#WorldChildlessWeek Day 4 WORDS THAT HURT
20% of our female population over age 45 worldwide does not parent.
As many as 90% of the world’s child free population has been found to be child free NOT by choice.
One in eight couples of childbearing age seek medical treatment for infertility.
AND YET, The following responses to infertility and childlessness are still considered appropriate:
“It just wasn’t meant to be”
“At least you can travel now”
“Maybe God doesn’t want you to be a mother”
“You can ALWAYS foster or adopt” (so NOT true)
And each of these has at least a few equally painful variations. “I know how you feel” coming from someone with living children is one that particularly hurts me.
IT’S NO WONDER BRENEE BROWN’S RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT CHILDLESSNESS AND INFERTILITY ARE SOME OF THE “TOP ISSUES AROUND EMPATHIC FAILURE” (Thanks Jody Day for the brilliantly asked question!).
WHAT WE REALLY NEED ARE NON JUDGMENTAL LISTENING EARS, ACCEPTANCE AND EMPATHY.
Try these instead. They acknowledge instead of dismiss:
“I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that”
“That’s a lot to go through. How are you doing now?”
“I’m sorry for your loss(es)”
“You must be so strong”
If someone answers a plain “NO” to the 95% of the time unnecessary “Do you have kids?” question, a simple shift in or redirection of conversation topic does just fine.
Instead, we’re left to weather the typical bullets of: You’re so lucky, Well you wouldn’t understand then, What do you do with all your free time?, Why not? When are you having them?, Are they coming soon?, Do you want to take mine?, What’s the matter, you don’t like kids?, Oh, so you’re living the life then!, But children mean everything, You can’t NOT be a mother!!, Well one day when you have them….,
And not to leave out my all time favorite, the blank stare followed by a swift turning of the back.
All of the above and more can make the world feel like a very hostile place for those of us living with involuntary childlessness. These examples of minimizing treatment are one major factor that causes us to disconnect and isolate in order to protect ourselves so we can heal and so that we don’t become even more depleted than we already are. Ironically though, community and supportive contact with fellow humans are an essential component to the mourning and healing process. So we’re often left right between a rock and a hard place.
PEOPLE NEED TO DO MUCH BETTER, AND I KNOW THEY CAN.
The latest gem of condescension I got very recently from someone who asked if we had kids to which my husband and I responded “No”: “Children add dimension to your life”.
Layer this response over many other human experiences and it is diminishing and exclusionary if not abusive.
“Do you have a husband?”
“Having a husband adds DIMENSION to your life”
Or take other bodily circumstances that, like infertility, are out of our biological control. What if it were considered socially acceptable to tell members of the LGBTQ community that heterosexuality adds DIMENSION to your life, or that being one gender only adds DIMENSION to your life, or what if it were socially acceptable to tell someone with cancer that a good clean bill of health adds DIMENSION to your life? What kind of a world would we be fashioning?