Updated on December 6th, 2022
No kids, no pets, no houseplants
Las Vegas, July 2011
For many years this has been my mantra for avoiding responsibility & only made real sense to me when I was on a work session a few years ago to find our “Essence”. Mine turned out to be FREEDOM which suddenly seemed to make all my big decisions make sense.
I remember clearly the moment I realised being a mother wasn’t for me. Looking back, I always knew Terry (my husband) wasn’t keen and now I wonder if this was due to a fear of passing on whatever the issues were that led to me losing him at such a young age (53). The interesting thing was that kids were always drawn to Terry in the same way cats search out people with an allergy. Despite his clear awkwardness, he was actually great with children once he relaxed, maybe it was because he never lost touch of being a child himself. There was a stage when I thought I wanted children but I realise now that this was probably due to the pressure of society & the concept of my “ticking clock” as opposed to anything that fitted with me as a person.
We have a beautiful lake in a park in St Albans & as anywhere on a Sunday, when the weather is good it draws everyone in the local area to enjoy the lovely surroundings. Terry & I went for a walk there one Sunday & it was packed. We walked around the lake holding hands & I couldn’t help but notice the chaos around us. Parents were shouting and running after their kids, bikes & scooters with prams & pushchairs on every path. I recognise for many that being a mother or father is what makes you complete. That day I turned to Terry & said: “This isn’t my life!”. From that moment on we focused on ourselves, with the mantra “No kids, no pets, no houseplants!”
This does mean I have had to suffer many a question over the years around whether I have children but this has taken on a whole new meaning since I lost Terry. It seems a very simple factual question, requiring a very simple factual answer, no right or wrong. Except I think there is a right answer, and it’s not mine.
Over the last year, I have noticed a few times, it seems to be the question that I get from other women who are unfortunate enough to also have lost their husbands. After the obligatory “I’m so sorry to hear your news, how are you doing? How long has it been?” Etc, comes to the question “Do you have kids?”. I now think the correct answer to this is “Yes” & I assume this spawns a whole new conversation “How old are they? How are they doing? They must be such a comfort to you”.
In my experience as I answer with “No”, the conversation stops abruptly & slightly awkwardly with the other person staring into the distance, working out what to say next. I’m also never sure whether I have to explain why I don’t have kids (I know this is not unique to me & no doubt felt by any women my age without children)? Is it anyone’s business? So far I have just stayed quiet – confused as to why this is a thing. In my silence, however, my brain works overtime wondering if they are thinking that it’s positive as no child has lost their father. Or, is it the terrible pity that comes with the realisation that I am truly going through this on my own? Strangely though, despite everything that has happened I have never regretted the decision we made all those years ago.
For Terry & me, even pets were out of the question. I remember raising it once in a thinking out loud moment – “Shall we get a kitten?” Terry looked at me in the way he would if I had suggested murdering a family member or going to France on holiday – like I was a madwoman. Why would we want to do that? The whole point of us was freedom after all (no offence to France it was just not Terry’s cup of tea!). And that is still the case although a few people have suggested a pet may be a good thing. I recognise that it could help with the desperate loneliness I do feel at times, however, I need my freedom now more than ever.
I have however allowed plants into my life – presents from people who clearly think I am capable of looking after something. So far they have defied the odds of all those plants that have gone before them & are still with us. I’m enjoying taking care of them, worry when I go away but it doesn’t mean I’m taking this responsibility thing any further. My essence remains Freedom but, unfortunately at the moment, I wish I didn’t have quite so much of it.