I am not 'a woman who missed out'

BECK ELEVEN
Last updated 13:43 01/02/2014

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OPINION: School holidays have all but come to a close. Not having children of my own, school holidays meant little. Well, there was less traffic on the roads, more screaming emanating from the Hanmer hot pools and an internet overflowing with parenting advice which seemed, at best, contradictory, and, at worst, to have come from Conservative Party leader Colin Craig.

In fact, parenting advice threatens to take up more internet space than cats or porn.

The parks and rivers were filled with children, which certainly gives me pause to wonder whether I should have spawned a few of my own.

Does my barren womb leave me destined to feel unfulfilled and isolated from what seems like a vast majority?

Since the clock struck 2014, there has been (as there often is) much chit-chat on the topic of parenting. Colin Craig admitted to smacking his children so the debate was raised again.

Then a study came out from Britain saying couples without children were more satisfied in their relationships than those with and an organisation called Gateway Women which supports women who are childless or childfree (whichever way you look at it) got some wonderfully-grounded press.

The mothers versus non-mothers debate by Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore said having or not having children should not define or divide women. She noted the many reasons women do not have children, "from infertility to chronic illness . . . to social infertility: Not finding a partner, not wanting to go it alone, and not being able to afford it".

The point that struck home for me was that having children may bring meaning to lives but it is not the only way to have a meaningful life.

I was late to wanting children in the first place. While some women desire a family from the day they push a doll around in a toy pram, I was in my 30s before the idea even took hold.

I never had a partner at the right time, or the right partner at the time and growing up in a single parent family I didn't want the same.

I felt that pain on and off for years but some time ago it passed and I am at peace. Especially when watching a parent with a crying wriggler in a cafe or during my treasured sleep-ins.

It does feel strange, even naughty, to be putting the full stop on whatever long line of ancestry it is that I belong to. Still, I've seen and experienced enough familial mental illness to think that might be a good thing.

I do not doubt that having children fulfils life in indescribable ways. I have seen those precious cuddles and the looks in those eyes but I do not consider myself to be a woman who missed out.

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I am extremely lucky to have a few clumps of children I absolutely and fiercely love, particularly the four belonging to my best friend.

Due to the madness of the holiday break, I recently clapped eyes on those kids for the first time in two weeks. They ran toward me, yelling my name (well, their name for me, "Mrs Lady"), hurling themselves at me with a hug and screaming something about a cute kitten they'd just seen. I hugged them back and promptly told them off for screaming. The number of telling offs they've had from me has not diminished their love.

Years before, when I still wanted to have my own, those same kids were a source of tearful breakdowns. I'd visit their house, have a great time, then weep as I departed their family cocoon.

Then one day it dawned on me, I do have that. There they were, right before my eyes, not going to bed when I told them, making me laugh, making noises that were too high-pitched, giving me cuddles and bringing me an endless love- a-thon. They are not my substitute children, they are simply the ones I am lucky to love.

But don't get me wrong, I don't have a blanket love for all children. I've given the stink eye to more than a few who have annoyed me. So, parents, look out in a supermarket or a playground near you.

- The Press

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