Oh please. Thank heavens for women without kids. Not only are they the ideal people to sit next to on planes but they also make excellent Sparents.
Throughout history, Sparents – spare parents – have played a vital role in the community, taking care of other people's children when their real parents couldn't. And they're still doing it today, albeit not always in such dramatic circumstances.
When it comes to kids, there are three types of women: those who have them, those who don't and those who shouldn't even be around them.
It's a pity then, when Mother Nature gets it wrong. Like when women with the desire and ability to be superb parents can't reproduce due to biology or circumstance while others who should never be trusted with kids can pop them out more easily than you can spell DOCS.
Darwinism, you're imperfect and Mother Nature sometimes you suck.
Among women without children, there are a million personal stories behind their childlessness and the emotional nuances of these stories range from pragmatism to devastation.
But not all these women are wringing their hands with regret or bitterness. Let's bust that myth right now. Many have made peace with their childlessness and some never even had an internal battle to fight. Like global publishing phenomenon Elizabeth Gilbert, author of mega best seller Eat, Pray, Love.
Elizabeth has no kids and she wants you to know she's fine with that. As she explains in her new book about marriage, Committed, the catalyst for her divorce was her reluctance to have children, something she assumed would be a deal-breaker in any future relationship. Then she met her current husband who was already a dad. His kids are grown and he's done. Kitchen closed. Gas disconnected. And in this they are perfectly matched.
The other myth that proud Aunty Elizabeth is keen to dispel? Childless women are innately selfish. Again, not true. Of her own decision not to have kids, she points out there are many advantages to the community.
Childless women have been able to accumulate education and resources they otherwise wouldn't have had if they'd had children. This time and income could then be put back into other people's families "to pay for lifesaving operations, or to rescue the family farm, or to take in a child whose mother had fallen gravely ill."
The world is filled with Sparents and recent history reflects that. Coco Chanel, John Lennon, Leo Tolstoy, Truman Capote and all the Bronte sisters were all raised by their childless aunts. Bless them.
Thankfully, most Sparents aren't required to actually raise anyone else's kids in 2010. Their role is rarely that drastic. Your average modern Sparent is usually just a positive influence, offering a different, less fraught perspective to mum and dad.
And the role of caring, responsible adult in a kid's world should never be underestimated. It's vital.
Sparents are able to dote on your child and connect with them in a way that's often impossible as a parent, particularly as they become teens. This is because your coolness is inversely proportional to the age of your child. The younger they are, the cooler you seem. By the time they hit their teens, you are a walking embarrassment that knows nothing about anything (FYI, for self-esteem purposes, I highly recommend babies and toddlers who rate their parents somewhere between Bono and God. With kids of wildly different ages, right now I'm in the unique position of simultaneously being Bono and Bozo the Clown).
Last month I had dinner with a fabulous single girlfriend who is staring down the barrel of childlessness. She never expected to reach this point but for whatever reason, the planets have not aligned to make her a mother.
When I asked how she felt about it, she thought for a moment and then she told me about her relationship with her god-daughter. They are incredibly close, have frequent sleepovers and for this little girl, who has two siblings very close in age, my friend is a special source of one-on-one love and attention.
In return, my girlfriend has been able to discover what it feels like to love and nurture a child and to experience that love in return. "I feel like I have such a connection with her that I've experienced that level of unconditional love parents talk about," she said while proudly showing me photos of the little girl on her phone.
I'm already laying Sparental foundations for my children's teenage years, making sure there are plenty of nurturing, responsible adults around to steer them through any issues they don't want to discuss with their embarrassing parents.
My own aunt had her son later in life, which was excellent for me. I was able to benefit from the full force of her love and attention throughout my childhood in a way I wouldn't have been able to do had she'd had kids earlier. Now a mother herself, she is still a Sparent to me and, in a beautiful piece of generational symmetry, her adult son has become a Sparent to my own son.
Apparently, he is far less embarrassing than me.
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