This is definitely not a mum blog, but it would like to be friends with both mum bloggers and non-mum bloggers (and everyone else) – some of the people I like most are clever and interesting mothers. In fact, my real-life friend over at themotherhub inspired me to start this very blog.
But it sometimes strikes me that I have no discernible tribe of my own in this world: there are the grieving childless, the decidedly childfree, and the ones that don’t really say much about it. Like me, without strong allegiances to either side, but ambivalent, wondering what if.
To me, parenthood can look like a members-only club from the outside: closed and exclusive. The endless, in-the-know memes on social media. The constant work chat about the little ones. The public over-sharing from parents of how proud they are (#blessed!); the current trend dictating that the millennial parent must be their kid’s best friend at all costs. The mawkish vernacular of modern parenting that has passed into adult usage (not mine): the ‘ten sleeps till…!’; the incessant ‘love you!’ after every utterance. The relentless, smug idealization of families in every advert you see; the beautiful, hazy world of Instagram children.
It can feel like parents are closing ranks against you; even at its most irritating it can sometimes feel like a thrillingly intense emotional world that you will never know. A giant, all-consuming thing that other people’s lives revolve around. You’re aware of the pressure that parents themselves feel from all the aforementioned. You know about the day-to-day drudgery of early childhood, and the psychological warfare of adolescence, and the complexities of family relationships in general. But still, the modern cult of over-parenting and the fetishising of pregnancy and babies can easily give the one in ‘1 in 5 women’ an attack of existential heebie-jeebies.
The default position for the average 36-year-old woman who is uncertain about having kids, and perhaps doesn’t really like babies that much, is usually: you will regret it if you don’t at least try. Why? Why is our society not set up so that it feels fully comfortable to say: I’m not really sure so I don’t think I’ll bother? There are so many factors at play that it would take days to scratch the surface. But the fact is, society still doesn’t accept not having children as a robust and sound choice, for too many reasons to list here. It’s evidenced all the time by the explosive debate that erupts around the topic in the media. As a knock-on effect, the emotive nature of the subject generally puts people who can’t have children in a real quandary: max-out on dubious fertility treatments, put yourself through the adoption wringer, or strap on a pair of big ones and take the road less travelled.
I’d love to say that it’s a lovely, friendly, tree-lined road, with excellent signage and great amenities for old people. But I’m sometimes plagued with doubts and existential crises about the path in life that I’ve drifted down.
Did I try hard enough?
And yet, at the same time: why the hell did I try so hard?!
Is family everything?
And yet: why do I need to be like everyone else?!
These are issues I want to explore, and I am curious to know if there are similar creatures to me out there, as I have no idea, to be honest.