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A Childless Mother #MothersDay #CelebrateEveryMother

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?

 

27 Comments

  1. […] up with this tradition. The other reason being that it doesn’t seem like a thing to do with no children around. I like instead to focus on the spirit of Christmas. Strangely, this year I feel like doing the […]

  2. nabanita nabanita June 8, 2017

    Can’t believe I missed this post. I don’t understand why people sometimes talk the way they do. Marriage and children are taken as the end goal of all women, unfortunately. It is not so and it is for each individual to decide. And one doesn’t need to have a child to be a mother. As you said no one becomes a parent on having a child. In fact, some people never do. Thank you for writing this because people need to read this.

  3. Modern Gypsy Modern Gypsy May 18, 2017

    This is such a beautiful post. I’m childless by choice, so I know just how parents look at you when you offer advice. It’s come to the point where I just keep my own counsel, especially at work, but I find it strange that people think you can only be a parent if you have a baby. Oh, and the instant response of “sorry” when they hear you don’t have children is so amusing!

  4. Mayuri Nidigallu Mayuri Nidigallu May 16, 2017

    This post made me smile and it made me cry a little. It is honest, beautifully written and, maybe it’s just me but, there are very fine veins of pain running in between the lines.
    I do not have a child, and it was a choice not to. Does that stop people from reminding me what I am supposedly losing out on? No. Does it stop people from painting worse case scenarios for a bleak (according to them future)? No? Does all that is said, suggested and dumped upon me affect me? NO!:)))

  5. scribblingjournal scribblingjournal May 16, 2017

    I agree giving birth is not the qualification for parenting. And shocked to read people can be this much rude by saying “you don’t have a child ” . You are a great mother who could understood the kids where their birth parents couldn’t. Happy mother’s day to the wonderful mother.

  6. Shilpa Gupte Shilpa Gupte May 16, 2017

    Corinne, you and I sail in the same boat. I am childless – I decided to not have kids when I realised my Mil had schizophrenia and hubby had bi polar disorder. The risks involved were too high. Chikoo was the son I never had. But now, with his passing, I found mothers day wishes weird! I did yearn to have kids of my own, but now I am happy with whatever life gave me. I too think and feel.the way you do about others kids. I do express my feelings about their kids if it’s family, but refrain from doing so if it’s other people’s kids – outsiders, who may “know better “.
    I do feel good when my nephews confide in my what they may not to their parents..and at such moments I feel that even though I am not a “mother”, I know kids, I know how they feel and what they feel.
    Hugs to you, my dear, for this wonderful article.

  7. I had unspilled tears in my eyes by the time I reached the end of this post. Being a mother is just a role for a human like many others and motherly instincts isn’t limited to those who bear children. It is unbelievable for me to know that people (read mothers) can be rude in their temperament to tell someone “What do you know, you don’t have a child” but then I also know the humiliation people subject to those who have trouble having a child or don’t want to have one. I pity such heartless people and I therefore do not buy their religious inclinations (which I am supposed to, by the virtue of my relationship) because if they can’t accept and respect a human for her choice or circumstance, they do not have the right to propagate their religious beliefs and how others should live and function. Corinne, you are a part of our lives, D’s and mine, and I love it when both of you enquire about each other.

  8. Vasantha Vivek Vasantha Vivek May 16, 2017

    Very well said, Corinne. Heart touching post it was. My sister too is a childless mother not by choice but by circumstances. Child is not a qualification to be a mother for sure. Stay loved, dear.

  9. Haralee Haralee May 16, 2017

    A good friend of mine, Mother of 3, said her urge to have children was primal. She feels those that chose not to have children are more evolved!

  10. Debbie D. Debbie D. May 15, 2017

    Oh yes, this resonates forwards and backwards, up and down. πŸ™‚ Why is that people feel they have the right to comment on something so personal? My post “The Childfree Life” expresses similar sentiments. Timely write up, well-expressed, Corinne!

  11. Vinitha Vinitha May 15, 2017

    I agree with you, Corinne. You don’t have to give birth to become a mother. And giving birth doesn’t make someone a better parent. I can site many many examples about that from my experience. I’m happy for you, Corinne. People are blessed to have you in their life, including me. πŸ™‚ <3

  12. Parul Thakur Parul Thakur May 15, 2017

    I hear you. So far, I have remained child free and maybe I will always. I want to. It’s been hard answering people that it’s a choice. The hint-dropping annoys me the most. No body cares if I mother so many friends. Parenting is no end goal and hearing that all the time makes me think what society I live in? One that cannot accept a personal choice? A great piece, Corinne.

  13. Menaka Bharathi Menaka Bharathi May 15, 2017

    Well written Corinne, many times I have had the same feeling when I say that to a person close to me. She has a special child. When I tell her to be patient, practice mindfulness or just be calm seem to irritate her. She always had this look – what do you know- on her face. I did not have words to tell her, but had always felt really really bad. I infact stopped speaking to her completely.

  14. sanchwrites sanchwrites May 15, 2017

    I hear what you are saying Corinne and I agree with you on most of it. I love the genuine feel of this post. I am child-free and I intend to be child-free. I don’t want children of my own. I’m not fussed about not being a mum to human beings as I have two beautiful fur-kids {as you do too!}

    For me, the problem is with society thinking the sole goal for a woman should be to bear kids or be a mother. If you are a mum, you are somehow held on this pedestal because you have done your duty. I have nothing against mothers and equally nothing against those who choose to be child-free. I feel for those who long to have kids but cannot for whatever reason.

    I work with kids and when I first started out 10 years ago, I would get the ‘do you have kids?’ thrown at me a lot. I don’t anymore because I guess I am more competent and confident. Yet, it frustrates me when I hear women who think just because I {or others like me} don’t have kids, we won’t know anything about how kids feel. I get the urge to tell them that I’m actually probably more in tune with their teenagers thanks to my profession than they are.

  15. Lux G. Lux G. May 15, 2017

    I’ve always believed in this line: “you do not become a parent the moment you give birth to a child.”
    I feel bad for those who want to have kids badly but can’t and so I hate it when people carelessly comment about it.

    Happy Mother’s Day still to all moms in the traditional way or another.

  16. upasna1987 upasna1987 May 15, 2017

    I resonate the same thoughts- Motherly feeling does not only come when one bears own children but with a noble heart and humbleness. Every Woman who understand a child’s heart and bless them with love is a Mother. Thanks for this article.

  17. leannelc leannelc May 15, 2017

    This is so true Corinne – being one step back from biological motherdom gives you a much saner point of view and the ability to be more objective. Our adult daughter is giving me problems atm – some of your wise counsel would have been well received πŸ™‚

  18. shanayatales shanayatales May 15, 2017

    Very well written, Corinne, and I completely agree. This post reminded me of the saying- there are many ways a woman can become a mother, and the biological route is the least important one.

  19. obsessivemom obsessivemom May 15, 2017

    That’s beautifully put. One really doesn’t need to have children to be a mom – to care for and understand children. All one needs is a big warm heart and you have that.

  20. It is no one’s business why someone is childless. And giving birth doesn’t make you a mother. You never know what has happened in a person’s life. And I know people who never gave birth who have been great elementary school teachers (like one of my husband’s cousins), or aunts, or just someone who knows how to give children a loving ear. All of them are deserving of honor today.

  21. Annie Annie May 15, 2017

    Corrine, I read this version the last time and I will read it again and again. Your writing is so inspirational and full of thought!

  22. Shubha Shubha May 14, 2017

    Wow, Corinne, loved this!

  23. Natasha Natasha May 14, 2017

    Thank you for this wonderful, genuine, heartfelt piece.
    More power to you!

  24. kalaravi16 kalaravi16 May 14, 2017

    Time and again Corinne you blow me away with your clear thoughts and crisp words. Speaking your mind and conveying your thoughts with such clarity is truly a gift. Society as we know it, be it here or elsewhere is built on stereotypes, judging and being judged. You are absolutely right when you say,’You do not become a parent the moment you give birth to a child.’ And there are no perfect parents. You are an inspiring person and many a parent could benefit from your wise counsels. You are indeed a mother to many in the true sense. Love and hugs.

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