Rachel Lloyd is a British journalist who has ridden the well-known roller-coaster concerning children:
Two years ago, when I turned 40, I felt a surge of relief. My exhausting thirties were over. That agonising decade with the relentless tick of the biological clock ... was finally behind me.
At 35, if you are single and childless, there is an assumption that, while you may have been wasting time thus far, you might still manage to find a husband and have a baby. But at 40, the fertility window closes in and if the clock hasn't quite struck midnight, it's likely to be very nearly there.
At 40, I was finally able to acknowledge that I wasn’t ever going to be a mother. I cried, I laughed, I talked it through with friends. The life script I’d always taken for granted – that I’d have a family (along with a semi-detached house and large dog) was no longer relevant – through circumstance, rather than choice.
Once I’d begun to make peace with this idea, I felt I could start moving forwards. And I discovered I was far from alone. There were plenty of us so-called ‘NoMos’ (Not Mothers) out there.
So far, completely normal, given that men are less likely to commit, intimacy doesn't correlate to child-bearing, and that many women are happy to postpone the question of physical motherhood until much later than a century ago. But it's the next few comments that reveal the reason why most women miss the boat completely on the gift they've been given to share with the world.
Noting that she had no purpose without a family, that she felt herself to be on the outside of respectability (something that doesn't happen to childless men) and that there was a sense of grief not to have children of her own, she discovered the positive side of "failing to breed," and has a new mission:
After the grief, I started to feel anger at the prejudice experienced by childless women. This also helped dissolve my shame.
Today, I am proud to call myself a childless woman – and a spinster at that. I have learnt to embrace my experiences and make the very best of things. I look at the positives: namely freedom and choice.
So I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and start speaking up for myself and my peers. Hopefully, as more childfree women find their voice we will start to reverse the prejudice. So here’s to a new dawn for NoMos – and if you’re one, then welcome aboard.
I would suggest that the "prejudice" that she senses is not a flaw in our culture that needs to be eradicated, but a nod to the most natural of phenomena: that women are created to love and nurture others. Her own ambivalence -- wanting to find a wonderful man and to create a family -- was not a social construct put in place to levy guilt over those who don't have children, but a result of the a well-inclined heart that was thwarted in the one practical dimension most people understood.
What is missing from the secular world's equation -- babies or bust -- is the understanding of spiritual motherhood. Her generosity of spirit, all of her inclination to love would indeed have fulfilled her, and was still available -- and could still be offered to others, because when a woman gives a gift of herself, it's a maternal gift. Women's love, properly understood, is mother love.
Instead of heaving a sigh of relief after the child-bearing years have passed, a woman should recognise at that point that all she has is spiritual motherhood. Whether a biological mother, an adoptive mother, or childless, a woman will find that extending herself to the persons around her -- children, neices and nephews, students, co-workers, neighbours, or friends -- will reap marvelous rewards if the love is truly free (not coerced).
The world is suffocating for lack of spiritual motherhood, and so many women are available to offer it. Instead of rallying behind one more slogan -- "childless and happy!" -- women should consider why they had the angst in the first place, and consider whether or not they have the maturity for spiritual motherhood. It's challenging, it's selfless, and it needs to be offered with no strings attached -- strictly for the good of the other. And in giving it, they will receive. In the gift they will find their best selves. And in embracing that vocation, there is no agonising over "failure," for every effort is a success.