Hold onto your hats because I’m about to p!ss some people off!
Being Judged for Being Childless
It’s not uncommon to feel judged when you’re childless, whether you don’t have kids because you can’t, or whether it’s a choice you’ve made not to have children. The assumptions and judgments are endless.
In fact, someone commented on one of my posts that she wishes that childless women would stop complaining. She went on to say how being a mother was the most difficult job in the world and that women who are childless should appreciate that we “have it easy.”
Her long comment was full of anger about how “easy” life is as a childless woman. She continued on with a harsh tirade against childless women. Then she ended it with ❤️. Her comments were nasty and offensive, but not new to me.
Admittedly though the ‘❤️’ gave me pause. Frankly, I don’t know what to make of it. I have some ideas but, of course, unless she comes forward and explains I’ll never know. Though honestly, she’ll never have the chance to come forward and explain because I blocked her. Not because she wrote something I disagreed with but because she was hostile about it.
I don’t block anyone because I don’t agree with them. I think disagreeing expands your mind when you do it respectively and listen with the goal of learning something.
I do block hate though. And her rant was full of it.
Hurtful Comments on Both Sides
I’m not writing this to bash women who have children. There’s no doubt in my mind that being a mom is difficult. But I don’t know of a single person who is childless not by choice who wouldn’t give up the difficulty of the endless pain we deal with and trade it for the difficulties of being a mom.
The sentiments in the comment that she wrote aren’t an exception. The statement she wrote is one of the endless ones that women who are childless not by choice read and hear. All. The. Time.
But what about the comments made by childless women about women with children? What??? Yep, I’m actually going there.
Disrespectful comments about women with children by women who are childless not by choice? Yes. I see them a lot.
Are Women with Children Supposed to Keep Them a Secret?
One theme of the comments stands out. That’s when people say they don’t think women with children should talk about their kids. One commenter (who is childless not by choice) specifically said that she had been part of a women’s group at which she met a particular woman 3 times in the group. It wasn’t until the third meeting that she found out that the woman has children. She wrote that she respected this woman more at that point because she hadn’t talked about her kids.
My question is why? Why does not talking about your kids equal more respect?
It’s common to read comments that are critical of women who prioritize being a mom as part of their identity.
Again I ask why? Why is it wrong if being a mom is how you identify yourself?
Admittedly it can be hard to hear mothers talking about their kids when you are childless not by choice. If you’re at the point in your life where friends are having grandkids, it can be equally painful. Depending on where you are on this journey some times it’s harder than others. At some point, for some, the pain of hearing this diminishes and can even go away for some women. But, at times, it’s also incredibly hurtful.
But does that mean that to be respected a woman with children shouldn’t talk about her kids?
Having Children Can Affect Friendships
The unfortunate truth is that when friends start having children and you can’t, friendships sometimes end or change dramatically. Understandably a new mom’s focus is on her child and often on the challenges she’s facing and that’s what she wants to talk about.
When you’re at the stage in your life when friends become grandmothers, their attention is on the delight of their grandchildren.
On the other hand, it’s all painful to hear when you desperately want a child but can’t have one.
In reality, it’s painful on both ends because the friend with children wants to talk about her kids and wants to talk with someone who is going through the same things. She also wants to share her joy with friends. She may also feel guilt and sadness for her childless friend and for the loss of connection that happens.
The childless friend is in pain over the friendship too. It’s possible to be happy for your friend with a child and, at the same time, hurt for yourself. Happiness for a friend doesn’t make the pain of your own childlessness go away. Losing a connection with a friend adds to the pain.
I’m not talking about situations where someone is in the depths of pain from fertility treatment or at a stage where hearing about children is a particularly painful trigger. When friends, family, and coworkers know what you are going through and can’t honor your needs to limit talk about their pregnancy, etc that’s distressing and pretty disrespectful.
But does that mean that women are never supposed to talk about their kids in any social situation?
When my dad died, I didn’t expect anyone else to stop talking about their dad.
We have the choice to tune out, change the subject, tell the person it’s enough or just stay away.
I talk about my dogs….a lot! Anyone who doesn’t like dogs or listening to me talk about mine can always change the subject or walk away.
When I don’t like a topic of conversation – I switch topics or remove myself from the situation.
But, I’m asking again, why would someone think a woman not talking about her kids makes her more respected? If we had kids – we’d be talking about them!
Why is it wrong for her to make her identity about being a mom?
We condemn people who criticize women for making their identities about their careers. Yet we think it’s ok to belittle a woman whose identity is about being a mom.
What if instead of women with children and women without children belittling each, we uplifted one another?
What if we supported each other?
What if we stopped other-ing each other?
What if we allowed each woman to be proud of how she identifies herself whether we identify ourselves that way or not?
What if we gave each other the space needed to feel respected and cared for?
What if we see a woman who is facing infertility or childlessness and we don’t criticize her if she doesn’t attend a baby shower for example? What if instead of seeing her as jealous we recognize that she’s grieving? What if instead of insisting we’d never do that, we recognize that we’re not in her shoes?
What if we hear a woman talk about the challenges of being a mom and we acknowledge those?
What if you asked your friend dealing with infertility or childlessness how you can be there for her?
What if you are involuntarily childless and you ask your friend with children, who is overwhelmed, how you can support her?
What if we respected each other as women regardless of whether or not we have children?
Call me idealistic for thinking this but I do think this is all possible.
Hearing about others’ kids when you are childless not by choice absolutely can be triggering. Trying to avoid triggers completely doesn’t work. But managing your triggers does work. Schedule a time to talk with me about how coaching can help you cope with triggering situations and live a fulfilling life.