Tag Archives: Childless

Children: On Being Childless Sort Of by Choice #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 3 in the #AtoZChallenge 2018, in which I share random reflections. Today, for my letter C post, I’m going to write about children – or the lack thereof. YOu see, I am childless sort of by choice. Want to know more? Read on.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have multiple disabilities. I am blind, autistic and mentally ill, among other things. Any one of these disabilities would’ve been grounds for involuntary sterilization had I lived some forty years ago. Even now, it may be relatively easy for me to get sterilized should I so choose. After all, many people are still of the opinion that certain people with disabilities shouldn’t have children.

Now I should be politically correct and say I strongly disagree with this stance. However, with regards to my own personal situation, I don’t. I can see why I wouldn’t be fit to be a parent and the reasons are not entirely unrelated to my disabilities.

I never really had any sort of strong “Mommy feelings”. That being said, as a child and teen, I always thought I’d have children when I’d grow up. It probably was society’s expectations that planted this idea in my head, as I never quite imagined how lovely it would be to hold a wee little baby, or how I’d ooh and aah at my four-year-old’s clay sculpture.

As a child, I obviously couldn’t believe why people didn’t like children. I was a child and I liked myself. Besides, everyone has been a child at some point, so how could they not like children? Now that I’m an adult though, I don’t particularly like children. I don’t hate them either, but I don’t feel I should be having one or more myself.

Society’s expectations do not get unnoticed by me though. This I think is the main reason I’m still not entirely happy with my choice not to ever try for a child. I also sometimes wish I would be a good mother, but to be honest, I can’t be.

As such, I find myself inbetween the childless not by choice and the childfree/childless by choice communities. I am childless by choice, but I a not really happy woth this choice.

Disability and Childlessness: It’s Complicated

I am disabled. I am childless. For a long while, I identified as childless by choice. In a way, it is a choice, because I do not experience reproductive problems that I know of. In another way, it’s not a choice, because I would’ve wanted to be a parent. I’m not “childfree”. I am disabled, and this has influenced my decision to remain childless. That doesn’t make it not a decision, but it makes the decision tougher than had I truly been childfree.

On Musings of an Aspie, there’s a post on honoring your choices as an autistic woman (or man). It is a postscript to the autistic motherhood series on the Autism Women’s Network. The post concludes that older autistic parents have a responsibility to share what they’ve learned with the younger generation of autistics. This, in my opinion, goes for autistic childless people too. As autistics, we often feel left out, and it’s important to have people whose experiences we can relate to who are older than us and can share with us what they’ve learned. Likewise, we need to be mentoring the even younger generations.

I find it extremely hard to connect to people with whom I have enough in common that we can share our knwoledge and experiences and support each other this way. This may be because I have multiple disabilities. The Internet has opened a world for me, but when, with this current blog, I began to spread my wings outside of the disability blogosphere, it also amplified my differences. It may be just me, but I see Mom bloggers everywhere.

Childlessness, like disability, is a minority status. And now that childlessness is no longer the only way for disabled women, it adds up to someone’s otherness. I’m not saying that childlessness should be the norm again for disabled women. What I do want to say is that it’s still a reality for a lot of disabled women (and men), and that it’s often still a painful reality that is complicated by prejudice and stimma both surrounding disability and childlessness. I do understand that the assumption that disabled people are childless by default, needs to be challenged, but this assumption should not be replaced with additional stigma for the person who finds their disability actually does make it impossible for them to become a parent.

The Degree, the Job, and the Child

What do these things have in common? Well, they represent goals I had for myself as a teen and thought I’d reach at some specific time prior io 2014. I not only didn’t, but will almost certainly never reach these goals.

The degree: when I was thirteen in 1999, I switched from special education to grammar school. It was pretty much expected that everyone who attended this school wanted to and would go to univeristy after graduation. I knew I would graduate grammar school by 2005, and calculated that this would mean graduating university by 2009. I wanted to major in Dutch at the time. The idea fo rmy major has changed many times over the course of my secondary school experience, but the idea that I’d graduate university by 2009, didn’t.

The job: during my first year at grammar school, I admired my Dutch teacher. She was in her mid to late twenties and had been working at the school for several years. I had a vision by which I’d be a teacher of Dutch like her by 2010. Now I know that, by 2010, most university graduates, even the excellent ones, didn’t get a teacher job a year after graduating, but I didn’t know this by 2000. My ideas about what teaching was like, were very detailed and quite screwed. Actually, if I had to fit my ideas with a job, they’d be more suited to a school counselor than a teacher. Having personally experienced a teacher overstepping the boundaries of his job, and having seen the admired Dutch teacher burn out during my second year at grammar school, I am glad I didn’t pursue a teaching job myself. Not that I’d pass teacher education, but it’s better to realize this yourself than to have someone else kick you out of the program.

The child: I never thought much about how I’d meet the child’s father or otherwise get pregnant. In fact, for a while I believed I was a lesbian. Nonetheless, I was sure I’d give birth to my first child by 2013. My ideas about her were pretty detailed, so in a way it’s good I didn’t give birth last year or I’d mess up if I got a boy. I imagined myself as a true breeder, as I thought of getting two or three more children.

I know now that it’s 2014 and none of these dreams have come true, that I shouldn’t really have clung to them as goals, but as just dreams. After all, I had control over only a minority of circumstances which would lead to these dreams coming or not coming true. I’m not saying that people can’t be the leader of their own lives, but there is only so much you can control. You can be the leader of your life in how you choose to handle the circumstances you end up in. Some of these circumstances you can change yourself, but some you can’t.

Missing Out on Motherhood

I posted about this several times before on my other blog, but am going to write about it again. I miss being a mother. This may seem strange, because I choose not to have children. Oh well, circumstances wouldn’t allow me to have kids, but I still consider myself childless by choice.

What I actually miss, is not having a wee one run around my house bawling, but having the privileges that motherhood awards. Of course, you can’t have the privileges without the hardships, so I don’t mean to say that mothering is all rose-colored. What I do mean, is that there are a lot of privileges in our society for mothers. I can’t explain this I’m afraid, but I feel like, well, it’s assumed that every woman over a certain age (thank goodness not yet my age) is a mother.

Maybe, then, it’s not so much the material privileges I miss, but the sense of identity motherhood awards you. Women-focused magazines, websites etc. are 90% mother-focused. It makes me feel like I’m missing out on something.

I must confess, I have at one point, under the name of my motherly part, joined mothering communities that don’t say they are exclusively for Moms. This may not be appropriate, like my at one point having joined a teen forum without saying my age is not appropriate. IN fact, I only benefit from being female here or I’d be seen as a pedophile.

It seems like maybe what I miss is having that part of an identity that is not disordered. There’s little out there for twentysomethings, maybe because they dominate the Internet, so I can’t really consider that identity-shaping. Other than that, I have womanhood – but as I said, 90% of being a woman is being a Mom -, and I have my various disability statuses. I don’t want to be a minority person in every aspect of my life.