Babysitting. The solution to being childless?

‘…. having kids doesn’t have to be the sole focus of your life. There are lots of other things you can achieve, adopting and …… there is no shortage of parents who would love a helping hand through babysitting, this kind of stuff.’


BBC100women1This is an excerpt from the BBC 100 Women debate on relationships. I was cut short after trying to make the point that women can’t necessarily have it all, we need to consider our fertility; how it changes with age and the longer you leave it the harder it is potentially to get pregnant.

I agree absolutely that children don’t have to be the focus of your life and there are other ways of being involved in children’s lives.

But seriously, babysitting?

Apparently I rolled my eyes and, according to a good friend ‘my expression said it all.’

I don’t need to tell you how insensitive that comment was; how it shows an extreme lack of understanding of childlessness, a lack of empathy of how you might feel when you’ve tried so hard to achieve something and are grieving. And also how the absolute last thing you’d want is to be anywhere near children.

But mostly it demonstrates the challenge we face being understood and recognised in the world.

I could write a whole blog about this.

I could write about how angry I felt and how much outrage and shouting at the TV it caused amongst my childless friends who were watching.

BBC100women3But I won’t because I’m not sure what purpose it would serve.

You already know how hard it is to be childless in the world.

You already know how hard I’m working on your behalf to raise awareness of what it’s like to be childless and the challenges we face.

So instead I’ll challenge my anger into working a teeny bit harder.

Those of us blogging and supporting you in the childless arena are used to feeling like we’re engaged in a war, some battles we win and some we lose but overall we’re gaining.

And sometimes it’s not worth entering the arena.

Some background.

The BBC have a season of programmes called 100 Women and on 1st Dec they had debates looking at Image, Relationships and Leadership. I was invited to be on a panel of 20 discussing Relationships.

BBC100women2To quote from their email ’it will focus around the questions: Can women have it all? Is it expected for a woman to be subservient? Is a relationship more or less likely to fail when a woman is successful?  And two questions we want to touch upon are whether women should really wait to sort out their career before having children and can you have a fulfilling marriage without children? We are particularly interested to have you as a guest because of your personal story and your experience of working with women who have to come to terms with their infertility. ‘

There were two discussions, 30 minutes on BBC World TV and 60 minutes on World Service Radio.

I hadn’t been on a panel like this before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, and unfortunately most of the discussion was about parenting so not an area topic that I could contribute to! The BBC obviously didn’t know where the discussion would go, but when both started by talking to a stay at home Mum of six boys I knew it was going to be an uphill battle to speak.

I’m not comfortable in arguments, especially when people are determined to shout out their opinion at any cost, and I always thought that in a big group my challenge would be to actually say something. And I did, in both of them. I felt that, given the subject I did my best.

What do you think?

What’s been suggested to you as a way of healing?

Please join the discussion below (you can use another name).BBC100women4

And yes I know there are probably too many photos, but it’s not every day that you go to the BBC.


14 thoughts on “Babysitting. The solution to being childless?”

  1. Oh, dear. Sounds like you did a great job, Lesley. I’m glad a child free not by choicer was at least ON the panel, but I’m still groaning at the comment and feeling for your position in the trenches of parenthood discussions…..kicking off with commentary from a stay at home mom of 6 nonetheless! Just being there took much bravery on your part.

    Bottom line is, I don’t suggest to my widow friend going out to dinner with my husband as a reconciliation for her grief. Suggesting servitude to the fertile world as compensation for childlessness is like “assuring” someone in a wheel chair they can hold my stuff while I walk.

    My “favorite” platitude? “At least you can travel now.”
    Sarah recently posted…PILGRIMAGEMy Profile

    • Thanks for your support Sarah,
      We seem to be living in a world where there’s a increasing empathy deficit and one thing I know is that an empathic comment never begins with ‘at least’

  2. Well done for talking helping to change attitudes towards people without children. It is never easy in a world where people constantly tell you how tired they are, how they would like a night out and how difficult it is to balance their time when they have children.

    Babysitting- how uneducated. In my case nothing will take away the inner loss but looking at the positives in my life helps. Staying away from hurtful, thoughtless people also helps.

    Keep campaigning.

    • Thanks for your support Elizabeth, as you say being surrounded by parents is hard and one way to help is to look at the positives in your life. And gratitude also helps & I wrote about gratitude in my last blog.

  3. I have taken care of my nephews and nieces since coming to terms with childlessness and would walk over hot coals for them but babysitting for children that have no emotionsl connection to me no thanks.

    • My observation is that we either have a deep connection with family, or not and it’s lovely that you have Lesley.
      And as you say you wouldn’t want to look after children where where there’s no emotional connection

  4. Leslie thank you for representing us on this panel,is just good to know that you understand how difficult it is particularly at the
    this time of year.

  5. I wish more people did ask me to baby sit – sometimes people don’t because of your childlessness which of course adds wound upon wound. Well done Lesley for facing up to the other women and the BBC! Jessica

    • It’s hard isn’t it Jessica, and interesting that you would like to connect more closely with children. It shows how there are many different opinions and there’s no ‘right’ answer.

  6. I don’t know why people think that taking care of other people’s kids is the solution to what ails us. I mean, it’s great if you do enjoy doing it, but for many, it’s just a painful reminder of what you don’t have, and I don’t think we should ever feel obligated. :p
    loribeth recently posted…Odds & endsMy Profile

    • thanks Loribeth, as you say it’s great if we enjoy it, and not if it;s a painful reminder.
      I guess it’s our responsibility to ask.

  7. Seriously behind on my blogging and reading, but wanted to say, this phrase in your blog really resonated.

    “Those of us blogging and supporting you in the childless arena are used to feeling like we’re engaged in a war, some battles we win and some we lose but overall we’re gaining. And sometimes it’s not worth entering the arena.”

    I’ve been thinking a great deal about how much swimming against the current we do on this topic. Sometimes it feels like we’re barely making any ground and other days our voice breaks through. It is maddening in its own special way to be outshouted so often. Kudos to you for making the attempt to be heard!!
    Pamela recently posted…Comprenez-Vous? Oui. We Understand Each OtherMy Profile

    • Thanks for your support Pamela. Our metaphors are similar, and as you say sometimes we make progress & sometimes not. I’m so grateful to have people like yourself leading the way.


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