“Does that mean you won’t ever have a grandchild like me”, he asked innocently. What a question to answer. And to ask. I sat there blinking trying not to look like it mattered. Indonesian people – especially children – are so damn direct I thought. If this was England, I’d never be in this situation. They’d leave the fact that I don’t have children hanging in the air like an unpopped balloon.
The teacher I was observing waited and then, realising I wasn’t going to answer any time soon, added more fuel to my facial fire with “a lot of people don’t want children and that’s their choice”. Well, that was one answer I guess, but not the right one.
During the rest of the lesson, I analysed why the question affected me so much. Yes, I’d wanted children but it didn’t happen and I’d moved on from the hand-wringing, why-can’t-I-be-like-everyone-else stage, so what was it? The ‘it’ I realised was the concern that in other people’s eyes I hadn’t completed my earthly role as a mother and that somehow their incredulity had the effect of making me feel less of a woman. Even as I thought this, I felt ridiculous, even more so because I’ve always called myself a feminist and this sort of stereotyping is one of the things in my 20’s that I used to get on my soapbox about.
But the soapbox then was about choice. I hadn’t considered what happens when you don’t get to choose.
Adoption, fostering or finding a decent gene-pool from an anonymous sperm donation – all of these things had been suggested by well-meaning friends, all mothers of course. Many years after my divorce, I still hadn’t found a partner so yes, I could have pursued these options but setting yourself as a one-parent family by choice? I know one-parent families who are exhausted, emotionally drained, with a resigned anger against the person who abdicated day-to-day responsibility. I hadn’t wanted to consider that sort of life; not fair to the child or to me.
So, as I sat there in the classroom, I looked at the child who’d asked me the question. I smiled to myself. I had made a choice eventually. I was sitting in a classroom full of children and I’d taken on a role to try and enrich their lives with another language and any wisdom I’d accumulated through the years. Not quite biological, I know, but it will suffice.
Categories: Just Thoughts