We often talk about the fact that those of us with no kids are persona non grata on many infertility blogs and sites because we are their “worst nightmare.” A comment on my previous post got me thinking though. Would young girls, thinking about their future, look at us and see us as their worst nightmares? Or would they see us as legitimate role models, offering so much more than the black and white world of hope or despair?
As a little girl, I looked up to my aunt, not because she was a mother (she was), but because she was a successful journalist, and because she and her family lived in our capital city (where I live now), and had lived overseas in the exotic Solomon Islands, with many adventures. Yet she too had grown up in the small rural district where I spent my childhood. She was one of my few female role models whose mere existence promised hope of a wider world than motherhood on a farm. (Motherhood on a farm, from my perspective as a young girl in the 1960s and early 70s, was not very appealing.)
I was the type of girl who would have responded wonderfully to a role model like the adult Mali. Think, too, of other little girls who might feel trapped by our pro-motherhood societies – little girls who can’t wait to grow up and explore the world, or perhaps rule the world, before they think about being mothers; little girls who don’t have mothers, or who are afraid of being a mother, because they don’t have happy memories of mothers; little girls who don’t have memories of happy mothers; little girls who simply don’t want to be mothers, little girls who don’t feel like little girls, and many more. Seeing happy confident women without children might make their lives easier, less pressured, more accepted.
I know though that there are young girls who only see their future as mothers, and who look forward to that. Would learning that some women don't or can't become mothers terrify these little girls? Are we really their worst nightmares even at such a young age? It shocked me to think this might be the case? I of course don’t know the answer. I do know though that I think it is terribly sad if the reality of my existence would frighten a child. Sad for me, sad for the child, sad for society and our inability to accept diversity.
Instead, I like to think that young girls who want to grow up and become mothers would look at women like me, and just absorb the fact that the world includes women who are mothers, and women who aren’t. And because there are many more women who become mothers than not, that they will just assume they will be in the majority too. (I mean, didn't we?) And I like to think that none of this would disturb them from continuing with their dreams.
Instead of being seen as a scary nightmare, I want to live in a society that allows us to talk about the fact we don’t have children to adults and children alike. I hope that I can be a role model for young girls (as well as teenage girls and adults), who will grow up with a greater sense that they are okay as they are, whatever happens, and that will be accepted as such. Freedom – for adult women and young girls alike, and especially for my much-loved niece who does not have an easy path in this life - to simply be who they are. Knowledge that they are valued for who they are, whatever that might be. That's a lesson I wish I had learned when I was six.