It seems timely to talk about pronatalism with what’s been happening with Dominic Cummings and his Epic journey from London to Durham for ‘childcare’. I’m not going to get political on this, but Boris’ defence of him as a ‘parent’ was pretty awful and a kicker for those of us that have been sticking to the rules like glue, regardless of whether we’re parents or not…and then on top of that I got a similar missive from my own MP, with the charming words ‘…As a father, I fully understand the desire to do the right thing for your children…’. Hang on there fella, I didn’t mention anything about parenthood, I asked why it was that I had been unable to see my vulnerable parents since February, and yet here’s this bloke driving a 60 mile round trip to test his eyes…
And that’s what I want to talk about this week, pronatalism. Jodie Day talks about this phenomenon a lot and not without reason. There’s a real issue with how we, as people without children, seem to come after parents. Whether it’s the example I saw in a forum about a man being left homeless because he doesn’t get prioritised as a single male, or whether it’s the lack of acknowledgement of childless people later in life when we need support in our dotage…it doesn’t matter, we simply seem to come at the bottom of a long list of priorities. Is it any wonder we never feel as though we’re equals?
I talked last week about the child free and the childless, and how it feels as though we don’t have an equal footing with the people without children, but when we measure against parents, is it any wonder we feel we don’t measure up? And let’s be clear, this isn’t bitterness, jealousy or envy, this is a very real, tangible sense of just never being on the same footing. Whether that’s political, socio-economic or even just day to day, we just don’t get a look in.
So, when it comes to pronatalism, it really can’t be any wonder why we feel sensitive when it comes to a sense that some – not all, parents can flaunt this in our face. Whether it’s the comments along the lines of ‘I never knew love until…’, ‘I didn’t know fulfilment until I was a parent’ or ‘as a parent/dad/mum…’., it all just bloody hurts.
It’s not that I would ever want to make anyone feel like shit, because they’ve been able to have children, but it’s very hard not to feel angry. Perhaps it’s my feeling that every child, no matter what age, represents a success for someone else, which means as a flip side, my inability is a failure. and that’s no parents’ fault, that my baggage.
But let’s make no bones about it, there are marked differences in how parents behave towards those of us that don’t have children. I’ve had differing experiences of parents, from those that are very open about how hard parenting is, to those that are so positive that they can’t understand why we’re not parents…and some of that is social pressures and expectations.
But, and this is a huge but, there is a responsibility on individuals to understand why those comments land badly on those of us that haven’t been able to be parents. There’s a world of difference between the child free, that have been able to choose not to have children, to those of us that are childless.
For those of that have been able to choose, if anyone says these sort of things to them, they can resort to righteous indignation. But we can’t. The emotions around our inability to be part of that exclusive club, means our grief, our shame, our trauma, can trigger at these statements.
A trigger means that we’re unable to mark our emotions and pretend we’re ok, when we’re really fucking not. It only takes me to be in the presence of children or parents to realise, I’m really not ok with not having children, and the fear and panic I feel when I’m around this situation is heightened further when these statements are made.
And I’m not alone in that, I see it often from friends from this community and forums. But, for me the worst part has been that we’re invisible and we’re not allowed to react when something has triggered us. And so we’re reduced to private groups, talking to other people from this community and swallowing down our emotions. I mean heaven forbid we should react with anything less than a rictus grin to that parent waxing lyrical about what it means to be a parent.
Parents won’t probably be aware of this, call it parental privilege, by they’re supported by society as a whole, not just other families from the parenting community. Pronatalism in all its pomp! There simply isn’t space or any consideration of anything outside the norm of 2.4 children, which means there isn’t room for our emotions or our reactions.
It’s shit, it’s unacceptable and it boils my piss, which is why I feel there is no option but for me to speak up. Be that a blog, a podcast, or me voicing an opinion when I need to, I’ll do it. I’ve not always wanted to, nor have I had the gumption to, but the more injustice I see and the more bullshit I’ve had to deal with, the angrier I get at this apparent injustice.
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