When you think of a minority group, who do you think of? Those who are discriminated against because of their ethnicity, disability, religion or sexual orientation?
So not me, then: a straight, white, working-class, able-bodied woman?
If you see me walking down the street, dressed up to the nines to meet my friends for a night out, or on my way to work, you'd be forgiven for assuming I was the epitome of Western privilege, and in many ways I am: educated; employed; financially independent; a homeowner, albeit mortgaged - although otherwise debt-free.
Yet despite appearances, I am part of a minority group. Allow me to explain....
84% of the population reproduce
87% of women become mothers
1 in 8 couples have infertility issues
1/3 of those cases are male factor, 1/3 female, 1/3 unexplained
11% of women have fertility issues
Fewer than 3% of those require IVF
IVF has around a 25% success rate each cycle, meaning 75% of all IVF cycles fail
I had three failed IVF cycles
That puts me in the less than 1% of the general population who remain infertile and childless as a result of failed IVF.
So let me ask that again. Do you still think I'm not part of a minority, discriminated against accordingly?
Before you get the violins out to play the soundtrack to the world's worst-attended pity party, the reason for this article is simply to raise awareness for the upcoming World Childless Week. Society is geared towards family life, since that is the accepted norm: the average British woman has 1.9 children. Those who do not fit this accepted status are often viewed with suspicion: seen as less nurturing and caring, more narcissistic. Selfish.
Sociologist Louis Wirth defined a minority group as: "a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination."
I regularly experience discrimination, prejudice, lack of empathy and understanding, a "them and us" attitude from many parents, and general social ostracisation. This is despite the fact that, like many of those belonging to minorities, I attempted to conform. I longed to be Mrs Average; to fit in. I tried my hardest to join the eight in 10 women who are mothers. I wanted to chat about buggy brands and breastfeeding with my besties, not sit squirming on the sidelines whilst everyone discusses potty training, or how to get their offspring to eat vegetables.
People are attracted to those they have something in common with, so it stands to reason that parents seek out other parents - not least for validation and reassurance. Attempts by childless women to contribute to conversations about child-rearing are generally met with dismissal and disdain (it's understandable - what would I know about the reality of sleepless nights and toddler tantrums?). It's inevitable that even the strongest and longest of friendships are altered forever when one party becomes a parent.
Later, the conversation shifts to schools, exam results, puberty and boyfriends. Their children are becoming adults. The next stage in this lifelong test will be my friends becoming proud grandparents, and the entire cycle of social exclusion will start again.
Of course, I'm fully aware that compared to those from other minorities, I could be considered one of the lucky ones. My minority group membership is invisible (initially at least, until I get asked those dreaded questions: "so, how old are yours then? Boys or girls?"). I won't get called a "freak" or have racial abuse hurled at me in the street. But on the flip side, nor will I receive any concessions or allowances based on the fact I'm from a minority group, since it's not obvious that I'm part of one. Contrary to appearances, I DO know how it feels to be excluded; to be eyed with suspicion, curiosity or disapproval; to be made to feel "less than." We are not as different as you might think.
So next time you see me in the street, remember: there's always more to any situation than meets the eye - even for a privileged white, middle-aged woman like me...
Are you a Non-Mum like myself? Would you like to join like-minded women to discuss everything Non-Mum-related? Join my club, The Non-Mum Network here. You can find other related articles, along with many other topics, over on my blog Life: A Bird's Eye View.