My clever brother did this cartoon for me, and the scribbles are precious because my niece Billie did them.
Society often tells us that people who don’t have children are – especially later in their lives – lonely and full of regret. That a life without one’s own children is a life unfulfilled.
But what if that’s simply not true? What if a life without children can be just as wonderful and purposeful as one with children?
This is something that I have felt passionately about for a long time. In deciding many years ago whether or not to have children myself, I spoke at length with scores of women – those with children and those without – to learn more about their lives. I discovered that a life without children – whether a woman had chosen that for herself or had the choice taken away from her – could be a rich and rewarding one.
Over the following years, I watched many of my friends and acquaintances reach their mid and late 30’s without having kids and I saw how – regardless of why they were childless – most faced difficulties of some sort with their situation. People who choose not to have children can face judgement and pressure from family and society at large, or are made to second guess their decision because they are told the ‘will regret it’. For those undecided, complex conflicting emotions (including deep-set fear) can weigh heavily, especially as society tells them a clock is ticking. And for those women who dearly want children but for whom it hasn’t happened yet, thinking about life without children can be a future too bleak to imagine.
But it was a conversation with a friend late last year that finally ignited the Thriving Without Kids concept. I was sharing the stories of two separate women I know, both in their 70’s, who didn’t have kids, and had no regrets. One of these women had a hysterectomy at a very young age, but had come to find her life without kids to be filled with positives, and she enjoyed the opportunities that not having children had offered her. Hearing these stories, my friend was unconvinced and believed that when these women grew older still, they would finally understand what they had missed. Such refusal to believe someone could be happy without kids ignited something in me and I thought “Wow, is 70 not old enough? Do I have to interview people on their deathbed for it be to accepted that some people can be happy with their lives without kids?”
So I decided to tell the stories of women living great lives without kids. Our world is awash with stories about the joys and struggles of motherhood, but it’s not easy to find stories of those who have chosen – or accepted – their life without children. I set out to create a free online resource, offering insight into the lives of the one in five women throughout the world who don’t have kids.
Finding willing participants turned out to be easy; women from all walks of life, of all ages, from around the world, were keen to share their stories. They include women who have not yet met the right person, women who are unsure and wrestling with the decision, women who have actively chosen not to have children, and those struggling with infertility. The stories are as unique, interesting and multidimensional as the women themselves.
I have made sure they are uncompromisingly authentic; with each one written in the women’s own words because I feel strongly that the unfiltered truth must be shared. The key, I believe, is for people to read a variety of stories so they can form their own opinion, not base their decisions and attitudes on unfounded fears or perceptions.
- Never Wanted Them, Never Had Them, Never Question It;
- My Husband Left Me For Someone Who Wanted Kids;
- Do I Want Kids? F*** No;
- Don’t Tell Us It’s All Meant To Be (infertility);
- You Can Be Happy Without Kids – I Know Because I Have Three;
- Sorry Mum, We’re Gay; and
- Will I Regret Putting My Career Before Everything Else?
The process has been, at times, an emotional one – both for me and for the women sharing their stories. But a wonderful development is that the simple act of sharing their own truth has helped some women begin to come to terms with their situation and clarify their feelings, and for others, hearing the stories of their fellow interviewees has given them powerful encouragement and inspiration.
“With society being so focused on ‘having a family’, I understand why people question whether it’s possible to live a meaningful life without kids, or wonder if those of us who chose not to have kids will regret it when we’re older,”. “Every woman can decide for herself, but what has become clear to me in hearing women’s stories is that having or not having kids does not determine one’s happiness. Rather, happiness is all about attitude and gratitude, trusting your instincts and making the most of what life throws at you.”
To read my ‘Life Without Kids’ story click here: Angela Wallace
To read about my career click here: Linkedin
Having a four-month old baby makes me a rather unusual recruit for this project, but it’s all about bringing people together, not judging anyone’s decisions or lifestyle. Ange and I are friends and neighbours and I’ve enjoyed peer-reviewing this project since it’s inception.
I am relishing using my brain (for non baby related tasks) and my experience managing creative projects for a worthy social enterprise and I am excited about the developments we have in store in the future. I also love the fact we happily work around my son, who is present during all our meetings.