Sunday, May 11, 2008

not so deliberately barren

While I take the shortest of moments to silently congratulate my friends on their attainment of motherhood and a much longer one to talk to my own mum, across the sea, cloaked in the early stages of Alzheimer’s (she know who I am and I hope she will spend her remaining years on this planet being cognisant of those who love her) - I’d like to put it on record that I hate Mothers Day.

Ok, poke a stick at me and call it envy. Actually it is not; rather it is my annual day of mourning. In this post-falling-of-the-Twin-Towers world with the resurgence of family values, crafting and apple pie I’ve been left a little stranded. Like Tracee Hutchison, I missed that boat bearing the fruits of my fecundity. While I’m equally annoyed that some of us are invisible to the politicians, I don’t begrudge provision of greater maternity leave and childcare, I may not be a parent but I am still a feminist. But please if you are the proud friend of a late-30s or early-40-something female without children could you just take a minute and read her piece about being on the receiving end of careless questions and comments. They must be universal because I have had them all and too often from people who mean well but should know better. The “just go out and get knocked up by a stranger” line got a beating throughout my 30’s reaching a frenzied peak as the end of that decade came into sight. My gorgeous GP at the time crowned the notion with the nifty moniker “sperm bandits”. No, neither of us saw wilfully stealing someone’s DNA as an ethical thing to do. But oddly people who wouldn’t (these days at least, now they are trying to install values into their own offspring) lift an item off the shelf and slip it into their bag without paying would suggest a much more elaborate form of theft. The ‘hopeful’ stories of ridiculously old women bearing children, dropped like crumbs as if I was a starving creature, leave me bewildered and overwhelmingly tired. The patronising assumption that I had never wanted children (untrue), pity or even exclusion from certain child-centric events continues, even now.

Though my mother has been gracious about her lack of grandchildren it is very, very difficult to witness someone else’s parent sharing her sorrow on the subject. How much understanding or compassion would it take to consider that perhaps having 2 grown children, even if they haven’t produced offspring, may be better than the alternative? It can be very tough when something so personal and private becomes public property, with a bundle of assumptions and expectations.

I don’t mind when a good friend asks gently over a bottle of wine how I feel about the kid thing, respectfully acknowledging the status quo without presumptions, as one did recently. We all have our journeys of grief and pretending they they don’t exist is worse than never going there.

So while I’ll send up a cheer almost any day agreeing that maternity is a wonderful thing and every mother I have ever met has done or is doing a fabulous job, especially for enduring those endless hours of domestic, mind numbing drudgery – I’ll just try and avoid the cafes and restaurants today. Even the galleries and movie theatres and other such public spaces where families tend to gather. After all it is just one day, I have my garden and for once the Not Boyfriend is in Melbourne today, so I don’t feel quite so alone.

But I’m not trying to garner pity. I've had a quiet coffee on the deck listening to birdsong already this morning, there is a warm body waiting in bed for an undisturbed cuddle and have no demands on my time til tomorrow. Life really isn’t that tragic.