I always knew that Jennifer Aniston and I were similar. Our great hair and comic timing are just a couple of examples. But her recent blog for The Huffington Post confirmed our compatibility. She’s fed up. I’m fed up.
Actually, I’m not fed up. I’m sad. I’ve been sad for a little while now. I thought it was the weather but the sun has been showing up more regularly and I’m still sad. I’m struggling. Perhaps the EU Referendum is to blame? That’s quite likely since I think I have post-Brexit fatigue syndrome.
It was actually in the early hours of 24th June that I realised that I was sad. And not just in a ‘Oh dear, that’s a disappointing result, ho hum, better make it a strong coffee today’ kinda way. More like a ‘My heart feels like it has been pummelled by Tyson Fury and a barrel of bricks is sat on top of it so it can’t beat properly’ kinda way. This feeling is pretty disorientating.
As the dust settled on Brexit or more accurately the dust turned into sandstorms and we all began to attempt to carry on, I was struck by the tone on social media. There have been lots of comments that social media is an echo chamber but if that’s true, my little echo chamber wasn’t working right. Lots of people took to social media to share their distress at the result of the referendum and lots of people took to social media to share their irritation at the people sharing their distress. The divisions were becoming clearer. The sadness was setting in.
What did I learn from my social media feed? We have forgotten how to lament. We have become intolerant of lament. In fact, it felt like we were lament adverse, as if lamenting would be the downfall of our country. The people expressing their lament were seen as sore losers, ‘You’re not still harping on about that, are you?’, ‘You need to get over it and get on with it’, ‘Right, let’s change the record’.
What did I learn from my social media feed? We have forgotten how to lament
So, I did what any lamenter does and ignored those voices and allowed myself to grieve. To collect my thoughts and feelings. To talk to people who understood. And I am slowly recovering.
But then, Andrea Leadsom happened.
It felt inevitable. That the divisions that had shown themselves post-Brexit would come even closer to home. But I have to thank Andrea Leadsom because she has helped me figure out why I am sad. Andrea and Brexit have taught me that I am burdened by labels. So many labels. Dividing us rather than uniting us.
Brexiteers. Remainers. Immigrants. Foreigners. Tories. Fascists. Lefties. Racists. Eurosceptics. Childless. Mother. Childfree. Fertile. Infertile. Pro-Natalist. Them. Us.
So many labels. Too many. I get why we need labels. I once had a horrible experience in a changing room where I was stuck in an incorrectly-labelled dress for a good half hour and thought I might actually die from injuries incurred from trying on a dress two times too small. Labels can help us. But why are labels becoming so divisive? They are no longer simply informative. Like the name labels at a conference positioned on everyone’s bosom so you have a quick glance down to spot Barbara’s name so you can chat on more friendly terms. Helpful labels.
But mother vs childless won’t help us. Even childless vs childfree leads to divisions.
The umbrella of childlessness reaches far and wide
The first time I encountered the term ‘childfree’ was when reading a book called ‘When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden’. Terrible title, great book. For me, I definitely didn’t relate to that term. I wasn’t childfree. I could see how you might be. There are plenty of my friends who really don’t want to have children. They don’t feel that compulsion, they don’t have that yearning to be a mother, they don’t long for the chaos of a child to take over their home. They are content and enjoy a child free life. And rightly so. That label, if they chose to apply it, would fit them. But for me, it never did. I was childless. I enjoyed the child free freedom I had but it was alongside my ache for a child. The expensive holidays, lie ins, late nights, spontaneous trips out, cinema trips, lots and lots of naps were all very much appreciated. But I wasn’t childfree because I longed for a child.
Recently on our Saltwater and Honey Facebook page, there was a discussion between a couple of members of our community about childless vs childfree. It was a good discussion and one that I wish we could do face to face. The umbrella of childlessness reaches far and wide. And just as it was appalling that Andrea Leadsom would inflict a wound on a fellow woman, citing such a personal aspect which they differed on, so too must we be careful not to cause more divisions.
Obviously, labels can help us. They simplify things. They help us know how to group people and things. They can prevent terrible changing room accidents when used correctly. As my dear friend and future BFF, Jennifer Aniston, highlighted, we need to stop and think about how we are viewing one another. What labels are we applying without thought? What divisions are being drawn by focusing on where we differ? Those of us who have had or are having fertility struggles, who are longing for a partner, who desire to be parents, who are grieving for hopes and dreams which are fading, know full well how painful labels can be.
Perhaps I should be honest and confess that the label I have struggled most with is ‘mother’. The complexity of this label has stumped me. There is no label which can be used to describe how I came to be here. Believe me, I’ve tried. Mother By Route of IUI using Donor Sperm As Husband Has Azoospermia. Trips of the tongue, right?
So, I want to simplify it all. I’m Sheila. I’m a human. I’m a woman. Life is tough. I get sad but I am encouraged that others get sad about the world too. There is hope. I’m vouching to try and stop labelling others and sinking into the safety zone of those labels. To look for a deeper connection. Even with Brexiteers and yummy mummies. No more labels. Except on my clothing. That can stay.