Please don’t feel sorry for me and the other millions of childfree women across the globe. I’m responding to your recent remarks of pity for Katherine Hepburn. I find it sad that you feel the need to express your pity for Ms. Hepburn, a long-deceased actress who can’t even speak out in protest of your rude comments that she missed out on the joy of motherhood. You went further to proclaim that your role as a mom was so much more fulfilling than that of actress, and that your life would not have been as wonderful had you not had a child.
But wait, Sigourney, have you considered the possibility that a childfree woman might just view it differently? When I see what so many women go through as mothers, I often feel great relief that I by chance did not fall into motherhood. Yes, there are moments of joy, but I also see the fatigue, the distress, and the disappointment when relationships with children do not meet expectations and hopes. And it can happen with both young and adult children.
You, it seems, produced a perfect child, had a perfect marriage, had the money to hire the support you needed, and had a career that allowed you to work part-time. But don’t assume that others are so lucky. What if your daughter had been born with bipolar disorder or had become a drug addict? What if your husband had left you with a small child to raise on your own? What if your job was a minimum wage retail position? Would you still be gloating and saying that women who didn’t have children missed out on the most fulfilling role of their lives? I dare say no. If you want to do a true comparison of yourself with your peers who are childfree, why not have a conversation with Helen Mirren, Jennifer Anniston, or Oprah Winfrey, all women who are at the top of their game and seem to be doing just fine without kids—in fact, most of us would say they’ve surpassed you on the career ladder! And read what another hugely successful actress, Cameron Diaz, said this year about being childfree .
Sigourney, I also must insist that you have no idea what goes on in the life of a childfree woman. How can you possibly judge the quality of our lives, when you simply haven’t walked in our shoes? Can you be certain that the joy that you have is greater then my own, that you end each day feeling more fulfilled than me? Perhaps you might take a few minutes to review the research on this very topic, which indicates that childfree women report greater life satisfaction than do their peers who are mothers. This research extends to couples, and I suspect it also would be true with regards to career satisfaction. I suppose that a huge factor is that people have enormous expectations for their children and for their role as parent, and reality simply cannot compare to the fantasies of what parenting could be like.
In closing, I challenge you go talk to the childfree people in your life about their experience. Try to understand our existence instead of simply jumping to conclusions.
A childfree woman
Ellen Walker, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and the author of Complete Without Kids: An Insider's Guide to Childfree Living By Choice Or By Chance.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Ian Bessedin (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)