7. Do You Have to Be a Mom to Be Capable?

May 28, 2024

Navigating life without children has its own unique challenges, including facing stereotypes and negative assumptions from society. One such misconception, which I came across on social media, is the belief that women without children are less capable than those with children. However, empathy, problem-solving, and other positive attributes are not exclusive to mothers.

It is important that we recognize the diverse experiences and contributions of all women and try to combat the stereotypes that depict childless women as less capable. By fostering open dialogue on this issue, I hope to help shift societal perceptions.

Learn more or book a free, no-obligation call to talk about what a coaching experience could look like for you HERE.

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Do you have to be a mom to be capable?
Key Episode Takeaways:
  • None of us is less capable because we are not mothers.
  • The contributions that women who don’t have children make to society are so frequently overlooked or undervalued. 
  • Fertility status doesn’t play a role in a woman’s value or in a woman’s abilities.
Listen to the Full Episode:
Full Episode Transcript:

7. Do you have to be a mom to be capable?

Hi, you're listening to Childless and Moving Onward. This is the place where we talk about thriving in life when you're a woman who is childless, not by choice, regardless of the road that brought you to childlessness. Hi, and for those of you who are new here, welcome. For those of you who are, have been listening, welcome back to Childless and Moving Onward. No matter what your journey that brought you here to being childless by circumstance, not by choice, um, no matter your reason for the unwanted childlessness, you are welcome here. And anyone is, but in particular those who are listening because you know someone and care about someone who is childless not by choice, and you want to help them. Um, I say kudos to you. Um, all right, I just wanted to thank those especially who are here to help someone else. Um, I am Gail Miller. I'm the host of this podcast. I myself am childless by circumstance, not by choice. I'm a life coach. I'm a physician and I'm a speaker and it is my passion in life to help other women navigate this path of pain unfortunately, that comes with being childless, not by choice. And as part of that, I want to talk about something that brought up a lot of comments recently. Um, a lot of reactions, and including from women who have children, um, positive reactions, positive feedback. But I had a post up recently about this kind of meme, if you will, that was on social media. It was written to teenage girls and it was, about what they should do if they're in public and there's a male that's making them feel uncomfortable. The advice for them was to find a woman, go up to her and say, hey mom, this guy is making me uncomfortable and bothering me. And that in response to that, almost always, are the mama bear will come out in us. Those were the words in this meme. Um, and that woman will become protective. But then it went on to sign things off with a signature from mamas everywhere. Not from women everywhere, but specifically mamas. Now, to a lot of women, probably the vast majority, this probably went unnoticed, that sign off was relaying, was saying. But to those of us who are childless not by choice, it hit hard. It was painful. For women who are child free by choice, it probably is triggering as well. It may not have the same painful result, or maybe it does, I don't want to assume. But, it is triggering because what that said, it's as if only women who are moms can have feelings. Only women who are moms can care, can have empathy, and quite frankly, it's often the message is as if only women who are moms can do anything. So I had a situation about, it was a year and a half ago, I was speaking with a patient and the nurse was in the room with me. I was new there, so the nurse didn't know me or anything about me. And the patient we were speaking with, that I was speaking with didn't have children. Um, and she brought up a concern, a question, about, she had been given advice from another office about a change that they were making that they thought she needed to make in her diet, in her nutrition. And she didn't know how to fit it into life. How can she put this into her current daily schedule her lifestyle. And so I offered a suggestion about how to make this change and make it fit in to her daily life. Here's what happened though, almost immediately after I started to speak to offer this suggestion to the patient, the nurse spoke as well and said the exact same thing as I did, about a millisecond or a couple milliseconds you know, behind me, but saying the very same thing. And then here's where the kicker comes in. When we both finished speaking, she smiled broadly, kind of chuckled, then pointed to me, and pointed to herself back and forth, and said to the patient, see, it takes a mom to know. Saying to the patient that we both knew because we what we were talking about of course we could problem solve this because we're moms. Except of course that I'm not Which she didn't know because she, of course, assumed that I'm a woman. I must be a mom, right? It infuriated me because it's not the first time. Um, won't be the last. It happens. We get comments like these all the time. Because it's as if women without children don't have a brain, aren't capable, are less than in every way it seems or it seems as if others see it that way. Now I didn't say anything to her afterwards so for anybody who doesn't know what I do as a physician. I work part time. I travel to practices that are shorthanded. So sometimes I'm there for short periods as I was with this practice and I knew I wasn't going to be working with her again. And so I didn't feel like taking the time and effort to educate her. Um, but normally I would now, I didn't in the past, you know, I kept quiet, I kept my mouth shut. I, you know, I believed what other people seem to think of childless women. I believed it of myself that yeah, I'm less than in some way, or I also had shame around being childless. I don't anymore. Um, but in the past I would have just let it go because I didn't want to try to, I didn't want to deal with that. I didn't want to even talk about my situation. So, in this case, I let it go only because, like, okay, we have other patients and, you know, this is going to take repeated, I could tell from just the conversations we had, this is going to take repeated efforts on my part to try to get her to understand that viewpoint was wrong. Um, so sometimes I do speak up when this happens. When I know it's someone I can make a difference with, or that I think there's that potential. If it's someone who I realize this is gonna fall on deaf ears and they are never gonna be open to listening or trying to understand or see it a different way, I don't waste my time. Okay, so. It's very common, and it just seems like people see us as incapable all the time, and quite frankly, I'm tired of it. I'm exhausted by it. None of us is less capable because we're not moms. The ability to think through things, to problem solve, come up with solutions, doesn't come from having a child, and that ability is not limited to only to women who have children. But this viewpoint that as a mom, I understand, like, I understand this is something so sad. No, as a woman, I can understand sadness. As a human, I can understand it. But that is, that as a woman or as a mom statement is brought up all the time. As if when you're not a mom, you just can't understand anything. You just can't do anything. Or if you can do it, it's not as good. This stems from societal stereotypes and negative assumptions about women, women's roles and responsibilities, and the incredibly negative assumptions about childless women. Motherhood is so often equated with being better than, better as a human, better as a caring individual, better at problem solving, at fixing things, and better at just about anything else you can think of. There is this false belief that women without children are somehow deficient and deficient in every way. And I say that confidently, unfortunately, that it's common that this, there's this false belief out there because there are constant messages about motherhood, positive ones, and constant messages about childless women, negative ones. The messages are endless in terms of ways in which women without children are portrayed and always, always presented as less than. Women without children are constantly facing judgment, always facing discrimination because of the assumption that there's a lack of empathy a lack of nurturing abilities or instincts, a less than stellar ability when it comes to absolutely everything. We're viewed as irresponsible, as less capable, as less reliable. But in some ways I find this hilarious, ironic in a way, but also it makes me chuckle to a degree at times because I've heard from friends, from female friends who have children, from co workers and so many other moms who describe their brains as basically going to mush. Like, truly, I've heard those words from so many women that the minute they had a child, my brain became mush. And yet society views women without children as less capable, less knowledgeable, less empathetic, less able to do anything. Hmm. so, the contributions that women who don't have children, the contributions that we make to society are so frequently, actually maybe the majority of the time, overlooked or undervalued. Maybe they're acknowledged, but undervalued. It's not as much as, you know, someone with children would do or can do. But what this does is it creates barriers between communities, between women with children and those without, friends with children and those without, family members who have children and those without. It creates obstacles to having any meaningful experiences together, to be able to connect together. It gets in the way of accepting and being curious about other perspectives in life, and of course the perspective of women without children is always considered wrong, a lot of the times or in general that's how society views it because we're viewed as selfish, as you didn't do enough to try to get pregnant. You should have done this so you know it was your choice not to continue or go on or have treatment. Always looked at as unreliable. So it gets in the way of, of connections and allowing in other perspectives in life. And, quite frankly, it's demeaning. It's degrading. We are not less than. Caring, empathy, abilities, skills, they're not limited to, to moms. Fertility status doesn't play a role in a woman's value or in a woman's abilities. Caring, empathy, abilities, skill sets, they transcend parental status. Parental status does not give you or take away from your abilities. So what is it, what can we do to break down and address this misconception that women without children are less in every aspect? But we're not less in any aspect. To begin with, we need to highlight the diverse experiences and contributions of women as a whole, not based on fertility status. In part, that means overcoming the stigma of childlessness and speaking out, telling our stories. But that's often hard. I have clients who really struggle with this, even acknowledging to people that they're dealing with pain about their childlessness. Because talking about it they feel ashamed for letting people know they, they feel being childless is shameful. So, the stigma and the shame that comes with involuntary childlessness are in themselves, it's a shame that that occurs because this is nothing to be ashamed of. That's not what society tells us. So, as a result, many women who are childless not by choice, stay silent. So it's hard to overcome that shame and to speak out, and I've been there. But we have to be open and show the world we're here. We matter. It's not shameful. And we contribute. We contribute equally well. So here's my takeaway for today. Normally I have three, but for this, it's like, I really just want to focus on one thing because I, this is just so that important to me. So here's my takeaway, positive attributes, whether it's empathy, support, problem solving, caregiving, nurturing, and all the rest, none of that is limited by parental status, by fertility status. We all possess abilities, skills, and positive qualities. Now, as individuals, we each have different ones, but we all possess positive attributes and abilities. These are not things that are limited by the ability to bear a child. So let's recognize and celebrate all women, instead of excluding or othering those without children and viewing this large subset of women, and it is, let's move away from viewing this group of women, those who are childless, not by choice, as less than. Remember instead the goodness in all of us isn't limited by fertility status. All right, that's all for today. Until next time, take care.   Thanks for listening. If you liked this episode and you know someone who could benefit from this podcast, please share it with them and post about it on social media. There are many other women who are looking for this help and would love to know about it. To catch all the latest from me, you can follow me on Instagram at Childless Path Onward or on Facebook and YouTube at Path Onward. Thanks again, and I'll see you next time.