"You'll change your mind when you meet the right person." Words I have heard on more than one occasion over the past 25 years. Well-intentioned, perhaps, but wholly wrong. I'm now 38 years old, fortunate enough to have met the 'right' person and guess what? I still don't want children. The reason is pretty simple - being a mother would make me deeply unhappy.
I realise this is anathema to most people's thinking, sacrilege even. After all, it's 'the most natural thing in the world' to want to have a baby, or so I'm told. I'll accept this appears to be true for the majority of people but what if you're not in the majority? I've never been broody, nor can I hear any ticking sounds - I guess someone forgot to put the batteries in my clock when I was born.
The thing is, I am happy to be a child-free woman. I am comfortable with it but for reasons that remain unknown to me, others are not. They feel the need to try and convince me that I've simply made a mistake and want to save me from the error of my ways. Whenever the subject of children comes up, if you share that it's not something on your list of things to do, there are a few common responses you can almost guarantee you'll be met with:
Them: "You're still young enough to change your mind. I know a woman who didn't have her first child until her mid-forties."
Me: Erm, okay. That's great for her. But what does this have to do with me? And why does my mind need to be changed; I'm pretty happy with the way it is, thank you?!
Them: "Your poor mother. It must upset her to know she'll never have grandchildren."
Me: Indeed, it does. Happily, she is a better mother than I could ever be and she loves me anyway. But, just to be clear, are you saying I should have children just to make my own mother happy?
Them: "Your life isn't complete until you've had children."
Me: Um, yours may not be but that doesn't mean mine isn't. Last time I checked, I had everything I needed, most of what I wanted and nothing that was missing. I don't need other people - big or small - to 'complete' me; I am whole as I am.
Them: "But who will look after you when you're old?"
Me: Are you serious? Oh, you are? Well then, the answer is ... I will. Yes, I will probably get sick and may end up in a position requiring help from others. But even so - having a child with even a hint of that being part of the end game...? No thanks.
Them: "But you're a woman. The whole purpose of being a woman is to become a mother."
Me: So I'm not fulling my purpose if I'm not a mother? Words. Fail. Me.
The best part of all these comments and the dozens of others like them? They are almost exclusively made by other women. In a world where women continue to be persecuted and treated as 'less-than', who have to fight for education, to be allowed to work and entitled to vote, this never fails to shock me. We are not as tolerant or as open-minded in our 'progressive' society as we would have ourselves believe.
I have never felt inferior or judged in any way because of my gender in the workplace. Yet I have, on more than one occasion, felt judged during social conversation because I have chosen not to have children. That I have somehow 'failed' in my duties because I do not feel compelled to do what others deem to be 'natural'. I find it all rather odd and not a little depressing.
Because here's the thing. It doesn't seem to matter what the right thing for me is. It just never enters the equation. My life is whole and I am happy with it as it is, I don't want it to change. What I do want is for it to be socially acceptable to be like me. To be recognised for my aspirations and accomplishments beyond my ability to reproduce. For it to be acknowledged that my ovaries are not synonymous with purpose or fulfilment.
I am more than my gender and who I am is greater than the sum of my body parts. I do not detract or in any way dismiss the work, dedication or reward others find in motherhood. I only ask that those same others respect that it is not right for me. Being a mum... it just could never make me happy.
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