15 September, 2018

World Childless Week: Comments that hurt

This year’s World Childless Week’s Comment that Hurts is: "You never know true love until you have a child."

The thing is, anyone who makes this comment, or other similar comments, is saying it to raise themselves up. Perhaps they’re feeling overwhelmed with love for their children, and speaking mainly about themselves. That seems reasonable, but still, the choice of language in this very commonly used sentence is thoughtless. Or worse – perhaps deliberately unkind. Maybe they are feeling defensive for some reason, and need to retaliate. Maybe they are feeling jealous or insecure, and need to make themselves more important, and so figure that the best way to do that is to belittle someone else. Maybe they’re just feeling smug, and self-important. But whatever their motive for saying it, this comment is not accidental, not casually thoughtless. It is putting us in our No Kidding place – our (in their view) inferior No Kidding place, where we don’t (apparently) know true love.

But that’s the thing about my No Kidding place. It isn’t where the speaker might think it is. And it is certainly not inferior. It’s in a good place, a more compassionate place, a place full of love – for ourselves, for what we lost, for others in similar positions. My efforts and love is spread wider than my nuclear family, shared in multiple places, for the elderly, for my No Kidding community, and for children who are not my own. It's not a selfish love, but is still love, still protective, still nurturing. That is not the same No Kidding place that the speaker was before they were a parent either. No, my No Kidding place is a place of growth, wisdom and confidence.

So from the start, I do not accept the premise of their comment. That enables me to take back some power, the power that is stripped away when we first hear comments like this.However long it has been since we knew we wouldn’t have children, such comments can still hurt, they’re still judgemental; they imply that we are selfish, or not mature enough to be parents, that we are not fully developed human beings. Ultimately, they imply that we are lacking somehow. Those comments bite into us, and leave scars.  But my scar tissue is pretty well healed these days, and I recover quickly. I might say, "I'm glad you got to feel that love." Or perhaps I'll ask, "did you mean to be so unkind?"

There are many types of love in the world, and none of us can judge how another feels. Who is to say what true love is? No, I have never known and will never know the love that a mother feels for her child as she raises them. I knew the love I felt when I was so briefly pregnant, and the love I felt for my unborn children when I was trying to get pregnant, but I know that anyone who makes those comments will not count that love. I do, however. 
But to end on a positive note, so do others. Not all parents feel this way. I’m going to go back five years to this post, where I link to a post by a woman who was parenting post-infertility. She noted that infertility defined how she felt, and that the hardships of parenthood were similar to those of infertility. More particularly, she acknowledges that those of us who were unable to have children know love. Just in a different way. These were her words, worth repeating:
"When my love for my daughter literally steals my breath and makes my heart feel like it's going to explode, when the fear of something happening to her rises to the level of spiritual warfare ... I remind myself that my infertile friends do know that love and that fear.  Many of their worst fears have been realized.  They love their miscarried and stillborn babies every day of their lives.  Many others know the agonizingly ambiguous loss of their dreams.  They love the children in their imaginations.  It is a real, powerful, mama bear love that should never be dismissed or minimized."

Note:      There has been a post topic every day this week, but I have been travelling and busy, so haven’t been able to address every topic. You can find the topics here, and the links to posts from No Kidding women from all over the world.


  1. Yes, a thousand times yes to this. I love the empathy in the quote at the bottom. I so wish that people didn't see having children as making them MORE somehow, which then implies that I am somehow LESS. I agree with you on love beyond the nuclear family, on love for those who've suffered loss. And that's not to say that parents can't also feel that empathy...I am fortunate to have parenting friends who don't hall into the trap of "motherhood elevates me." Sigh. If only we could look at things as people, not as "as a parent."

  2. Powerful... this is such a powerful post and message... I could literally feel that power leaping out at me and I know many others will too.
    Nobody has the monopoly on love. Bravo!