A strange thing happens when people encounter a female who happens to be childless. The strange thing is a period of awkward questioning that for some reason people feel entitled to ask the childless female. I am guaranteed to have these odd exchanges at least a few times each year.
I’m not sure why the general public, strangers to be honest, feel it is their right to ask me about why I do not have children. Some feel embolden to remind me that it is my duty to supply offspring for my family. My lack of getting onto this particular project is no doubt a failure on my part and thus must mean I am somehow less of a female than my counterparts who have children.
Just the other day while out with a friend, a woman asked if she could borrow a chair from our table as her table seemed to be missing one. As we did not require the chair, we agreed that she could take it and thought that would be the end of our interaction. However this woman, who was waiting for people to join her, decided to make small talk about her children. When my friend agreed and said she knew what that was like, it led to that awkward pause where the woman than pointedly asked me if I had any children. I told her I did not and she proceeded to ask me “why not? Why not have children for your spouse and family?”
For the record I do not have a husband, not in the legal signed off a piece of paper sense. Not because Beloved and I have some type of “immoral” relationship, but because neither of us feels compelled to prove the validity of our relationship by a license. I have a license to drive my car, another which says I can legally own my four-footed wonder. I have no need for a license to say I can live and love Beloved. (I’m not big into being told that I need to have these pieces of paper and if I could have my four-footed companion without needing the paper, I would, but alas there are laws.)
Okay so now that we have cleared that up, I also was not aware that I was supposed to provide a child for anyone. I wasn’t aware it was some sort of duty as a female. So I looked at this stranger with the battle light in my eyes and I guess she didn’t like what she saw there as she backed off saying she was “sorry for being nosey” and that “it wasn’t any of (her) business”. I suspect she was just aiming for small talk, and for people of a certain generation I suspect that children tend to be a safe topic.
For the record I do not, nor will I ever, have any children for a variety of reasons which includes my health, the potential issues of passing my condition onto my children and finally because I enjoy the freedom I have in my life. I am sure that having children is rewarding and very fulfilling, but it does not make a woman any more of a woman. It is not the stamp of approval that says “you’ve finally made it as a female”, although at times society does make it seem that way.
I’m wondering if I should just buy a shirt with something like “to quell your curiosity, I do not have children, it does not make me any less of a woman thanks all the same.” Or maybe it’s about time the society understands that there are a myriad of reasons why people are childless; for some people it’s a heartbreaking reality that they should not have to discuss with strangers, for others it’s a choice that should not have to be justified to strangers. Hopefully some people will read this, remember it and maybe help those of us without children avoid all those awkward moments going forward.