Mothers’ Day seemed like a good day to write about the fact that I consider myself a childless mother. So when I received Mothers’ Day wishes this year, I simply said ‘Thank you.’ Another reason for not clarifying that I have no children is the fact that it seems to make some people uncomfortable. I’ve had conversations that went like this:
New Acquaintance: So, how many children do you have?
Me: I don’t have children.
New Acquaintance: Sorry.
Me: Why are you sorry? I’m not.
New Acquaintance: Oh….
Me: (Then attempting to put them at ease, although I’m not sure why I bother) I got married only at 41………..
By the time I’m done, their eyes are glazed, because not only do I have no children, I’m not sorry about it, and perhaps they’re now wondering whether I’ve been married before…. and they simply don’t know what to say.
Don’t I sometimes wish I had children? I would be lying if I said ‘No.’ But I’ve accepted this far better than I would have if you told me when I was 20 that I wouldn’t be having children. And honestly, I’ve had the chance to mother kids, as I explain here.
A version of the post first appeared on Parentous.
A Childless Mother
You watch an infant having a tantrum, holding her breath and getting blue in the face. You tell her screaming mother not to panic and try to divert the child’s attention. Instead, the mom turns on you with: ” What do you know? You have no children!”
It’s the same thing you hear when you advise a friend that her 14 year old son is old enough to take the school bus or public transport. But no, she insists on dropping him and picking him up from school herself.
When a 17 year old, obviously has serious issues at home, gets into a fight at school every day and is eventually imprisoned for petty crime, you counsel the parents. You tell them that their son is actually a soft-hearted kid and very smart. He’s hanging out with the wrong crowd because he wants attention. They look at you as if you’re insane. They know their son is a no-good fellow who needs a sound thrashing. After all, what do you know, you don’t have kids.
Yes, I don’t have kids. It’s not by choice, but by circumstance.
The fact that I have no children does not mean that I don’t understand children. It does not mean that when I tell you not to panic about your child turning blue that I am not worried too. No, I’m telling you that your panic is going to transfer to the kid and make the situation worse. When I tell you to let your son go on his own to school, it does not mean that I am heartless. No, it just means that I believe you’ll be teaching him independence. When I tell you that your son is a good kid, it’s because I’ve taken the time to talk to him as a person and listen to his cries for attention.
I know that if I had children, I would have loved them as fiercely as you do yours.
Sure I would make some errors in judgement in their upbringing. There would have been times that my children would open up better with an uncle, an aunt or a teacher. I would not have been a perfect parent – because there never was a perfect parent.
I am childless and that’s a fact that I’ve come to accept. But, please know, you do not become a parent the moment you give birth to a child. Parenting is something that is learned from practice, but also from openness. Parenting is the skill of relating to a child in such a way that s/he feels secure, loved, cherished and has the freedom to be who s/he is.
I am childless. But my phone rings early in the morning, on a particular day every year and a young man, now in his thirties says, “I want you to be the first one to wish me for my birthday”. When that young man, who used to be the misunderstood 17-year-old, and now a successful manager in an MNC calls you ‘Mom’, you know that even a childless person can be a parent.
What are your views on childless parents?