Welcome everyone! It’s week twelve of the “On Being Childfree” blog series and I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your continued support. Every week the post is the most read on my blog and I receive emails from people wanting to take part and DMs on Instagram that people are finding this so helpful. This week I’m delighted to welcome our eleventh guest story, Rachel. Rachel is reflecting on life with her partner Emma and some of the challenges they’ve encountered. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
We Are: Rachel and Emma, mid-30s
Home Is: Portsmouth
We Do: I work in insurance and Emma is a teacher
It scares me a bit to think that when I was a little girl, I didn’t really imagine any kind of different life for myself. Maybe it was all the Barbie dolls in the 80’s or the Disney films where the heroine as feisty as she may have seemed was still all about getting the guy and having a big white wedding. I suppose looking back I thought that was the life I would have, but I don’t recall if it’s because it was what I wanted or that there just weren’t any kind of alternatives.
Starting secondary school made me realise though that my life would end up differently to those of most of the girls in my class. They had posters of Christian Slater or the Athena poster of the man holding a baby on their walls. Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. I was more interested in looking at pictures of supermodels and not because I liked fashion. At the same time although I knew something felt at odds with my friends and classmates, I also didn’t feel excluded. I had a great circle of friends and was quite sporty, playing hockey and tennis for my school.
If anything I think it was the boys that picked up on it maybe before other girls did, or if the girls did suspect anything they never said. But as the years went on I gained a reputation for being frigid, always trying to avoid awkward house party situations and as conversations moved from Barbies as a child to sex as a teenager I felt very out of place. I knew why, I knew that my crushes and fantasies all involved girls but also that it wasn’t a phase, something that we “grow out of” because it makes others around us uncomfortable.
Heading off to university in Newcastle felt like the perfect opportunity for a fresh start as I’m sure it did for many people. By this point my older sister knew that I was gay, and was and continues to be such a supportive and important presence in my life. No open conversations were had with my parents although they’ve since said that they did know but wanted me to feel comfortable to tell them in my own time (which I did) without any pressure from them to speak about it before I was ready.
I came from a relatively small town so uni felt exciting, hedonistic, full of opportunities. Was I openly gay? Probably not compared to others but I felt so much more comfortable in my own skin and able to be me. I joined the hockey team and met Laura, my first love, my first relationship, so many firsts. We were together for four years but leaving Newcastle took us in quite different directions and we called time. It ended really amicably and seeing so many friends go through heartbreak after heartbreak made me realise how lucky I’d been.
My early-mid 20s was the time I decided to see the world, and travelled through most of Europe before heading off to Asia. A few flings here and there, nothing serious. Crucially though, I did miss being in a relationship. I was having so many incredible experiences on my travels but without anyone meaningful to share it with it somehow felt lesser. And I know that’s my own mindset to navigate and deal with because solo travelling is amazing but for me life is definitely happier in a partnership.
Returning to the UK I felt truly able to be the person I wanted to be. At work drinks one Friday night, a friend of one of my colleagues turned up to join us and whilst Emma would say I played hard to get, I was smitten with her right from the beginning. She had that warm personality, an ability to talk to anyone and make people feel really welcome and wanted. We connected almost instantly and I think for both of us it felt like we were in it for the longhaul.
That was 8 years ago and here we are, blissfully happy. We’re not married but share our home, our Border Terrier Molly and a really happy and wonderful life together. We’re both aware that although these are modern times we live in, we are still judged for being “different” – walking down the street holding hands you can sometimes feel people staring let alone the open-mouthed outrage should we dare to kiss in public. But we live life on our terms and hope that perhaps someone may see us and feel encouraged that it’s ok to be who you truly are.
I realise this post hasn’t mentioned children at all, so far. And that probably tells you what you need to know. We spoke quite openly early on about whether wanted children and it wasn’t something that either of us felt strongly about. We didn’t make a firm decision then and instead decided to see where life took us, aware that we may change our minds in the future. Now though we know our little family of 3 is for us, and we’ll probably get another dog at some point in the future.
Of course we offer the same platitudes that everyone else does – we love children and have plenty in our lives. And it’s not even because we feel that having children would restrict us in any way, I know fantastic examples of parents who travel the world and take their children with them, who live a life where the children come along for the ride, be that late nights, eating out and so on. We’re under no illusion that becoming a parent completely changes your life, but how you choose to parent is unique to every person/couple and no-one should ever face judgment for that.
Our friends and family have always been so well-meaning, telling us that we could adopt or use a surrogate. It comes from good hearts and I think is their way of trying to show us they support us as a gay couple. This is where we do share similiarities with a heterosexual couple who chooses to be childfree – there still seems to be a slight unease for people in a relationship to not want children. My hope is that by sharing my story and reading others, it helps all of us to be more open-minded about the many different ways people choose to live their lives. In this uncertain world, all anyone should ever really want is to be happy.
Thank you so so much to Rachel for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Rachel’s story, leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.