It’s all babytalk … the very obvious blog I’ve been avoiding

July 22, 2015

Frimfram

Sunrise

If you know me at all, you’ll know I engage about pretty much anything as long as I’ve something sensible to say, or useful to share.  I’m a talker severely lacking in fence-sitting skills! Jazz, reputation management, communications, PR 101, coffee, good wine, politics (perhaps especially politics!), feminism … plus any variety in between. I am pretty much as you find me – “work me” and “real life me” are one and the same – for one, life’s too short to fake it and for another, in my line of work being credible and authentic is vital. When you work with ideas for a living, being yourself is the very best you can be and delivers the very best for clients. For better or worse this adds a vein of inescapable reality to how I touch off the world whether that be in person or virtually, 9 to 5 or beyond.

What you see is what you get… there’s no alternate version of me trying to spin the smoke and mirrors.

So, on finding that I can’t have children as I did some months ago as part of a routine check-up, it should have been a no-brainer to blog about it, right? Well, yes and no. Truth is, it’s not news I went looking for but rather “one of those things” that came to pass. It’s also news that’s personal.  But, I’m also the one who’s engaged in the debate on what it means to be a “modern woman” and I’ve been vocal on what is, in my opinion, a huge lack of respect for those who choose to be childless by choice. So, that in mind – however personal my own news is, I felt sharing it was the only legitimate way I could continue to engage on the topic. Come what may, we all have skin in this game. And so it became the very obvious blog I avoided writing.

The irony is that I’d spent my life to that point saying, vocally, strongly, repeatedly, that I didn’t want kids – and I didn’t. I was never moved to want kids. I don’t see a baby and swoon or coo – it’s just not me. Never has been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, or with me, for not being pre-disposed towards babies. As I’ve written before, childless by choice is, I believe, a perfectly legitimate decision that should be celebrated and embraced as much as any other lifestyle choice in the 21st century. But in the Ireland of 2015, it’s still not seen as such. I’ve encountered, more than once, sneered comments such as “love yourself too much to have kids, do you?”, “too married to your job to have a life?”, “too selfish to give up your social life for kids, are you?” along with the chestnut of “who’s going to take care of you when you get old”? (as if the latter is a sensible reason to bring another human onto the planet).

For me, there are many and varied ways that any of us can contribute to the world leaving it better than we find it – creating the next generation isn’t the only (or most important) way, and I simply don’t believe in demonising the childless choice. So in some ways when I found that it’s not possible to have children, the “don’t want to” becoming a “can’t” shouldn’t have made a difference.

But it did. What was once the choice I felt I owned, is no longer mine to make. And that’s the thing… when a choice (any choice) is taken away, the ground shifts and it’s an adjustment of sorts.

We’re still surrounded by messages that say a woman’s “main worth” is as a mother. This portrayal depicts having children as where Woman comes into her “own” and for as long as I live in a nation that still enshrines the special role of the mother in our constitution (to the point that a basic human right to termination isn’t legally provided for – another day’s work entirely) the fairly strong messages that “choosing not to” is unnatural and more, that “not being able to” is a failure, remain.

I genuinely believe my childless choice would have endured irrespective. It was well founded and thought-through, contrary to the frustrating “ah sure you’ll change your mind” response I used to get, as if one day an epiphany would deliver me to my feminine senses. But the reality now is that I can’t know that for sure, and that too is a change.

There have been less-than ideal moments… the knee-jerk “I won’t be able to tell you any of my baby news so” that caught me off-guard. The moment where trading in my routine breakfast fruit-plate for a less healthy option (because in truth I’d skipped dinner the night before and was ready to eat my desk and its contents) led to the comment “you’ll be telling us some good news soon?” which stung a little if I’m fully honest.

The off-the-cuff “your clock must be ticking at this stage” remarks which used to irk me, continue to do that but also somehow matter more. I’ve come to wonder how they’d respond if I told them that what they heard ticking was not the stereotypical, fantasy, biological clock but my very real short fuse for such mindless babble.

There are the inaccurate assumptions about my career ambition which remain. The assumptions were never true, but now can never be fully proven so. This group, who were always of the view that my passion for what I do as my leave-behind to the world was merely a passing phase, destined to somehow be sublimely surpassed  as motherhood approached… they were wrong then as now but from their ranks I can see the patronising nods. I was “driven” before but now “it’s understandable – she can’t have kids you know”. That rankles. A lot. It’s an adjustment.

But there have been some other reactions that have shown me I’m very lucky with a tried and true bunch of friends who get me just as I am, and for whom the news is just another thing they know alongide my love of skyscraper heels and red wine.

There was the poor bloke I unintentionally blurted it out to, who having thoughtfully and supportively been kind, also gave me the truly priceless response that defused me and gave me my very first belly laugh about it (“Just think of the money you could have saved on birth control over the years…”). For that one moment of levity I will be forever grateful – it took the pressure-cooker heat out of it. There’s my best friend who, after pausing to consider, thoughtfully promised as only she could, to continue to foster and let-loose her inner child during gin o’clock so that I can always use my “serious mommy voice” somewhere it matters. The friend who just gave me a hug and let it go with no expectation that it needed to be talked through.The colleague who quietly, kindly, told me he’s there to chat if I ever want to – he knows what it’s like. The fabulous friend who’d always wanted kids but told me that although she’d had the same news years ago still hadn’t told anyone because she simply couldn’t find the words to capture her hurt that her dream was no longer an option. She knew it was different for me, but somehow it meant I understood at least a little better.. and so many more.

My learning so far is that if we could all stop assuming we know what looks like a “normal” and “appropriate” family or lifestyle, that would be a huge start. For the record, no one I know or love wants to be “normal” or “appropriate” and depending on where you stand at any one time, those definitions can unexpectedly shift and evolve.On a practical note, please don’t stop telling me your baby news. I was always happy for you – I just didn’t want that for me. I still don’t. And I won’t break if I hear it – even us non-moms are built of sterner stuff. I’ll celebrate with you and for you as I always have, and as for the things I’ll ask you to celebrate with me, I’ll be back to you with details!

Life never looks like we expect it to, but I can absolutely promise mine won’t be dull and that’s just about the best any of us can aim for!

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About frimframworld

Total coffee fan, dedicated foodie & news hound. Strategic PR & political comms as a day job. All comments my own - blogging in a personal capacity only.

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