At 55, Christina Patterson no longer dwells on the fact that she has no children, but she does have some regrets about the amount of time she spent thinking about it. Ray D’Arcy chatted to the journalist and broadcaster about a recent article entitled ‘Life without children can be rewarding’. They began by talking about the word ‘childless’ itself, which Christina says is only ever applied to women.
“The implication is that you’ve somehow failed as a woman; you haven’t done the thing you were put on this planet to do. You are some kind of biological failure and possibly even a freak.”
Christina always assumed she would marry and have children, but it never happened. She says she just “didn’t meet the right bloke at the right time”.
“As the months and years started ticking down, it felt like this bomb about to go off. I think it does for a lot of women, because the body clock is a reality.”
Christina chose not to have a child on her own, but some of her friends did take that path. She was at pains not to judge them, having been on the receiving end of plenty of judgement herself. She had breast cancer at the age of 39 and by then, she says it was starting to feel too late.
“I did not choose not to have children.”
People’s assumptions about Christina often led to painful and unwanted questions. They either took it as read that she was a driven career woman ignoring her fertility, or asked casually how many kids she had. Ray asked Christina if people should avoid ever asking women that question? Straddling the line between personal hurt and general tolerance, Christina comes out in favour of politeness.
“If a woman doesn’t have children, it’s not a bad idea to approach the subject with a reasonable amount of delicacy. Or a man for that matter. There are plenty of men who would like to have children who for all kinds of reasons haven’t managed it. You never ever know whether it’s a choice or it isn’t a choice. It’s really just about good manners actually.”
Enjoying life as it comes and not according to a ‘one size fits all’ plan is something Christine says she’s always tried to do, but it’s become easier as she’s got older.
“I’ve always found a huge amount of joy in my daily life, but I probably find more now at 55 than I did at 35 when I was worrying about whether I would ever have children.”
She says it’s now pretty clear to her that having children can be the cause of great pain as well as great joy, and in any case complete control is an illusion.
“Most people discover fairly swiftly that there’s a fair amount in their lives that they can’t control and if you don’t discover that when you’re 25 you’ll certainly discover it at 35. So I think that’s just called being a grown-up.”
She’s in a relationship with a man who has grown up children, but she doesn’t dwell in the past.
“I do sometimes have a pang when I see my friends with children, but it’s manageable now – it’s not like a stab to the heart.”
You can listen to Ray D’Arcy’s full interview with Christina Patterson here.
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