Sometimes saying no is the only option

By Nina Steele 

Learning to say noA childless woman got in touch with me a few months ago. She had a compelling story to tell. Some of her articles had been published on various online platforms. We agreed that I would publish one of her articles. I sent her the version I intended to publish, with a few amendments. She replied with her own version. She didn’t like the one I sent. I didn’t mind that she didn’t like my updated version, it is the way she said it that put me off altogether.

In the end, I chose not to publish the article. I was disappointed because it was a good piece, but the whole episode left me feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes, walking away is the best option, no matter how interesting a project.

Although these occurrences are few and far between, I have had to say no to some other work before for various reasons. These moments can be highly unpleasant because they usually also mean an end to that relationship.

Having said that, there are decisions I made early on that I will not make today. One in particular springs to mind. It was an article I was sent not long after the website was launched. In it, the person talked about not liking children. I didn’t feel comfortable with it at the time, because I was worried it would upset a few people. So I chose not to publish it.

Well today, I will happily publish it. Now that the website is well established as one that promotes everything childfree, it will fit in perfectly. In those early days, I didn’t want to put off a section of the childless community. Those people who were still grieving. As time went by however, it became imperative to define without ambiguity what was all about. Yes it is a website for anyone who does not have children. But above all, it is a website for the childfree, whether by choice or circumstance.

I had a chat with a BBC journalist recently. We are working on a podcast about being childfree to be broadcast in early November. She came to me because she was looking for the perspective of someone who once wanted children but has now moved on and is happily childfree. The other participant is another woman who is childfree by choice. I told her about how I went from saying no to the article about someone not liking children, to now welcoming those articles. I wanted her to understand how far I have come in my journey, and how comfortable I am today about promoting everything childfree.

Talking of speaking to journalists, sometimes you have to say no to them too. Not all opportunities are good. When people come to me looking to reinforce the image of the bitter and miserable childless woman (it is never men!), I say no. It doesn’t matter how prestigious the platform is. If I don’t feel comfortable with their plans, I won’t get involved. I have lost a few contacts because of that, but at least those people now know where I stand.

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