Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: There's more than one way to be a mum

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Women are each free to shape their parenting experience as suits them best.
Photo / NZ Herald
Women are each free to shape their parenting experience as suits them best. Photo / NZ Herald

For many years I was one of those women who planned to not have children.

At the time the relentless sequence of life's milestones seemed oppressively predictable. I'd left school, graduated from university, found employment, got married and signed up for a mortgage.

Looking back, I think I might have held on to the idea of remaining childless partly because of what it represented. In a way it seemed like the last thing I could do - or, more accurately, not to - that would demonstrate imagination, individuality and freedom of thought.

I held fast to this belief that I wasn't sheep-like in my choices and to the illusion that I danced to the beat of my own drum. I read books with titles like Oh no, we forgot to have children! and wrote opinion articles for the NZ Herald called Rosy glow in vision of family is fading, People being paid just for propagating the species and - my personal favourite - Child-free are society's selfless philosophers.

If it had existed ten years ago I might have frequented sites such as thechildfreelife.com ("A safe haven in a baby-crazed world") and joined the local branch of No Kidding! which was established for people who are tired of hearing about the antics of other peoples' little darlings.

Despite my anti-family views I ended up ticking off the milestone I'd resisted for so long.

In 2003 I became a mother, effectively ending a 20-year campaign to remain childfree.

Even now I'm struck by the fact that - provided, of course, you're not struggling with infertility - it requires more consistency and dedication to remain childfree for decades years than it does to actually become a parent. In a sense not having a child is more difficult to accomplish than having one. Go figure.

The main lesson I've learnt is that becoming a parent doesn't have to be as uncivilised an experience as all the oft-repeated horror stories would suggest. Despite popular belief, the arrival of a baby doesn't have to compromise your home, career, sleep, relationships, social life or sense of self.

Remember:

* You don't have to join a coffee group if you, like many people, can't see the point of bonding with strangers over an experience that at its essence is simply a bodily function.

* Overwhelming disorderliness is not a necessity; you can choose to establish a routine.

* Lack of sleep is not a given; some babies sleep through at seven-weeks-old.

* You don't have to allow your house to be trashed or your clothes to be ruined.

* You don't have to give up adult outings and friends without children; you just need a trusted babysitter.

* And you don't need to obsessively telephone the babysitter every five minutes to check your child's okay; in fact, you don't have to call them at all.

* You don't have to let your children run around or yell in a restaurant.

* You don't have to wear an apron and put in hair-curlers; motherly stereotypes need not be adhered to.

* You don't have to foist photographs of your offspring upon unsuspecting strangers.

Some of the things that make the childfree shudder and swear off breeding are, in many cases, options the new parents themselves voluntarily elect to embrace.

In fact, we're each free to shape our parenting experience as suits us best - and perhaps it's time we emphasised that fact rather than propagate the belief that the popular clichés associated with parenthood are inevitable, universal truths.

- NZ HERALD ONLINE

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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