One of the missions of Gateway Women is to celebrate the contribution that women without children make to our culture.
Not having children, whether by choice or circumstance, creates the possibility of a different kind of life. Too often, women who are childfree-by-circumstance are left with the sense of not having a proper life, but instead of somehow making do with the leftovers…
And many women who are childfree by choice find themselves vilified as heartless, selfish types, lacking some ‘vital’ quality that would make them ‘real’ women. But tell me this, what other kind of women are there apart from ‘real’ ones?
Behind every woman without children is a story and we need to start telling those stories; hearing those stories.
That way, a life without children won’t seem as scary: either contemplating it because of circumstance, or to those people trying to get their heads around women choosing to remain childfree. Personally, I find some of the anti-kids, anti-parent ‘childfree’ sites on the net a bit distasteful at times, but I can appreciate that perhaps they serve as a release valve for women tired of explaining themselves, tired of the intrusive questions and cruel projections our culture loads onto voluntarily childfree women (and couples). I have never met a childfree woman who ‘hated’ kids and many of them seem to have plenty of them in their lives… just not their own.
That’s why it’s so important that we start celebrating publicly the lives of women who don’t have children – women whose lives still have meaning at the centre of them – it’s just that this meaning is something other than their offspring.
The Gateway Women Gallery of Childless and Childfree Role Models on Pinterest is a great reminder of just how many different ways there are to live a life as a woman without children. I started curating this gallery in 2011 and it now contains more than 600 women, past and present, each with their own story.
Perhaps the time has come to update our attitudes towards women without children. Just as the pill liberated our bodies from unwanted pregnancies, now we need to liberate our culture from the fetishization of motherhood. Could this fetish be, at its core, a cover-up for some women’s embarrassment in actively choosing motherhood and the domestic arena over being that scary archetype, the ‘career woman’? The old Madonna/whore dichotomy all over again? Do we really have to live our lives with such a poverty of thinking as its backdrop?
Woman are human being not just human breeders. We have more to offer the world than just our wombs. The fact that I have to even write that still astonishes me.
Not everyone has to be a mother in order to contribute to society. That doesn’t make motherhood wrong in any way but neither does it make being childless or childfree something freakish.
So, let’s start celebrating our childless and childfree role models. There are no rules, no reasons, no caveats. They can be childfree by choice or by childfree by circumstance. What matters is who they are, not what they are not. Motherhood is, at its finest, an act of devotion but, as the poet Rumi wrote:
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.