Survey results for "you never know true love until you have a child"

Please note there are some comments that some people may find offensive.

Has someone ever said “you never know true love until you have a child” to you?

Number of responses: 475

Have you ever seen “you never know true love until you have a child” on a meme/poster?

Number of responses: 475

What emotions surface when you hear or read “you’ll never know true love until you have a child?”

Number of responses: 441

The emotions that were referred to repeatedly were: anger, sadness, hurt, frustration and pain.

Anger, resentment, feeling belittled or diminished, feeling disregarded and unimportant.

Mixed feelings of irritation and annoyance that my ability to love and be loved are dismissed because I haven’t given birth. Also I feel like a second class citizen - invisible and worthless, afraid to say anything in relation to children/parenting in case my opinions are dismissed as irrelevant.

Angry, hurt, excluded, misunderstood, misrepresented

Heartbreak. It reminds me I'm never going to have drawings on my fridge or sticky fingers in my hairs from their hugs

Disgust at the ignorance. Hurt at the rejection. Anger at the self-promotion of parents.

That I will never know what love is, that I will never love my partner enough and that he will never love me enough because we don't understand the meaning of love. That my inability to have a child means that I don't deserve to know what love is.

Like our experience of love is being diminished. Like we are not a member of that club and never can be. Like we are not worthy and not proper grown-ups.

Anger, hurt, more anger. When I was in my late 30's and there was still a chance I could meet someone and have a child, it was a mix of annoyance, frustration and a little anger. Now in my late 40's, struggling to accept that the dream is over, it is like a dagger to the heart everytime.

I felt hurt because it implies that I won't know love, or cannot love as much as a mother would. I defy anyone to tell me that I don't love my nieces and nephews, fiercely! This is an unnecessary comment, and untrue.

Anger. Bewilderment. It's ignorant and ludicrous. Who decides what true love is to one person compared to another??? How is it demonstrated? Who 'invented' the scale of true love.... and where is it???

Defiance- That I have felt true love when my first niece was born like I would walk across hot coals or literally step in front of a bus of her life were ever in danger, like my heart warms with love when my cat and fur baby pads on my lap, like I feel for the amazing partner I have my husband when even through all the years and tears and pain he has been there solid as a rock and we have laughed, cried and cursed together through it all I may never know the love of my own child but I feel fierce and unbreakable love in my life all the time

All of them. How can someone else judge whether or not I truly know love? I have spent so much time, energy, money, and research doing all I can to have a family and have still been unsuccessful...but I have done it all with love in my heart. Is that not true love? My husband has stuck by me knowing full well that we may never be able to have a child of our own. Is that not true love? We have worked together, been open with each other about our feelings, grown together, made memories together, all the while still with the one goal in mind of one day welcoming a child into our home. Is that not true love? Thousands of parents every day choose to terminate pregnancies or give their children up for adoption for a variety of is the love that I have any less than theirs just because my body doesn't work as it should?

I'd add that just because you don't experience one type of love, that doesn't demean or lessen the other types of love (friendly, family, romantic, etc.) love you may experience. Types of love are different but equal.

Sometimes I want to have a child when I hear that. Sometimes I just recognize that that is the opinion of the person/organization sharing it. I realize that many/most people I know don’t really understand that there are life pathways that don’t involve having children. I don’t resent them for it, I just want them to see it.

I feel it’s very inaccurate. I feel sorry for people who never felt unconditional love except for their own child...

I am grateful that I've always found the statement, using those words, so absurd and such a cliché that exactly that statement doesn't affect me.

I used to feel angry. Now I realise it is part of the myth of smug parenthood that is peddled through society by people trying to prove something about their own self worth. It's still annoying and I would challenge it if anyone said it in my hearing.

You don’t know pain until you have to grieve a loss of a child and or your future family you have always wanted and were not able to have.

It’s pretty offensive that your definition of love is only one kind of love - think there are many kinds of love and they’re all true love!

As if we are only important if we have a child. But I also know that there are parents who don't love their children, so it's a fallacy but one that the world doesn't discuss.

Many different ones. Anger, that they misjudge my capacity for love. Fear that they could be right. Confusion that if they are right, why don’t they also acknowledge the gravity of the loss this represents? I think it’s probably true that the love one has for one’s child is unique & different from other forms of love, so I feel overwhelming sadness & grief that I won’t get to experience that, but I also know that there are other types of love that are also ‘true love’ that I have experienced & they are just as valid & I have as much capacity for love as anyone else. I also think the Love for my never conceived children is ‘true love’ even if it’s different from the love I would have felt for a child I gave birth to. I made a huge sacrifice to keep my children safe & that was a sacrifice born out of love. I think you could summarise this as my emotions on this subject are very mixed.

True love is whatever one chooses it to be. My husband is my true love, and I experience the truest love from him. Therefore, I know true love.

If someone has said “you never know true love until you have a child” directly to you, how did you respond and why?

Number of responses: 299

A lot of the responses referred to false smiles, nods of the head and agreement whilst feeling upset and shocked at the statement. Many had to walk away and find somewhere to release their pain in private.

Some do feel that the remark is true so felt the remark is a cruel stab to the heart and a reminder of something they will never feel.

I usually clam up because I feel attacked.

It was said to me by my own mother so I just remained silent...

Cried and asked if that was the case what is the purpose of my life if I will never know true love

I didn’t respond. I was too angry to formulate a coherent response.

You know I’m infertile, right?

I’ve recently taken to calling them “assholes”

Depends on where I am, in public I am more discreet than when I am in a private setting. I normally respond with love comes in a lot of different ways and who are you to tell me I don’t know what love it when you have never walked a mile in my shoes. Sometimes I am nice and sometimes I am very pissy.

I remained silent and speechless. I had no words to say in return. I simply grinned and made it through the moment and then cried when I got to my car. I have since thought about what I would have liked to say and would hope I'd be brave enough to say it, but I don't know if I would in the moment. I would like to tell them that there are different types of love and that one is not greater or better than another. There is love between siblings, between partners, between friends, between spouses, between aunts and nieces/nephews...and the love between a parent and child is another kind of love. It is not better or greater or more profound than the other kinds of love. I may not know what it is like to love a child, but I know what it is like to love. True love has the same elements regardless of who is on the receiving end. True love is about being "all in" with that person - being willing to sacrifice, protect, serve, stretch, challenge, encourage, laugh with, support and be present with.

Shakes my head & walked away

So that means you don't have true love for your partner?"
I challenge the comment, because it presumes only one type of love "is the best," and I often challenge it if the spouse is right there, so it forces an awkward moment for the person that said it. If they're going to make me uncomfortable with that comment, I'm going to make uncomfortable right back!

I'll admit, this one has been hurled at me so many times I've learned how to shut it down very quickly. The easiest way is to simply ask them why they would say that to me. If they truly feel that only a parent-child relationship is 'true love' then why would they highlight that to someone who will never experience it? Does it make them feel better about themselves to point out a cruel reality of my childlessness? Do they think they are adding some sort of wise insight to my situation? Explanations are needed. Often, simply asking someone to explain to you what they mean stumps them, they apologize, and it's shut right down, or it continues a more in-depth conversation (this is especially true if the person didn't mean anything by it, then is suddenly confronted by the cruelty of it when asked to explain what they meant). The odd time the person flat out is cruel and actually sees you as less than, a bad-person etc because of your childlessness- so as hard as that is, I'd rather know right off the bat then find out later on.

I would say, "I have to disagree, I feel true, deep and connected love towards people in my life. Being childless has allowed me to cherish these connections in a way that you will never be able to know how because you have children".

I'm an empathetic person and I care/ love/adore/protect my dogs, nieces and nephews as much as their own patents do. So I don't accept what your point is. You can't measure my depth of feelings, just like I can't measure yours so please keep that opinion to yourself as it could offend me.

Nobody has said it to me, but I think I need to have an answer. So I am imagining here what I would say: "Imagine you desperately wanted to have a child. It did not work out and this caused you unbearable pain, a pain that left a scar in your heart and that can never entirely go away. And then somebody came to you and told you "You Never Know True Love Until You Have A Child." How would YOU feel? [few seconds silence to let the feeling sink in] How do you know what I am capable of feeling or not feeling? "

Do you believe the comment "you never know true love until you have a child" to be true?

Number of responses: 468

Why do you believe this comment is true or false?

Number of responses: 424

I don’t know. I feel like I can’t believe it to be true otherwise what’s the point in my existence. I can imagine there is truth in it though

True love means different things to different people. A child doesn't guarantee love, a child doesn't guarantee happiness. I see many miserable people with children ... it's a false statement.

Unknown... I go back and forth. Because I haven't experienced it, I cannot compare the situations. I believe that the many loves in my life are very deep and genuine, so to say that having a child might de-legitimize all of those would be very sad to me.

Sometimes I wonder if it is true......

Everyone loves and is loved and seeks love. Like grief, how can we compare one love with another? You either have a child or you don't so no one is qualified to make that comparison. Experiencing a new level of love when you have a child sounds very likely, but generalising that to everyone is problematic and is uncompassionate towards other situations and love other than parent-child, or rather mother-child which is what most people mean. Also, many mother-child relationships are very complex and difficult, so is that still the only definition of true love?

False because feelings are all relevant to the source.

I think it's offensive and bullshit.

I think that there are other true forms of love, not just that of parent for child. And of course there are many, many examples of parents not loving their children, or “loving” them in a way that is not true, and of abuse, violence, neglect, ill treatment. Being a parent can happen by accident, there is no test to pass so it is obvious that not everyone is going to be a wonderful, or even adequate parent.

It must be if all those parents say that

Because my feelings about having a child or loving a child is still as strong as it was when I was a young teenager, the same as any parent. It just didn't happen. You can feel and love music, literature or a play. Feel the love of it in the very being or the beauty. Feel it in your bones and heart. Just because I didn't write it, doesn't mean I cant love it and feel the power of it.

Love is love. I have a very deep warm heart. How can anyone say I do not feel. How dare they assume they can feel more than me.

I think I can experience true love without a child; I do, however, think that the love for a child must be different than any other.

Love comes in many forms and is not something that should be judged or rated in a competitive way. None of us can truly know what anyone else feels, be it love or any other emotion. A person might be entitled to say "I never knew true love until I had a child," but no one should project their idea of what love is onto someone else.

It was my purpose, now I am nothing

I believe it to be false for several reasons. Firstly, there are plenty of parents who abuse and neglect their children so I fail to see how they can know what "true love" is. Secondly, everyone feels things in different ways, and I don't believe people can judge how other people feel. I believe I feel "true love" for my dog, and just because someone else doesn't feel that way about their dog, but feels it for their child, doesn't mean that what I feel isn't "true love".

True love is whatever you chose it to be. Everyone has their own definition

There are several kinds of true, very deep, very real, very genuine, very committed kinds of love. I’m sure a mother’s bonding love is different from a father’s love because she carried that baby in her womb. But what about adoptive parents? Who is to say their love is not as committed, genuine, real? Who is to say that an aunt or a nanny cannot know true love?!? That is hogwash!!!!!

I am religious, so I believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t have kids. Greater love hath no man than this - that a man lay down his life for his friends. No mention of kids there! :)

I have always been a whole person I just didn’t realize I still am a whole person until recently. In my situation my upbringing tried to manufacture the want for a child in me and made me believe I would be less of a woman if I didn’t have kids - but this is just culture and society, not truth.

Because who can say what true love is? Plenty of arseholes have children, who treat them abysmally. Love is a doing word - so is mothering. Love is an action, true love doesn't get expressed just by virtue of having a child. True love means different things to different people, so it's hugely subjective. And it completely negates the experiences and capacity for love, and loving actions, of those without children. Boils my piss.

I loved my unborn children. I love..... I know love

Do you believe that you can have true love for your:

Number of responses: 465

Parents - 403

Siblings - 375

Wider family members - 309

Friends - 362

Spouse/partner - 441

Pets - 387

Vocation - 187

Religion - 170

The Earth - 197

Other - 68

I also received an email just a few days before World Childless Week that I want to share an extract from with you.

I was scrolling through your feed and I saw your post about 'comments that hurt'.  I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to give you my opinion, as obviously I do have a child, but I really wanted to tell you that, although I adore my son, I think that the notion that 'you don't know true love until you have a child' is absolute nonsense.    

I've been lucky enough to have had lots of people to love in my life -  family, friends, partners - and the love I have for them is just as real and valuable as the love I have for my little boy.    I also think this idea of a whole other level of love is damaging for new mothers who are lead to believe that they should experience a wave of emotion unlike any other - and are bad mothers if they don't!  

I hate to think that there are people out there feeling as though there is a 'special' kind of love that is missing from their lives if they are childless - I really want to tell them you don't need to be a parent to experience 'true love'.  It's everywhere.

I hope it's OK to share my perspective on this with you, and I wish you all the best with your awareness week and all your wonderful work!