Women without children must stop apologising

You may or may not have seen in various press today, reports about comments that Kim Cattrall made on Women’s Hour.  She has recently spoken out about her feelings towards the term, ‘childless’, saying she feels that it suggests that women who don’t have children are somehow missing something.  I am inclined to agree with her on this point.

Word origin
1.  an adjective suffix meaning ‘without’ (childless; peerless), and in adjectives derived from verbs, indicating failure or inability to perform or be performed (resistless; tireless)

It’s true, -less as a suffix is indeed used to indicate a lack of something, say for example, sleepless; lacking sleep and legless; lacking legs (i.e. so drunk out of your mind you can’t walk).  But you wouldn’t ever feel it necessary to introduce me by saying, “This is my friend Anne, she’s Ferrariless, savingsless, abilityToContourInMannerOfKimKardashianless, threecCaratDiamondless, pensionless, dogless,Uggless and ownHomeless.”

Yet I am without all of those things – and truly, much, much more, SO much more; but only really sad about the dog.  So why childless?  Anne will suffice, enough with the labels, any labels.  Humans need to start fighting their natural urge to pigeonhole.  If the square peg doesn’t fit in to any of our other-shaped holes, we can’t handle it.  Give it a shiny sticker, clearly stating what it is and we’re happy.  Gay, straight, pansexual, married, single, divorced; what does it matter?

I mean look at her...... she's great.  With or without kids.

I mean look at her…… she’s great. With or without kids.

Kim Cattrall spoke out about people who stigmatise women without children, while guest editing a radio show, which is very much to be applauded.  But, speaking on Radio4’s Women’s Hour, the actress also said she considers herself ‘to be a mother despite not having her own children – while discussing the offence she feels at being described as “childless” or “child-free”’.  Why?  Why did Kim Cattrall, and thinking back not so long ago, Jennifer Aniston too, feel that it was necessary to explain themselves? Proffering examples of when they ‘mothered’ others. Because, if as a woman without children we don’t quickly follow up the declaration, (or confession under pressure), with protestations of other examples of motherliness, we must be inhuman, cold and heartless (lacking a heart). I know personally, that I feel very ‘squirmy’ in those conversations, almost guilty that I don’t have children.

Although I am inclined to agree with her views on the word ‘childless’, I am less inclined to justify my existence (as she seems to have done) as a woman, by quoting other ‘mothery type’ traits I have displayed in other aspects of my life; as if merely being a woman (an aunty/a sister/a friend), alive on the planet is not enough.  Because if I were to do that, I could say, choose to mention the following, “Well, I’ve mopped up the vomit of others, picked up poo and done five loads of washing one after the other” (all true), but does that make me maternal?  It seems that we MUST at all times reference children in some way, shape or form, when talking about our lives, otherwise all else is rendered irrelevant.  But, but, you’ve got baby-making equipment…..  Yes, so have the menfolk (Ok granted, not the incubator), but you’d never hear anyone say, “this is my mate Dave, even though he’s packed full of healthy sperm, he’s childless! Can you even believe it?”, received by audible gasps and the clunk of jaws dropping all over the place.  Probably more to do with the sperm comment than anything else to be honest, but you get my point.

Now, I don’t dislike children, in fact I find them quite delightful, (see, I’m doing it right now), and I love my nieces and nephews to pieces, I’ve said it on more than one occasion, that I think they are some of the coolest human beings I know; but I love them like their aunty.  I wouldn’t want to undermine their own mothers’ parenting skills by saying otherwise.  However, Kim does go on to justify her existence as a woman without children, by saying “I have young actors and actresses that I mentor, I have nieces and nephews that I am very close to so I think the thing that I find questionable about being childless or childfree is – are you really?”  Yes, yes we are.  And…….. drumroll please, LADIES, IT’S COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY OKAY.  

Why can’t she just say, “I don’t have children”?  Honestly, it’s nobody’s business why Kim or Jennifer or me or any of my friends without kids, don’t have kids.  We shouldn’t have to provide an explanation as to why not.  It’s deeply personal.

“Why didn’t you go to university?”, “Oh you did? But why didn’t you go to Oxford?”, “Why do you live in Colwyn Bay/Manchester/Aylsbury?”, Why don’t you drive a Smartcar instead of a Beetle?”.  All questions of a similar ilk, and all of those things are personal choices with reasons that don’t concern you.  But you’re more likely to ask me about the lack of children, than the car choice. And you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, in the life of that woman without children.

The Sex and the City star went on to say that while she may not be a “biological” parent, “I am a parent”.  I genuinely hope that she actually feels like that, in which case, all power to your elbow Kim.  But I have a feeling that there’s an innate instinct most of us have to jump to our own defense, in the face of a possible “BURN THE WITCH!”, situation.

I love Kim Cattrall.  She rocks my world.  In that way you feel when you’ve discovered a high-profile, ‘one-of-your-own’, I’d like to take her out for cocktails in Barcelona and chat about life, she seems cool.  I might even invite Jennifer along.

I would like to think (hope) that I’m kind and caring, thoughtful, and full of wisdom – OK, maybe not that last one – but I don’t feel the need to package them up as maternal feelings.  Because this also suggests that mums are the only people who are capable of these positive character traits, and that in itself does an enormous disservice to a huge percentage of the world’s population.  Despite everything we see in the news, I’d like to believe that love and kindness exist in most humans.

(Except David Cameron, I KNOW it doesn’t exist in him).

So, from now on, I’m Anne.  And, if you absolutely must know about my motherlyness or not; I don’t have kids, and I’m happy. That’s it, end of conversation.

Now, be so kind as to pass me another glass of fizz and let’s talk about something else.


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