A Peculiar Encounter
Recently, I had a rather strange conversation with a woman that left me pondering our society’s divide between parents and the childless. During our chat about books and life, I mentioned my desire to make new friends in my neighborhood. However, upon learning that I didn’t have children, she abruptly concluded that a friendship between us wouldn’t work. This encounter left me perplexed. I hadn’t expressed any interest in befriending her children; I simply wanted to connect with her. Why should my lack of parenthood be a barrier?
Divisions Beyond Material Wealth
The chasm between those with children and those without extends beyond material wealth. While it’s true that some childless individuals have an aversion to kids, it doesn’t apply to everyone. So, who is responsible for creating and perpetuating this divide? Do parents avoid childless people? Do childless individuals avoid parents? These questions beg further exploration.
The Real Pressure to Conform
As a cisgender woman, I understand the immense societal pressure to have children. It’s an all-encompassing expectation that arises in almost every encounter. The assumption is not “if” but “when” you will have kids. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for those of us who genuinely do not desire parenthood, for personal reasons.
Olive’s Controversial Journey
Opinions on Emma Gannon’s novel, Olive, are mixed. Some readers find Olive, the childless protagonist, to be self-centered and selfish. They believe that she disregards the struggles of her friends who are either in the process of having children or actively trying. However, I find myself sympathizing with Olive. When she ends her long-term relationship because her partner wants kids and she doesn’t, her friends show a surprising lack of empathy. It seems that if the issue doesn’t involve children, it simply doesn’t matter. Despite Olive’s imperfections, I relate to her feeling like an outsider because of her decision not to have children.
The Necessity of Books like Olive
Books like Olive play a vital role in society. They enable us to have difficult conversations and encourage us to view the world through different perspectives. Moreover, they validate our own experiences. Although I couldn’t relate to every aspect of Olive’s story, I connected with many parts of it.
Challenging Societal Expectations
For cisgender women who don’t want children or are uncertain about it, society provides no safe space to exist and be accepted. Instead, we face unfair assumptions: that we’re selfish, child-hating individuals, damaged goods, or fundamentally flawed. However, when I engage in conversations with other childless individuals, I discover that their decision not to have kids stems from deep contemplation. None of them reject parenthood due to selfishness or a disdain for children. In fact, they are some of the most compassionate and caring individuals I know. They approach the idea of raising children with great seriousness and wouldn’t rush into a life-altering decision. I count myself among this group.
Dealing with Unwanted Intrusions
Evading conversations about having kids has become second nature to me. However, it remains disheartening when people pry into my personal life and reproductive choices as if it were an interactive science exhibit. My hope is that women, regardless of whether they have children or not, can find themselves reflected in Gannon’s characters. Furthermore, I urge everyone to embrace and accept women for who they are, with or without children.
Do you believe there is a divide between parents and the childless? Which side do you find yourself on? How would you like to reshape the narrative surrounding women and their decision to have children? As always, let’s keep the conversation going and share the love for reading.