SarahI suppose you’d say I’m an accidental not-mum, although there certainly was some choice involved along the line that I won’t bore you with here, but I’ve come a long way from the original ‘plan’ I concocted one giddy evening in my early twenties. 

The idea was that I would live on a small, remote, fertile, Hebridean island, happily self-sufficient with my six children while their father lived a short (but bracing) row away on a neighbouring islet … doing his own thing at the perfect arm’s length but within hollering distance (or perhaps semaphore if the wind got up). I’m not sure quite where the huge quantity of sprogs came from in this family planning reverie, but maybe it has something to do with being one of four brothers and sisters myself, and you can never have too many siblings in my opinion.

So, being the contrary young biddy that I was, I instead moved to London after university and spent the next 20-odd years living and not breeding there, while having adventures, trials and tribulations much like everyone else. I worked as a travel guide editor and writer, which allowed me to keep moving and I’ve still not really stopped. But, three years ago, I pitched up back home almost by accident (to a village very near where I grew up) and these days stalk the paths of my youth in daily lockdown rhythm. It’s a restful restlessness that suits me.

I’ve learned some important things about being a not-mum but first I must say that I know how lucky I am not to be someone who desperately wanted children but couldn’t have them. It just never quite seemed to be the right place, the right time or the right person and then, of course, it was too late. (I can’t deny that I spent quite a bit of time resenting the ‘too late’ aspect of being a woman, but then who doesn’t?) One of the key things I think I’ve realised, though, is that I feel a great sense of responsibility to make the most of my freedom from parental duties – and now even the idea of having a dog seems like too much of a tie. For sure, it’s a different, and no doubt lesser, motivation from the boundless responsibility that parents feel to their children, but it’s a powerful motivation all the same. That mountain ain’t gonna climb itself any more than that nappy will change itself. (It’s a great argument that I find works for drinking gin too.) The other thing I know is that children can sense that I’m not a parent and use it very much to their advantage. Whether they equate (as I do) my childlessness with a lack of imperative to grow up I’m not sure, but I know that they sense that they can winkle secrets (and sweets) out of me that they wouldn’t get out of their parents in a million years. How lucky and privileged does that make me – to have that complicity with them?

About the author

Lifting the lid on not-mum lives and having a peek inside

Leave a Reply