[ Originally posted on Medium ]
“You never know true love until you have a child”
This quote is definitely a podium winner when it comes to ‘hurtful comments people say when you’re childless not by choice’
Let’s dissect this sentence, shall we?
1. ‘You never know true love until you have a child’
Which ‘you’ is that? You, the person saying this out loud, may have felt this about your own experience — that you were wandering in a world bereft of genuine love until YOU had a child. In which case, dear person making this comment, it would be more accurate to say, ‘I myself didn’t know true love until I had a child’. A statement which is all sorts of problematic in so many other ways, but let’s get the pedantry out of the way first.
‘You’ doesn’t mean ‘me’. It means ‘the person or people that the speaker is addressing’, or may also be used ‘to refer to any person in general’
If you’re addressing me personally, then I have two words for you. One begins with ‘F’, and the other is ‘off’.
Firstly, that’s a massive assumption: you know absolutely nothing about my life. You know nothing about the love I share with my beloved husband & soulmate; the loving relationships I have with friends and family; the love I have for the things in my life that fulfil and enrich me; and the love I have for the amazing women I have never met — but who have been my lifeline throughout my experience of infertility, pregnancy loss, and involuntary childlessness.
And secondly, even if you did know my innermost thoughts (which you don’t), you cannot speak for anyone else but yourself. Your narrow-minded feelings are your own, you don’t and can’t speak for me and mine. And certainly not for ‘any person in general’ who doesn’t have a child.
2. You never know true love until you have a child’
Another semi-linguistic point. ‘Until’ is another insensitive and hurtful part of that sentence. ‘Until you have a child’ suggests that having a child is an inevitability, that it’s something ‘you just do’, that it’s a universal experience. Newsflash: it isn’t. Many, many people will never have a child. Many of those people are childless not by choice. We desperately wanted to have a child. We wanted it to be part of our own lived experience. But life didn’t turn out that way. There simply is no ‘until’ for us.
3. You never know true love until you have a child’
Why and how do you get to define true love? How can you compare different experiences of love? What does ’true love’ even mean? That every other kind of love is invalid compared to love for your child?
It also makes no sense from a basic logic POV: if the only true love is a parent’s love for their child, then by that definition all love is unrequited! A parent’s true love for their child isn’t truly reciprocated, because their child can only know true love until they have a child. And so on, and so on. Which is a pretty f***ed up way of looking at the world!
In my world, my love for my spouse, family, friends and community is enormous, real and true. I don’t know what my experience of loving a child would be like, but I would hope that it would be a joy that didn’t automatically negate every other experience of love in my life.
There is no higher or lesser form of love, every form of love is unique — regardless of whether you have a child or not.
Love is love.