Polly Vernon on Parenting: Part 1

June 08, 2014

Polly Vernon on Parenting: Part 1

I am not a parent. I’d say I’m not a parent by choice, because my child-lite status certainly comes as a consequence of my purposefully and studiously and deliberately not having kids at, like, any point in my life… Except that it has never felt like a choice, so much as the only reasonable option on the table. I was very young when I first realised that babies were not my style. Eight, or thereabouts. A neighbour had popped round to show off her new-born, and she’d asked me – quite as if she was offering me sweets or a load of cash – if I’d like to hold her child. I said: ‘No’. I thought: why on earth would that be a nice thing for me to do? I’m sure you’re fond of that needy-smelly-fragile-wriggly-disproportionately-loud item which carries your genes and gives you a sense of greater purpose - maybe even of immortality? - but that is very much your issue. Don’t go trying to palm it off on me for a few minutes, like that’s a treat. Treats do not threaten to puke undigested breast-milk onto my Clockhouse at C&A ra-ra dress. Treats most certainly do not need their heads supported. But even at eight, I had some notion this would be inappropriate; a touch harsh, even. Instead I stuck with my firm, non-negotiable: ‘No’, then left the area prompt-ish.

From that moment, my conviction that motherhood was neither my vibe nor my destiny solidified, and then evolved through a series of phases which shifted in colour and texture, while maintaining the same essence, which is to say: Dear God, no! Never that! Phase one involved my recurring and instinctive suspicion of babies, as illustrated above. Phase two – which coincided with sex education sessions at school - was a visceral shudder regarding the undeniable ickyness of pregnancy and birth. Phase three was stubborn fury on discovering, in my teens, that absolutely no one believed me when I said I wasn’t going to procreate. Phase four was the acquiring and disseminating of intellectual rationales for what was, actually, an instinct, and they went: Why on earth would I do that to my body, finances, career, relationship? Phase five was the one during which most of my contemporaries started having babies and I did not, despite being told that this would be the precise point at which I caved in and got with the mother program. Phase six is now, when I’m delighted to find myself childless[1], if somewhat disturbed by those people who ask me who’s going to look after me when I’m old, quite as if the principle reason for anyone to have kids, is it’ll save on nursing home costs in the long run.

Read part 2 of Polly's blog here

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[1] Some people object to the word ‘childless’ on the grounds that it’s stigmatizing, they prefer ‘childfree’. I say: not having kids is so obviously a legitimate way to proceed, there’s no stigma ‘childlessness’.

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