lifestyle choice, rather than being childless. More posts about women feeling ambivalent about motherhood, and exploring the idea that it might not be for everyone. This is awesome and all sorts of lifestyle choices should be promoted in my opinion.
But something irks me about all these articles and that is the lack of perspectives from men.
Where are they?
Why isn’t George Clooney asked to stand up and say why he hasn’t settled down and explain why he has not had a baby. God knows he probably has enough money to raise an African village.
Yet Cameron Diaz, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Aniston, are always in the tabloids talking about motherhood, saying that their art fulfills them, and that they love children albeit have not had the desire to have one.
I am not making this decision alone, and nor do I want to. So why do I feel like I am left solely to justify it?
Next time you want to ask me about why I haven’t had a baby, pause for a moment, then go ask my husband for the answer.