There is a blessing that some religious Jewish men recite daily, thanking God “for not making [them] a woman.” I wake and thank the Universe that I was never foolish enough to have children.
But over the past couple of decades, I have started to feel more stigmatised for not having children than I do for being a lesbian. Since lesbians began to copy the odd habits of their heterosexual counterparts, and embrace marriage and babies almost as a matter of course, I am often treated like the odd one out.
Having kids would, as far as straight people are concerned, smooth away the rough edges of my perverted sexuality. Those lesbians with their own broods can at least chat to heterosexuals about breast feeding, school, and tedious child care arrangements. When I say how positive a choice it was for me to remain child free, I see the look of pity change to defensive fury.
I am writing this in the school holidays, where right outside my door there are kids banging themselves and their footballs against my front door. I am putting up with screaming in the street and skateboarding on the pavements from morning to night. Going anywhere on the bus takes forever because of the number of Chelsea tractors that congest the roads all day, taking little Chloe and Oli to soft play.
I live in the bit of north London known as “nappy valley“, or ‘Creche End’ because it is full to bursting with young, middle-class professionals and their double buggies. Why so many twins, I once asked a posh mum? It turns out that paying for expensive IVF is one way of getting better odds on having multiple births, so they can produce their entire family in one go.
Children bore or irritate me, but I don’t blame them for being spoilt and obnoxious. As the tired cliché goes, I blame the parents. I was once banned from my local Starbucks when I politely asked a mum if she wouldn’t mind hurrying the hell up asking her brood of Jojo Maman Bebe -clad kids whether they wanted babyccini, frappochini with rusk-flavoured soya milk. I mentioned that when I was a toddler I got what I was given.
The barista, with his beard, manbun and pronoun badge, asked me to leave, telling me that Starbucks has a “child-friendly policy”. As if that was not obvious, given how many baby buggies I’d had to climb over to get anywhere near the counter.
It really is quality chutzpah to tell those of us without kids that we are somehow causing harm, disruption or inconvenience to parents by rocking up at some venue or other geared towards them. I have lost count of the times I have been asked to move from an aisle seat on an overnight flight to a middle one in order to accommodate parents with teenagers.
These days, many long-distance trains have designated “family friendly” carriages, which leaves me wondering why parents with kids need special privileges when most carriages seem to be occupied by screaming children. Would ‘child free’ carriages not be fairer, for those of us that need to work, or would like some peace and quiet?
In many ways, people are massively rewarded for having children, financially and socially. No matter how often parents pretend they are performing their social obligations by having their own biological children, it will still sound as disingenuous and hypocritical as the last time.
The crazy view that it is selfish and inconsiderate to not have our own biological children takes my breath away. I, like growing numbers of women, have made a clear and positive choice not to reproduce. The least that those who have added to the overpopulated world can do is to stop resenting those that made a far better choice.
I do not dislike children. I have no interest in them until they form their own characters and views, but I do very much dislike entitled, privileged, smug parents who are able to enjoy all the advantages of reproducing (maternity and paternity leave, boarding flights and trains before anyone else, and somehow justifying taking time off work for no good reason) that working-class, single parents are unable to do. As it approaches the end of the school summer holidays in England, I quite literally cannot wait for the kids to be safely ensconced in a classroom, rather than running up and down a train carriage, screaming at me, or popping up in a restaurant to throw tomato sauce in my direction. Parents everywhere should enjoy their children, but please do keep them away from me.