We are in the run-up to Mothering Sunday when mums are made to feel special for what they contribute to their families and society. How does it feel for those women who do not have children? My blog is very much about giving women whatever their circumstances a voice so I am delighted to host this post from Stephanie Phillips who set up World Childless Week last year.
“At the age of 39 I found out that my husband and I would never be parents. The pain was instant. The doctor’s words had the same effect as letting off a grenade in my heart. My dreams of who I was and the life I had hoped to lead were shredded and thrown in every direction.
I buried my pain and hid my emotions for several years. How could I talk to anyone? Everyone seemed to be a parent. My life turned a corner when I discovered Facebook had support groups for the childless not by choice. People understood me and validated my thoughts and emotions. I started to grieve and in turn I started to heal.
As I explored the new me and where I sat in this world I looked elsewhere for recognition of my childless label. I was excited to discover that both the UK and USA had fertility awareness weeks. My excitement withered as I realised these weeks focused on helping people find their happy ending. Where were the articles for me, for people who would never be a parent?
I had an idea. Why not start a week for the childless not by choice? My head was instantly filled with questions and doubt. How do I start? How do I get people involved? Would anyone want to participate? Would I make a fool of myself? I was scared. I posed my idea to a few childless friends and they reassured me it was a good idea, so despite my concerns I decided to throw caution to the wind and go ahead. I wanted to raise awareness and I wanted to help people find support so perhaps it could work.
On the 31st July 2017 I created a Facebook page and just six weeks later the first ever World Childless Week took place from the 11-17th September.
My fears had been unwarranted and people wanted to participate. Some contributors were confident enough to add their name but most wanted to remain anonymous. Over the seven days I posted just under 100 articles, blogs and posters.
Each day had a different focus. As well as articles explaining facts and expressing raw emotions of sadness two days focused on our worth in society and moving forwards. The hardest day for me was to write about my own worth, I admit this is something I still struggle with today.
Over the week the articles were read by over 123 000 people and #worldchildlessweek was tweeted over 1.2 million times. Those figures still take my breath away. I’d hoped to reach a few hundred people.
Now I have a World Childless Week website and today issued the first newsletter. I’m still scared because this is not the me I know. I’m not as confident as people think. I’m not someone who is the centre of attention at social gatherings. It feels like such a big responsibility to improve on last year.
As I am typing away two thoughts have just come to my mind. Firstly I don’t need to worry about the numbers. I need to go back to my original reasons for starting World Childless Week. I just need to focus on helping people find support. Secondly more people than I dreamt of participated last year and I know they want to participate again this year. They are supporting me. It’s time to forget my worries and move forwards knowing I am not doing this on my own.
1 in 5 women reach the age of 45 without bearing a child.
Most of these women are childless not by choice. We are a growing minority that is unrecognised by society. We are part of every family and every nationality. More of us are starting to speak out and we are getting heard. World Childless Week is not about me. It is about the childless not by choice community supporting each other and working together.”
You certainly do become part of a mums’ club when you become a parent. Even if you feel isolated as so many of us do, most find ways via parenting forums, blogging or whatever to access support. If you are a mum reading this, perhaps reflect on whether you inadvertently exclude women without children. If you are a woman who does not have children, do check out the World Childless Week website.