It is surprising how one simple blog post can raise so many issues for me. The exchanges and issues raised as a result of Mel’s post about Befana reaffirmed for me why I love blogging. We were all able to have a dialogue across posts and in comment sections, coming from very different perspectives, often agreeing and sometimes disagreeing. I completely agreed with Mel’s approach to the punishment/reward attitude towards infertility. It is something that is so hard to deal with at times, especially when you are one of the ones who were never "blessed." I found support and understanding amongst some of the commenters on Stirrup Queens who shared their thoughts on the use of this word. I won’t go on about this, the worthy/reward/punishment issues, because I’ve written about them before, in many different posts, but perhaps particularly when trying to address the question “Why?”
But we’re not a one-opinion group and we all see things from different perspectives. And this is evident by Mel’s comment that she was "not too concerned that (her daughter) believes that all people without children live grey lives filled with continual sadness." (And yes I understand that this was perhaps in comparison with the more sinister punishment/reward issue. This is in no way a criticism of Mel,who has always included the No Kids group in her community. It is really more a case of me going through a thought process from a different point of view).
I guess, being without kids, we find ourselves so often stuck in the middle - we want and seek empathy for our losses, for what we can’t have that so many take for granted, but equally we don't want pity. The thought that people think we live grey lives filled with continual sadness hurts. And it hurts because we know that people do think this. And perhaps it hurts here particularly because we know that the others in the the ALI community, those either celebrating (sometimes smugly) that they managed to get their children, or those still praying that they don’t end up like us, probably lead the bunch in assuming that we live lives filled with continual sadness. After all, they’ve been through the fears we’ve been through. They’ve endured sadness and loss and fear of their own. They recognise that we have endured a loss. As the no kidding amongst us often say, we know that we are the their worst nightmares. We know therefore that there are those amongst them who must think we live grey lives filled with continual sadness. And of course, there is the general population, who tend to believe that our lives are sad and unfulfilled and selfish if we don’t have children. And if people feel this way, then they are pitying or judging us. They are unable to see that in time we are able to walk in the sun again. That we can still make valuable contributions to society. That happiness does not equal children. But it means too that we are often left walking this path alone.
And so once again, I put this out there to reinforce the fact that society in general needs to stop making so many assumptions about what we must have to be happy. The perfect job, the big house and the fancy cars are not important to me, but I know that there are plenty of people who think that if we have that, we should be happy. I have a brother-in-law who once told me that his definition of success = money. (I laugh at that now, and feel quite sad for him that his definition of success is so narrow.) And there is of course the general assumption that to be happy, we must also have the perfect partner, and 2.2 kids. But I’ve met plenty of people with the “perfect” partner and 2 kids, who have been miserable inside. I think we all know, people are happy and fulfilled living a wide variety of lifestyles. Recognition of that, furthering awareness of the reality of our lives, and acceptance of people who take different paths, is one of the reasons I blog.