I’ve never wanted to wholly conform
to society. As a little girl, I groaned when I was given a doll for Christmas,
because even then I liked playing outside and other active things (until I
learned to read). I was shy and obedient, but I never wanted to be judged or
have my activity proscribed by others’ views. As I’ve probably said before, I
think I was a feminist from the moment I was born, so when I got married (which
was quite young), I didn’t change my name, despite not knowing any other woman
personally who had kept their name. (Though when I moved to Wellington I met a
number, and in fact almost all my best friends who have married have kept their
names too.) I certainly didn’t want to have children the moment I got married,
and resisted all that initial pressure. So it was a surprise to me when I
decided I did want to have children, and then of course, a surprise when I
Now, as a woman without children, I
am by definition a nonconformist. Especially when I am a
woman-who-wanted-children who loves her life-without-them. Or perhaps not?
Because if there is one thing that life teaches us, it is that most of us have
to learn, at some stage, to love what we have (or don’t have, as the case may
be). Perhaps I’m just doing the predictable thing?
The truth is there is real freedom
in not having children. The obvious things are freedom from sleepless nights,
from early morning wake-ups, holidaying only in school holidays, expenditure on
children and their activities, freedom to follow my own interests, spontaneity,
travel when and where I like, etc. The list is endless.
But there are other freedoms too. When we learn to accept and experience our No
Kidding lives, we break free from society’s norms, from our grief and our past
and our what-might-have-beens. We are liberated from our own more limited
expectations of ourselves. Perhaps we break free from our own stereotypes?
Personally, I know I broke free
from stereotypes when I was forced to confront the question of what is
“success” and what is not. I did this in terms
of infertility, where “success” stories usually mean those who end up as a
parent, rather than a broader definition of those who survive and go on to live
a happy and meaningful life.* But I also did it elsewhere in my life.
My values didn’t change – they had always
been the same. But I found that, in breaking free from stereotypes, I was able
to fully recognise how important my values were to me. I could choose to
embrace them without feeling that I was letting anyone (including, perhaps
especially, my younger self) down. None of this might have been obvious to
anyone else, but they made a world of difference to me, my thoughts, my level
of contentment, my authenticity. I let
go of a lot of things. But in doing so, I was able to begin to fully
embrace myself, and my No Kidding life.
Liberation. It’s both the result of,
and the penultimate step to healing, living and enjoying our No Kidding lives. Liberate!