by KATE GWYNNE
This is Kate Gwynne who lives with her husband in Wales. Kate has an important role working with the elderly in the social care sector. I met Kate through my blog. It was clear she was an author in the making and felt strongly about the subject of childlessness, so I asked her if she'd like to write a piece. So glad she took me up on the offer.
Here is Kate's story…'
Often in my modest misfit of a life I have looked for a place that is ‘normal’.
A life that is ‘normal’.
Where I have everything I need to make life ‘normal’.
These days I realise there are 101 ways to live life and ofttimes we must all adapt to what is not the normal way. Having children is what most people do because it’s a natural and very normal thing to do. Expected thing to do.
Except when it isn’t. It wasn’t an option for me so, once more, I wasn’t normal. For all my life I've had to find a way to be comfortable with not fitting in with the mainstream. Because that’s how it's been for me. It's how I am. I know that there are many others who feel the same.
The idea our society imposes upon us a set way of living has been dismantled over the past 30 years or so. Painfully, slowly, and grudgingly it's being dismantled. Painful, slow and begrudging - is how I learnt to accept my own childlessness. I never wanted it to be that way and so it broke my heart.
Kate feeding the pigeons in her local area of Wales. The photos are a tad blurry simply because not everyone wants their faces blasted all over the internet like 'what I do' but we can see from the shots what a lovely human being Kate is. I've met her online and I can assure you she most certainly is. And very, very pretty.
Modern society accepts that people can live in many different ways. I believe the word ‘authentic’ is the way to be. Being gay is no longer taboo generally speaking nor is being unmarried and cohabiting. People can sport tattoos, dye their hair green, or wear whatever clothes they so choose no matter how skimpy, revealing, or ridiculous. Nobody really bats an eyelid anymore.
Some more traditional societal expectations have gone forever and increasingly people who don’t fit in with the mainstream have a community of their own. Even Government and policy makers make a point of highlighting ‘otherness’ and including people in all walks of life for the sake of diversity.
BUT one thing hasn’t changed. The side-lining of childless people. It was ever thus. Often the childless have been viewed with suspicion and curiosity. Not worthy of sympathy as perhaps it's our own fault?
‘What about adoption?’ ‘Why not try IVF?’ Like we're buying an expensive new handbag or coat. The questioning we face about our lives seems never ending. Every encounter with someone new, the question is always the same ‘Do you have children?’
I used to reply ‘no’ but that garnered further unwanted curiosity and I started to say ‘no, sadly’. That stopped further questions but seemed to warrant another person saying something like ‘It’s God’s will’. Yes, that happens. it is actually true.
'What?' I say. 'Excuse me?' Only God believers could say such a thing. I replied to one lady ‘Err - no. It was the menopause at age 26 that did it!’
I wasn’t particularly bothered by her comment but found it strange. At least if someone said to me ‘It’s Mother nature’s way’ I may have believed it because Mother Nature exists. Either way, it’s not a question I have ever asked anyone myself because I know how sensitive a subject it can be. Also, it’s not really any of my business, to be honest. You will soon know if someone has kids because it’s often the first thing they mention when they meet you.
Me and her being unusually coy behind an old ash tree in Chambers Woods, Lincolnshire.
In my job I notice the lack of inclusion of some of the elderly folk I care for when they are childless. I guess they never thought they’d be sat there trying to play bingo or staring at the TV screen watching daytime TV. They don’t understand anyway - without a soul in the world to visit them.
Some do have visitors because they have children. The residents have advanced dementia and mental health concerns, you see, so they aren’t ‘normal’ in that way either. The ethos is to treat them as ‘normal’ but they don’t respond well sometimes because they don’t get it.
There was a staff member called Sarah (not her real name) who was trying to get Edith (not her real name either) to cuddle a specialist dementia doll for comfort. She wasn’t very comforted by it. I asked Sarah whether Edith had children and she said she didn’t know. I explained that what she was asking her to do could be really painful for her if she doesn’t have children. Or maybe she did, and she lost them. She didn’t think of that and took the doll back because it wasn’t working anyway. What Edith wanted was a hand to hold with no expectation of having interaction with someone. So, I went over and sat with Edith and held her hand. She soon settled. Again I thought, how abnormal Edith’s situation was and she'd never imagined herself being thus when she was a young lady. Although with hindsight perhaps many elders - living with advanced dementia - it is the new normal. It was totally abnormal up to about 30 years ago. I suppose what I’m trying to say is I don’t really know what normal is and there was no normal for me to find or get back to. Someone said to me once I shouldn’t worry about how upset I was at being childless because ‘things will get back to normal soon’. How little they knew. I didn’t know either. I do now.
The upshot of my ramblings is above all else, in relation to what we do or don’t have in this life and whether that be material, spiritual or otherwise, one circumstance seems to remain strangely taboo.
The taboo is childlessness. Whatever age, whatever the circumstances which led to the inability to procreate, people find it uncomfortable, unwanted and reject it.
If you are the childless person you will always be subject to other peoples' questioning and curiosity. Or just plain nosiness. The only solution to this is to become comfortable about who you are and your ability to respond to others in a way which doesn’t cause you more pain. Whether they get it or not.
Well, who cares? I don’t anymore. What a relief that is. I am happy to be abnormally normal. Or normally abnormal. I just think it’s about time Government and policy makers pay more attention to the childless.
We aren’t represented in any way at all but that’s a whole other article.
I hope Kate doesn't mind me using a photo of Lilley to finish her wonderful piece. She is the binder for me and my life. She's all I've got so I felt totally engrossed in Kate's terrific piece.
Thank you Kate Gwynne. Please write again for us....