Sorry, being childless doesn’t mean I am your de facto babysitter

By Nina Steele 

A relative of ours with children is puzzled by the fact that we as a couple are not constantly knocking on her door asking if we can have her children over. She and her husband had assumed that because we wanted children and ended up not having any, we might be craving the presence of children in our life. I remember her reminding us whenever the occasion presented itself, that we were welcome to have the children over to our place whenever we wanted to and although I did appreciate her offer, I also had the sneaky feeling that it wasn’t entirely altruistic.

Indeed one thing I had noticed in the early days when we made the decision to stop trying to have children, was that people not only believed that they were doing us a favour by suggesting that we had their children over, but they were also hoping to have some much needed break! This is a recurring theme for many people without children, i.e. family members and friends seeing you as a potential babysitter.

It became quickly obvious to anyone who had hoped to use us as their de facto babysitters that it wasn’t going to happen. Of course we love the children of our friends and family, but we equally love the freedom that comes with not having children of our own. Funny how some of them did not realise that if we wanted children that badly, we may have ended up adopting. That we chose not to adopt, was an obvious sign, at least to us, that we were over the whole having children episode and had now moved on with our life.

People like to make assumptions about other people, particularly if it plays in their favour. I remember a childless woman I spoke to a few months ago, mentioning how she regularly babysits for her bother’s children, although in her case, she relishes those moments. She finds it therapeutic, as it helps her heal the pain that she still carries for not having children of her own.

I suppose, the assumption that those who wanted but were unable to have children may be desperate to have children in their lives, is part of the overhaul stigma that is often attached to childlessness and which makes it difficult for many people to decide when to stop trying. If you have been made to believe that your life will be empty without children, then you don’t want to stop trying until you have children of your own. However, if you read about people who tried and failed, yet went on to have fulfilled and happy lives, then deciding to stop trying becomes easier. It is all about balance and unfortunately childlessness still suffers from an image problem, not entirely the fault of the media, I must hasten to add, but due in great part to the attitude of many childless people themselves.

I mentioned on the forum the other day that there was a heated debate on social media a few weeks ago about whether people who have decided to stop trying to have children should still be part of the infertility community. The person who started the debate was adamant that such people no longer belonged to that community while others begged to differ. He (the person who started the debate) argued that the community should only be about trying to have children and nothing else! I mean honestly!

Not only do attitudes like this serve to increase the stigma attached to childlessness, but the image that it portrays is that of a desperate community and there is nothing uglier than desperation, unless of course it is a matter of life and death, which it isn’t! No wonder then that many people still assume that every childless by circumstance person is desperate for children, when the reality could not be further from the truth!

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