One size doesn't fit all

The nature of humans is that we bunch together into our groups where we recognise ourselves in others. We feel safe when surrounded by people who understand us: our thoughts, our lifestyle, our aims and dreams. It can be positive and uplifting to reach out and be amongst those who understand our minds.

As an advocate for childless support groups I recognise the benefits of clubbing together with those I can relate to. Without these groups I would not have gained the confidence to put pen to paper and share my words with you now. We all need to find the groups that suit us as individuals.  

The problem with these groups is that whilst they bring people together they can also cause divides. We can feel pushed out and ostracized as we look in from the outside. The biggest group divide that I can relate to is the one that exists between parents and the childless. Another divide is one that exists in the childless community. Whilst I am childless not by choice there are those who are childless by choice who often refer to themselves as being childfree. But today I’m not even thinking of that group.

I am thinking of the childless not by choice community in its entirety because it is not a one stop shop where one size fits all. It is easy to hear someone say they are childless not by choice and assume that the person is the same as me. This is not always the case.

People may call themselves childless not by choice for multiply reasons. I never had a child despite wanting to be a mum with all of my heart. I never had the joy of giving birth. Some consider themselves childless because they are suffering from empty nest syndrome as their child attends college or because their children have emigrated. Some find their relationship with their children has fallen apart and they have lost contact. Some made the decision to have their child adopted whilst others have had their children taken into care. Some have children who have been abducted or sadly passed from illness or accident. I am sure there is many more heart breaking examples.

Whilst I have empathy for anyone who is childless not by choice I can only fully relate to those who have never had a living child. I do not have a full understanding of being a parent. I do not know their pain, as they do not know mine. We may all refer to ourselves as childless not by choice but we are not the same.

So instead of focusing on the negative and feeling rejected when I am not welcomed into a group I need to acknowledge that each group should be respected for its own worth and values. I need to focus on the groups I am part of. Rejoice that I have found groups who understand me. Concentrate of where I do fit rather than where I don’t.

I have to recognise and accept that one size doesn’t fit all and that’s OK.

Stephanie Phillips

Founder of World Childless Week