International Childfree Person of the Year 2021!
Well that sounds good doesn't it! I've had a few days to take it in since the news was announced last weekend (Aug 1st) and wanted to share some thoughts about it.
Firstly, I am really happy to receive this award. I think the award itself is such a wonderful thing to have in the childfree community where we can often miss out on the regular celebrations and milestones that come with having children. I have watched the winners of recent years and love the diversity of projects and focus around the world.
Secondly, I am extremely grateful to the people who nominated me -my partner, Gearoid (without me knowing!) and my new friend, Ali Wyllie of the 'Childfree by Choice' twitter account. I say new as we have gotten to know each other over the last year through Twitter messages and then spoke recently when I interviewed her for my podcast. Ali is a very positive and kind person who had nothing to gain by nominating me and I really appreciate that she took the time and effort to do so.
I am not someone who seeks the limelight so to be honest, my first reaction to hearing the news was to be mortified at the grand sounding title! It is also interesting as my work grew from something I needed to do for myself. This is a common story in the childfree community - to not want others to have the negative experiences, to feel alone or lack the relevant information. So it feels a bit odd to be recognised for doing something that started off, and continues to be, so personal to myself.
I have always known that I didn't want to have children. This was one thing I knew about myself, along with many others such as I don't like rollercoasters and I am basically always planning my next meal. It didn't really impact my life until it did. Many childfree people I have spoken to can identify this point where they had to actively make and/or follow through on the choice and deal with the consequences. This was the first time I looked for help and information about choosing not to have children. Unfortunately, there was very little about this in an Irish context at the time. While there were sources available in the UK and USA, it didn't fully speak to me and I wondered, was I the only one, and if so, why? What was wrong with me and why did I have to be different to everyone else I knew?
It is a basic human psychological need to feel we belong and are accepted and loved for who we are. Feeling different can feel threatening and uncomfortable. No one likes being the 'other'. Likewise, having a place we belong, with like minded people, where we don't have to explain and justify ourselves, is such a powerful and positive thing. I have experienced this and want to help others find that for themselves. I believe that counselling and psychotherapy can be a powerful way for people to meet, understand and accept themselves. I love my work, both in my general practice and the 'Are Kids For Me' service. It is an honour to be able to provide a space for people to speak, be heard and respected.
While I know the service can be of great benefit, I wanted to create a childfree community for people in Ireland. I knew they were out there but due to the confidential nature of therapy, couldn't connect them to each other. This is where the idea for the podcast came from. In full disclosure, I must declare that it was my partner's idea on one of our many Covid lockdown walks! A common theme I hear from clients is that they don't know what childfree life can look like. We do not have images or role models to look to, certainly not in general media and society. Again from a psychological point, we do not like uncertainty as it seems scary to us. So for the podcast, I really wanted to provide a glimpse into at least some options for how people are actually living their childfree lives. I also wanted to show that there are so many ways we can end up asking ourselves this question "are kids for me?" e.g. maybe you do think you want children but have some anxieties about it, maybe you are very unsure about what you want, maybe you feel influenced by previous physical or mental health conditions, maybe you never wanted to have children, maybe you are an athlete, maybe it turns out that you can't have children naturally and now face the question of what lengths you will go to in pursuing other options. The list goes on and on.
I am just finishing season 2 of the podcast and am approaching 7,000 downloads. I could never have hoped for a number like this. This is something I have made in my home office, teaching myself from Youtube videos, and people have listened to it all over the country and world. The most amazing aspect is that people have messaged me to say how much it has helped them, primarily to know that they aren't the only ones. Other people, with names and accents and experiences just like them are out there too. And they are happy and pursuing many different interests. They have people who love them. Yes there are challenges but there is support available also.
I really do want to thank all my clients, guests, listeners and everyone who has messaged me. I want to thank everyone in the childfree community who have been so welcoming and accepting to me. We have amazing people who have shown us the way, including Marcia Drut Davis and Laura Carroll. There are so many talented, creative and wonderful people creating content and spaces for childfree content around the world. Of course there is still a lot of work to be done, but it feels like a very exiting time for the childfree movement and I am very proud to be part of it.