When you don’t have children, there are some very obvious freedoms. The freedom to do what we want, when we want, without having to consider the abilities and needs of a child, is often cited as one of the advantages of not having children. For me (and my husband), this means we can eat whenever we want, sleep in, go out spontaneously or stay out late, turn the music up loud at any time of night and call to each other across the house without worrying we’ll wake a child up. And I can use the F word or any other less than polite language, whenever I want, without fear that a young one will pick up on it and repeat it at an awkward time. It also means we can eat whatever we want when we want. We’ve lived in Thailand, and we’re partial to spicy food – curries, and a more recent favourite, Moroccan tagines. We rarely drink to excess, but could without worrying about the responsibility for a child in the house.
A freedom that is (or has been at least) very important to my husband and me is the freedom to travel, and to choose the best times to travel. We haven’t been restricted to travelling during school holidays, when prices are more expensive, flights and hotels and rental cars more difficult to get, and attractions more crowded. Puglia in September, when children pretty much all over the world are at school, was pleasantly (but not overly) warm, and blissfully quiet.
Not having children means that we get to take time off together too. Many parents go for years having separate time off – simply because they have only so many weeks of leave per year, and children have many more weeks of holiday/vacation.
These freedoms are, as I said, quite obvious. They’re the ones trotted out routinely when we (or others) look at the benefits of a no kidding lifestyle (and some of which I covered in #9 of this series). They’re often the ones used to accuse us of being selfish, but that’s another issue (and one I’ve covered before).
But infertility gave me another gift of freedom. Society is very judgemental, and it seems to me that parents are under a lot of pressure to conform. I’ve always chafed against rigid expectations and societal roles – I’m too much of a feminist for a start, and I don’t like people assuming what I will do. A woman without children already throws people off a little; we’re not as easy to categorise and stereotype. I actually don’t mind that. As I don’t fit into the rigid structures and societal expectations of what is “normal,” I don’t have to spend energy in trying to conform. I can therefore experience a different type of freedom. A freedom that enables me to spread my wings, maybe take more risks, because I’m not caught in those roles where I must be focused on “working hard and raising kids.”
Oddly, this gives me freedom from judgement too. I can decide to do pretty much anything, and the judgement will be less because I don’t have to “think of the children.”
For me too, there is a freedom of thought, of ideas. I’ve been thinking about my life and life in general, freed from stereotypes or clichés. (It has to be noted too that I have the time and space to think too, rather than postponing deep thoughts because I am too busy raising children.)
Of course, I haven’t had much choice about this – though maybe that is as much to do with my personality as it does my no kidding life. When you don’t have children, many of us start asking questions like “what is my life for?” or “why am I here?” or “what does this mean?” The gift of infertility is that I have looked and found some answers. When you don’t get what you want in life, you either have to find a way to make sense of it and learn to accept it, or get stuck in your old way of thinking, forever miserable. That’s not much of a choice. We’re forced to think about things when we live this life. So I’ve been thinking. Mostly here, on this blog, but frequently on your blogs (in the comment sections) too.
This has given me a true freedom in many ways. My attitudes towards my life, my legacy, my material possessions, my career, my friends and family, and what constitutes as “success” have all changed as a result of infertility. I write about that here, on this blog and in this series, and there are a few more posts to come that might touch on this.
I feel freed by the conclusions I’ve come to, and many burdens I’ve carried have been lifted by this growth. I’ve thought through many ideas, cast off what doesn’t work for me, and come out of it feeling embraced by freedom. I don’t think I have all the answers. Of course I don’t. And sometimes, as we know, the answer is that there is no answer. But I have found enough answers that have made a difference to the way I look at, and live, life.
Actually, those answers – or the ongoing quest to find those answers - have made a difference to the way I feel. That’s the gift of infertility. It forces us to look at our lives and life in general in a different way. Of course, we can only do this when we are ready. But I know that I wish I had been able to see my life like this long before I faced infertility. Infertility freed my mind in ways I couldn’t imagine. I hope it frees yours as well.