The Way We Live – Sunday 18 July 2010
It was one of those unforgettable dinner party moments. But not in a good way. Not in an I-was-on-fire-with-witty-one-liners kinda way. No it was one of those uncomfortable moments when I nearly chocked on my osso bucco. I was a single gal about town and I’d been invited to a dinner party where I knew only the hosts. I’d just thrown in a job as a travel writer, was attempting to write my first novel and was living back with my parents in a bedroom that was still celebrating 1987. So yeah – heaps to discuss when the spotlight was on me. Except when the spotlight did fall on me, my travels, my manuscript, my once deep-seated love of The Bangles wasn’t the number one topic of conversation. Instead I was quizzed on when I planned to have kids. (Did I not mention I was single? Pass the wine.)
Ask anyone over the age of 35 and I can guarantee they have a similar story. A single 36-year-old friend of mine was chastised by her GP to “get onto it” if she wanted a family. Get onto what exactly? A Canadian backpacker next time she’s ovulating? Aside from maybe freezing some eggs, what exactly is my friend expected to do?
There’s this assumption that those who are childless have deliberately chosen their careers ahead of having a family. Yet for many people I know its more been a case that life has taken them down an unexpected road.
Now, author Justine Davies has given those people a voice, releasing, “An Inconceivable Notion” – a collection of interviews with men and women who are coming to terms with being childless.
I know there are many people who choose not to have children and are very happy with that decision. Let me say, this book is not about them. It’s a book that gives a voice to the couples and singles, men and women who are coping with infertility or the shock reality of not meeting an appropriate partner in time.
I asked Davies what surprised her the most when writing An Inconceivable Notion.
“One thing that astonished me was that every one of the female interviewees made the comment that she feels like a failure. It didn’t matter whether they were attractive, smart, highly successful in their careers, part of a large or small extended family – every one of them made the unsolicited comment that she feels like a failure. Having children, for those who want them, is such an integral part of our self-worth.”
Davies brings to light a difficult, often painful issue and deals with it with great sensitivity and compassion. Ultimately though the book offers comfort. For childless Australians it’s a reminder they’re not alone and that there’s still great joy in life to be found whether you’re a parent or not.
Davies and a colleague have also set up a website www.childless.com.au to help develop a global community of men and women to share stories and provide friendship and support.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.