One day last week, the man became a grandfather. That does not, I feel I have to stress, mean that I became a grandmother.
Why should I have to stress that?
When I was young, quite young, definitely much younger than now, I did not, as many girls and women do, assume I would be a mother. It didn’t appeal to me. At all. I felt nothing of that ‘maternal instinct’.
Later, much, much later, I met the man, who already had two almost grown sons, and after much talking and discussing we thought we might like to have a child of our own. His sons, in particular the one who has just become a father now, did not approve. But it wasn’t their decision.
In the end, it didn’t happen. We didn’t pursue some of the more intense or invasive options, mostly, I think, because the reality was I just didn’t want a child that badly. And now, now that a few years have passed and we’ve both come to accept that there will be no genetic blending of me and the man, now I am not only content with this outcome, I am pleased.
Just as I am pleased for the man’s son and partner that they have become parents.
But the fact remains that this does not make me a grandmother.
Despite the congratulations and jokes from people. Despite the card that has just arrived in the post.
I am not a mother. There is no gaping hole in my life because of that. The fact that my partner’s child has reproduced does not offer me some missing opportunity to fulfil a biological or emotional craving.
I want people to know this. I want people to understand this. And, at the very least, I want people to respect this.
Please don’t tell me to get over it and just accept that they mean well when they want to call me ‘granny’. First off, I don’t think people hurling the moniker ‘granny’ at me do mean well at all. I think they’re rather enjoying what they think is a funny little way of getting a dig in at me. But, second, I don’t see why I need to accept it, why I need to just let people push something onto me that I don’t want.
The man’s son was quite keen early on to know what I wanted to be called and was not delighted that I wanted to be called by my name. I doubt he took time to consider how hurt I had been over the years, as he first refused to meet me, then took it upon himself to tell his father that it would be a mistake for us to have children. I also doubt he took the time to consider the impact on his own mother, who’s bound to find offense in having the title and its supposed ‘honour’ handed over to a woman she despises. (Of course, it might at least solve the problem of her refusing to hear my actual name uttered. . . .)
Others, I am guessing, might believe that I would want to be a grandmother without the hassle of motherhood. How rude! How unfair to mothers and grandmothers everywhere. Both roles carry enormous weight and come with unbelievable responsibility. Weight and responsibility that are not mine. I have neither sought nor earned this.
Mostly, though, I think people assume this is an opportunity for me to have something I missed out on. To some way, some how grasp my own bit of motherhood. Those people do, in their own way, mean well, I suppose. They are just so, so wrong. There is no void. There is nothing I feel I have missed. I have no need to grasp.
We, as women, are finally able to talk (somewhat) openly about not wanting to have children. About the fact that not reproducing does not actually create a vacuum in our souls. About the fact that choosing to be child-free does not mean we are heartless, hollow excuses for ‘women’.
I suppose now I am touching on the next generation of that conversation. . . .
We women who are just fine without children. . .well. . .we’re also just fine without grandchildren.