Monday, 26 June 2017

My existence is not offensive

I’ve spent my life being considerate, polite, deferential, and was diplomatic long before I ever became a diplomat. It was ingrained into me, my gender, my culture and my family, to put others before myself, to be more restrained, to avoid confrontation, not to be pushy or loud, not to speak out, to mediate and to negotiate.

Some of these characteristics are essential in decent society, and can be beneficial in our business and social lives, but they can hold us back too, resulting in us being pushed around, interrupted, or ignored. I have to say that it really took until my 40s before I felt the liberation of a growing self-confidence, and I know I am not alone amongst women in this.
I think that’s why I am so sad (and yes, why I’m talking about this again) to continue to see – in blogs and comments, including comments here – how reticent* many people are about defending their reality as life without children, that they are worried that they will seem rude. But our existence is not offensive, our No Kidding lives are not discourteous to any others, and therefore having increased visibility as people without children – talking about the fact we have no children, whether in a casual one-line comment, or in response to others, whether correcting assumptions, or by refusing to justify our lives or respond to invasive questions – is not impolite either.

By suppressing our feelings and by brushing aside even small, unintentional slights, I worry that we’re reinforcing our invisibility, we’re giving the rest of society permission to ignore our reality or to feel superior, and essentially we’re contributing to a less diverse, more narrowly-focused society, and that doesn't help anyone.

Like anything, it’s all about timing, about tone of voice, about context, and with good and fair intentions; we simply don’t have kids, and it is not bad manners to acknowledge this.


* I am not talking about the early days, when we are grieving and, out of necessity, trying desperately to protect ourselves.

13 comments:

  1. Yes. I am going to try my hardest to be who I am, and be unapologetic about the fact that we are not going to be parents. (I did manage to send out my email to my school staff and not justify myself or go into too much detail, which is a minor miracle.) I feel like sometimes if you are showing that you can be happy when a dream dies, that you can create new dreams and live a fulfilling life, it can make some people question their own dreams and realities. What does it say if I can get to a place where I am content with having no children after fighting for them? I feel like sometimes judgment comes from other people's insecurities, feeling like being happy without what they have is somehow a slight on them. I don't know, I try to make sense of some of the things that I am more attuned to now that I am no longer on the striving train. I love this post. And yeah, the older I get the more confident I feel in who I am (and the less I care if others don't like it).

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  2. Amen. Owning our own path, our own life is so damn powerful. It also proves a bit threatening to others who many need validation. I love your blog so much. I always feel so empowered!

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  3. So true, not bad manners at all.

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  4. How did I miss that you are a diplomat?

    I hear what you're saying. My situation is a little different, but I also have begun to feel strongly that what was once hidden out of a sense of politeness no longer need be, and that I can gently bring the thing into the open, thereby gradually dissolving the discomfort around the topic. You're right. It's all in the presentation.

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    1. I was. That's how you missed it! lol

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  5. Beautifully said as always Mali. Whatever we are that makes us different from the masses or the majority, we have the right to be. Peacefully and proudly. xo

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  6. I also think it is awesome that you were a diplomat! No a job title I hear every day.

    I don't think anybody should apologize for their life. Some people challenge the general expectation, but that's cool; others can learn from them. Even if one fits the accepted mild and is happy there, it's good to be reminded that some people don't and they make it work. Nobody should be too much in a rut or too convinced they have it all together and know everything. That sure can backfire!

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    1. "The accepted mold" I mean. Autocorrect really doesnt like the word mold for some reason.

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    2. That's because it is spelled "mould!" lol I'm only laughing because just before coming here, I was joking about the spelling of mold/mould with a US friend on Fb, and then saw this. I cling to my NZ/British spellings!

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    3. Haha I didn't think of that!

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  7. As Lori says above, it's all in the presentation. The mere fact that we exist and we are who we are should certainly not give offense to anyone. If they feel uncomfortable being around us and our lack of children, it's their problem, not ours. (Although I am sometimes guilty of feeling guilty about others' discomfort. I know I shouldn't!)

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  8. P.S. I don't know if you read Emily's blog -- she doesn't post that often these days :( -- but she posted right around the same time you did, in a similar vein -- the title in particular!

    http://apronstringsemily.com/musings/writing/dont-shush-me/

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  9. Cheers to this - love it!! Although I do understand how easy it is to feel offensive or inconvenient in a society that barely even acknowledges our existence. Just one more thing we have to conquer.

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