No More Nice Girls

women's archery class 1940

When I was a young girl, there was a nursery rhyme that we used to sing in the school playground which went:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?

Slugs and snails
And puppy-dog’s tails,

That’s what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice
And everything nice,

That’s what little girls are made of.

We would chant it in the playground, but I always presumed it was ironic, even though I didn’t know what ‘ironic’ meant then (I still get a bit confused by it!) But I knew that what people ‘said’ and what they ‘thought’ or ‘did’ didn’t always match, and that hasn’t changed much…

And yet, it turns out that society does expect us ‘girls’ to be made of ‘sugar and spice/And everything nice’, and that therefore many of us feel deeply ashamed of how much more like ‘slugs and snails’ our inner world is some days. And particularly on those days when we catch ourselves feeling angry and resentful towards women who’ve ‘got it all’.

Jealousy, bitterness, envy, spite, anger, rage, bitterness, resentment. Not ‘nice’ at all.

But repressing such feelings does us no service at all as we work towards first accepting the way life has turned out for us, and then embracing the opportunities that unchosen childlessness brings. Because, until we can allow ourselves to feel and talk about the ‘slugs and snails’ with other childless women, and discover that not only are we not ‘bad’ for having these feelings, but that they’re a vital part of the grieving process, we’re not going anywhere. Except perhaps to pickle ourselves in unprocessed grief.

Anger is human. Women are human. Men are human. We’re all allowed a full range of feelings, and that includes the dark, smelly, not-nice ones. Pretending they’re not there doesn’t make them go away: they just come out sideways – in illness, insomnia, snide remarks, addictive and compulsive behaviours, passive aggression, and a grumpiness that can last so long it begins to look like a permanent character trait.

However, emotions are energy, and like all energy can only be transformed, not eliminated. Anger itself isn’t unhealthy – it’s a potent energizing and liberating force that makes shit happen. It’s our physiological response to a feeling of injustice. It’s the mobilisation of our energy to put that injustice right.

To heal, we need to listen to the wisdom of  our anger and act accordingly, and responsibility.  We are the grown-ups, we don’t get to lie down on the floor in the supermarket and have a tantrum anymore, tempting as it feels some days!

Anger is the fire in the belly; it gets things moving again – it gets us moving again. We don’t have to fear it, but we do have to hear it.

We have every right to be angry with life, with our bodies, with fate, with our surgeons, with our parents, with our partners, with our bosses, with our timing, with ourselves. We have a right to be angry that we either didn’t get to be mothers, or that it’s looking that way.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair. It’s not fair. I get it. Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. And that bitch got to be a mother and you didn’t.

We even have the right to stay angry for the rest of our lives, if we want. After all, it’s a great way of avoiding the responsibility of making peace with ourselves, and our lot. Of taking our life back into our hands, misshapen and unwanted as it feels, and moulding it back into something we are proud of. That’s a bitch, and no-one’s going to give you a prize for doing so. No one really cares whether you work out how to make your life feel meaningful and fulfilling as a childless woman or not, as long as you keep quiet and stay out-of-the-way.

These days, my anger is more about the injustice and prejudice that childless women face on a day-to-day basis in our society, and the thoughtless comments that women still hoping to be mothers are drenched with, day in, day out. The ‘stop worrying, it’ll happen to you’, the ‘why don’t you try internet dating?’, the ‘well, you’re more of a career woman aren’t you’ comments. Or, for those of us a little older: ‘why don’t you just adopt?’ But because my anger and I are on speaking terms these days, it feels like energy I can use to make a difference in this world, rather than something toxic festering in my psyche. Impotent anger is nasty stuff; honourable anger is actually rather beautiful.

It’s not anger that’s the problem, it never was. It’s what we do with it. Whether it’s a thing ‘nice’ girls do or not. I don’t know about you, but having been denied entry to the mummy club, I’m not sure I’m all that bothered about being in the ‘nice girls’ club anymore!


If you’d like a shot of New Year’s inspiration, please come along to a talk I’m giving: “Rocking the Life Unexpected”on Tuesday 8th January, 7pm in London’s Covent Garden & also check out the new online Gateway Women Groups starting 13th January for the UK, USA/Canada & Australia/NZ


Photo of Jody Day, Founder of Gateway Women (UK)Jody Day (48) is a London-based writer and the Founder of Gateway Women: an organisation she founded to support, inspire and empower childless-by-circumstance women to live meaningful & fulfilling lives. She holds a certificate in integrative counselling and is working towards her Masters in Integrative Psychotherapy. Jody runs groups, workshops & retreats for Gateway Women, as well as offering one-to-one consultations. A godmother & aunt many times over, but never a mother, she speaks regularly at events and in the media. 

Click here for the latest schedule of Gateway Women events including online groups starting 13 January

16 Comments on No More Nice Girls

  1. Came into work in a ‘not-so-bad mood’ and then of course someone had to turn my mood! To cut a long story short! I work in a small office (so I suppose I should be grateful there), my colleague is 8 months pregnant, leaving on Friday. The window cleaner came in, and then wished her good luck etc. (nothing wrong with that). Then as he leaves, he ‘jokes’, “make sure that the new apprentice, (who is a male), doesn’t sit in her seat because the last lady who sat in that seat also got pregnant (okay nothing wrong with that). And then my boss adds, “No I gave that seat to” and points to my desk, and they all laugh! Sorry I just had to get this off my chest this morning.
    Thank you for your posts Jody, they are always spot on. And as you end your article, lately I know I’ve been turning more into a ‘No more Miss Nice Girl’!!

    • Amelia –
      ARGHHHHHHHH!! It makes me want to bang my head on my desk! Sometimes I feel that childless women are the last ‘minority’ it’s socially acceptable to insult to their face – outrageous behaviour – how incredibly hurtful and frustrating for you…
      Consider it off your chest 🙂
      Hugs, Jody x

  2. What’s really hard, as well as feeling angry and grieving, is that two friends have commented that I don’t seem to like their children and they feel upset about that. So now, as well as managing to maintain my friendships with them when I am struggling with jealousy, I have to like the kids too?

    • Hi Merry
      Thanks for commenting. That sounds really tough to deal with.
      One sad thing is that whilst we are grieving the loss of our own children, there is something ‘off’ about us that children can pick up and it can make relationships with them difficult. Which then makes relationships with their mothers (our friends), tricky.
      It may be (obviously, I might be wrong too!) that your ‘jealousy’ is the elephant in the room that you and your friend can’t discuss, so your anger may be ‘coming out sideways’ (as I mention in the blog) as dislike / discomfort around her children.
      This is something I hear a lot in mother/nomo friendhships – and it’s really hard to cope with – for both women.
      Have you thought of joining the online group? It’s exactly the kind of stuff we’ll be working through?
      Big hug
      Jody xxxx

  3. My anger (rage!)
    – towards my (poor!) man, the injustice of the situation, high costs of continous treatments, an arrogant doctor, my own galopping age and bad planning/choices in in my past, ecc –
    has changed when I (reluctantly) realized that my childlessness is an indisputable fact.
    Next the anger transformed into a stage of paralyzing grief.
    All this anger and depression is now finally fading, but another “badgirl”- feeling/thought is popping up:
    IRRITATION – over friends that seem to have eliminated their previous personality (brains!) and now lack interest in the world outside their “nucleus” and Being Parents.
    I may try to initiate conversations about news, or plans (like holidays or concerts or refurbishing or whatever) when we meet, but to talk about their kids it is obviously
    The-Number-1-topic. My contribution to this is naturally limited.. and therefore I feel left out.
    And I find it rather BORING and little stimulating, too. Aouch! ;))

    • I can identify with a lot of what you are saying here. I too struggle with such conversations when it’s all oohing and aahing and swapping stories about pregnancies/kids and I have little to contribute…or not anything that anyone wants to hear anyway.
      Sometimes it is exhausting and then I am so grateful for my childless/free friends when we can talk about something else!

    • Hi Newcat

      I’m with Ranty on this one – you get used to it.

      And with Emily in that you develop new friendships with other childless women which makes it a lot easier. (How? Through blogs like this!)

      I do have a few very close friendships with friends who are mothers, but that’s because they’re still ‘them’, and they’re grateful to have a chance to talk about something other than motherhood when they’re with me. Not every mother is motherhood obsessed, just as not every childless woman hates kids!

      Something I’ve also noticed that’s started to happen recently is that the babytalk doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I think the combination of coming out the other side of grief and also having a new rich circle of childless friends makes me less sensitive to it. It’s actually pretty interesting, understanding the tiny changes that are part of infant development. I’m also quite glad I don’t have to deal with it, day in, day out. I’m OK now with how my life turned out. I never thought I’d be able to say that, and there’s part of me that feels a bit guilty for saying it (my Inner Bitch pipes up and say “ah… maybe you didn’t really want a baby then!)

      Still, I’m glad I don’t work in an office and have to deal with endless pregnancy announcements and the baby-showers like some of you. I think that might test my new found equanimity!

      Great comment, great point. Thank you

      Jody x

      • You are of course right! – and generalizations are often an error.
        My problem is not being around children, actually I can find them much more fun to be with than with their parents at the moment.. :):)
        But miss those “equal” grown-up relations where we can talk more about other aspects of life.
        Happy for your blog – it forces me to articulate my feelings and to think foreward! And learning that there are others with similar experiences is good 🙂

        • Yes, mourning those friendships is tough on top of everything else we’ve lost. And no-one except other childless women even ‘see’ that loss. It sucks. Some of those friends will come out of their baby bubble, some won’t.

          And for some reason even the politest of people are completely blind to the rudeness and insensitivity of banging on about children in front of us. And yet, if we point it out to them, we’re the ones being ‘sensitive’!!

          I get that being a new mother is overwhelming, exhausting, tough and scary. I really do. I’ve just stopped expecting any of that empathy to come back my way. And so, when it does, it’s a pleasant surprise 🙂

          You’ll have to find new adults to have those non baby-related conversations with to keep you going for now. x

      • Agreed on all counts– I have a couple of “mom” friends who seem relieved to have someone to talk about other things with (one who even seems a bit irritated when I ask about her kids and rarely talks about them), I’ve gratefully found a small number of childless/childree friends which has helped, and coming to terms with my own childlessness helps everything to bother me less (all those Facebook baby photos no longer seem to have much of an impact).

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