As a society we tend to lump childless women into two categories – those who are childfree by choice and those who are childfree by chance. Of course, situations are always more complicated and can’t be categorized so simply. Women who are childfree by chance are often pitied by women who do have children. They hear insensitive comments such as “You could always adopt” or “It must have been meant to be.” These kinds of statements are intrusive and unnecessary. However, the childfree by choice women get a different set of judgments. Often we are called selfish, or worse. But no one ever wants to know the reasons we decided not to become mothers.
I was at the Laundromat of all places when all of my reasons came flooding back to me.
Today’s Guest Post is by: Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. A student of anthropology, she has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.
A Laundromat is a place where you might spend more than an hour with strangers. There was a woman and her family there that I was already pretty sure I didn’t like just by hearing her conversations. Just as I was finishing folding the last of my laundry, I heard something that raised my blood pressure and I couldn’t get out of the building fast enough. This woman began to scold her teenaged daughter for not doing a good enough job with the laundry. And she said, “You continue to prove to me what kind of stupid person you are!”
I was enraged. I didn’t know what to do besides leave. Every part of me wanted to confront the horrid woman. I wanted to tell her that no child deserves to be called stupid and she isn’t teaching her daughter anything by saying things like that. In fact, all she is doing is planting the seeds of resentment that will last the rest of both of their lives. I didn’t say any of it. I shoved the last of my clothes into my bag and hurried to the car.
It was truly “none of my business” and as a childfree woman I don’t make a habit of giving childrearing advice. But this one got so deep under my skin. Why? Because I was that child once.
At thirteen years old it is impossible not to take those kind of cutting statements personally. And while mothers might justify their statements by saying something like “I didn’t call you stupid, I called things you did stupid,” there isn’t a difference when you’re thirteen. Human brains aren’t developed enough yet at that age. That is the time of our development when we are supposed to make mistakes to learn from them. And worse yet this verbal abuse I witnessed was about laundry. Is that really such a crime?
There are lots of reasons women choose not to have kids. I don’t have a maternal instinct because I didn’t learn to have one. I was never taught. I had a mother who didn’t seem very interested in being a mother. She loved me, she still loves me, but I wasn’t always sure she liked me much. We get along better as adults with a large distance between us. Hearing this woman at the Laundromat tell her daughter she was stupid made all those feelings wash over me. I couldn’t be a parent because I might do that to someone else. Most importantly, I never felt like I missed out on anything. This was a decision I made and it was the right one for me.