Monica Pedersen voices her support for women without children
By MONICA PEDERSEN July 16, 2013 6:24PM
Monica Pedersen and husband Erik at her recent baby shower
Updated: July 16, 2013 6:26PM
Several days ago, I was sitting on my sofa, only one week away from my due date, checking off the remaining items on my summer to-do list:
1) Take care of some seriously deferred maintenance in my front yard.
2) Get my nursery ready for the arrival of my first child.
But I realized there was one more important thing left to do before I gave birth. I had to give a big shout-out to a group that I’ve long had the privilege to be a part of: Women without children. It has been the generosity and kindness that others have shown me during my own pregnancy that got me thinking about these women.
Being married for 15 years without children, I know firsthand how this group (and men without children too) suffers quietly because of some of the insensitive things said to them. And now that I’ve been on both sides of the equation, I know that the way you’re treated when you don’t have children is very different than the way you’re treated when you are pregnant. Although many of these comments are made without malice, I hope to do my part to encourage people to mind their manners when it comes to asking women — and men — about their personal choices regarding having kids.
I’ve received my fair share of hurtful comments over the course of my marriage. People would aggressively say things like, “No kids? How come? What are you waiting for?” I’d often reply with a smile, say that I was waiting for the stork to drop one off, then try to change the subject. If the questioning became more intense (which it often did) and I was feeling a bit grumpy, I would resort to saying, “Nope, no children by choice” — a response taught to me by a very good friend who was also married for many years before having kids.
Of course, neither of these responses was true. The truth (for me and many women like me) was that I initially had reservations about having children. And once I did decide to have them, the road to getting pregnant took longer than expected. So while I can only speak for myself, I believe that unless you are a very close friend or family member, a woman’s fertility and childbearing schedule remains her business. Reliving a difficult experience or explaining a very personal choice to casual acquaintances and strangers may not be something women want to do. Here’s a simple guideline: It’s OK to ask someone if they have children, but asking them why they don’t, or what’s taking them so long, is impolite.
Another comment I’ve heard constantly over the years is, “You don’t know what love is until you have a child.” To this, I’d usually respond with a nod and say, “I am sure.” But behind the smile, I was always thinking, “Yes, I don’t what it’s like to love a child, because my little one hasn’t arrived yet. But to suggest someone doesn’t ‘know what love is’ until they have one is obnoxious and condescending.” Some of the most generous, loving and selfless women I know are my fabulous friends without children. Bottom line: Sharing your enthusiasm for the love of your child is a wonderful thing. Just try not to insult others in the process.
Then there is an attorney my husband Erik and I know who feels the need to constantly challenge the sincerity and stability of our marriage because we’ve been married for many years without children. Sadly, there are many people who are more comfortable creating hurtful gossip than accepting that there are happily married people, together because they love each other and not just “for the children.”
So, I ask all of the single men and women out there who haven’t met the right person to start a family with, and the married couples who have chosen not to have children or are unable to have their own: Please pass this article on to one another, and know that even though I’m thrilled to be embarking on my own journey of parenthood, I will always have your back.
Congrats to Monica and Erik, who welcomed baby Holly July 15.