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.