Emily Chadbourne You Can Have It All Not Mindset Coach Melbourne Australia Personal Development

You Can Have It All. Fu*k Off. You Can’t.

When I sat down to write this week’s blog, I assumed it was going to be a piece about my decision not to have children.

Being 38 (internal jukebox starts playing “Time Is Running Out” by Muse) and in the throes of a new relationship, it seems to be the hot topic of the moment.

In part, this blog has indeed, followed this thread but it has also opened up a wider discussion in my head (and therefore, on this page) about what it means to ‘have it all’. It might hit a nerve for some people. That’s okay. This is just my perspective, based on my current understanding of my world. Likelihood is, it’s different to yours.

I actively welcome your constructive thoughts and comments because I am always open to challenging my paradigm, shifting my beliefs and considering things from a previously unseen point of view. I will ask that you are respectful and kind in your feedback. If you can’t be, then I politely request that you fuck off.

Emily Chadbourne Mindset Coach Family Life

Growing up, I always assumed I’d have children, one day. Like most little girls who grew up in the privilege of western culture, I played with dolls, read Enid Blyton books and watched movies where the ‘leading lady’s’ sole objective was to find love and procreate.

I observed my own Mum raise 3 daughters while juggling a full-time job and assumed that was my path too. If I was fortunate, I might even enjoy my career. Then, I’d ‘have it all.’ Lucky me.

I went to university; travelled the world under the weightlessness of my early 20’s and a backpack; then moved to London and earnt a decent wage. I danced my nights away in cheap heels and short skirts; I went on nice holidays; I fell in and out of love on a whim and all of this under a blanket of safety, woven from the belief that one day, I would have it all. Not once did I stop to think what ‘having it all’ actually meant.

I’m not going to bang on about the years of soul searching and desperation that made up my early thirties. They were not happy times as I measured myself next to a metric of happiness that turned out not to be mine at all.

Instead, I will tell you about where I’m at now, at the age of 38 and how, in the last 4 years, I have had the privilege of reassessing and redesigning my life outside of the construct that ‘having it all’ means ‘doing it all’.

Because, it doesn’t.

And I’m not sure where or when the two got confused.

At what point in history did the right to choose, mean I should have to choose it all?

I truly doubt that our bra burning great-Grandmothers who fought so hard for our right to ‘have it all’ wanted to see women burnt out, trying to juggle careers and babies in a society which is advocating women having both, but doing sweet fuck all to actually support her. I truly doubt they were fighting for us to feel shamed for not picking up our kids at the school gate because a meeting overran or questioned by colleagues for not working on a Saturday and breast feeding in board rooms in order to protect our place in line! I’m pretty sure they were fighting for the right for us to choose so why the bloody hell do I find myself defending my choice?

 “I would have been a terrible mother because I’m basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people going off and having children.”

Katharine Hepburn

I was recently asked of not having children, ‘won’t you regret it?’

And my answer is, ‘no’.

Because how can I regret a reality I never chose; never lived; never had? Why would I give my energy to living in the regret of something that never existed instead of channelling that energy into making what I do have nothing short of fucking fantastic? There is much to be said for making a decision and then making it work.

And unless my ovaries start screaming in the next couple of years (and if they do, I’ll listen to them because I have the right to change my mind) I am going to choose to spend my Sunday mornings lying in bed with a good book and then heading out for brunch.

Emily Chadbourne Mindset Coach Sleeping In

I am going to choose to work late into the night and still get an unbroken 8 hours sleep.

I am going to choose to spend my money on holidays and white sofas and breakable items which I’ll display on low level coffee tables with pointy corners.

I am going to choose to spoil my nieces and nephews rotten and hold my friend’s babies extra tight as I breath in the divine smell of their innocence because when they’re not crying or shitting, I actually adore children.

I am going to choose my partner every day because I want to, not because we had kids and so now it’s just easier to stay together.

I am going to choose my right not to bring children into a world where money is more valuable that human life; where global warming is threatening our very existence; where Love Island is the top rated TV show and where women are so beaten down by the expectation of ‘having it all’ that they feel like they’re failing at all of it.

And in this choice not to have children, I am acutely aware of what I am denying myself.

And I am allowed to feel the absence of this.

Recently I attended a group meditation (to explain it at its most basic level) at my local Kundalini yoga studio – Sadhana is held at 3.40am every weekday and a visiting Yogi was enough to get me out of bed in the middle of the night to see what this 3 hour practice was all about. It was a deeply spiritual experience and as dawn broke, a woman entered the room with her tiny baby. She lay the baby down on a sheepskin rug close to me and started to meditate. I looked at the baby. The baby looked at me. And suddenly I was overwhelmed with the emotion of sadness that came with the understanding that I will never know what it feels like to be a mother.

My first response was to justify it in my head, to validate myself and so push down this hard emotion of sadness. But pain is always in the resistance. So, my second thought was to allow myself to be the full expression of who I am, to allow myself the contradiction of being human, and to acknowledge the fear and doubt that is part of the divine human experience.

And so, I sat, silent tears streaming down my face as I gave myself permission to grieve for the choice I am making. Because when we choose one thing, we must always lose another. This is the universal law of cause and effect. To fight it, is to try to be everything. How’s that working out for you?

After the tears stopped and the Sadhana was over, I considered my choice. And I still choose to exercise my right to ‘have it all’, by not having children.

It still surprises, shocks and saddens me at the sheer volume of unsolicited comments my decision attracts. Here are my top 10 to date, and my responses to them.

1. You don’t know what love is until you become a Mum

Well just call me the Tin-Man because I’m sure as hell am not loving you right now.

2. You’ll regret it.

Will I though? Which bit exactly? The bit where my vagina gets messed up so badly that my internal organs try to climb out of it? Or the bit where I don’t sleep for 8 solid years and then worry for the rest of my life, before eventually having to stand back and watch my young adult offspring make some truly terrible decisions?

3. But you’d be such a good Mum.

Sweet sentiment but the truth is, I would be passing on all sorts of shit that I haven’t resolved myself yet.

4. Don’t you think it’s unfair on the women who can’t have kids.

No.

5. So, are you going to turn into a crazy cat lady?

No.

6. Once you have them, you’ll change your mind.

But I’m not having them. So this makes no sense. Stop talking to me.

7. But who will look after you when you’re old?

The people I’ll pay with all the money I’ll have because I didn’t have children. Incidentally, probably the same people I’ll pay to look after my Dad who did have children (sorry Roger, but we both know you’re not coming to live with me when the time comes!)

8. Well that sounds unnatural, you won’t keep a man you know!

Funny that because having heaps of sex, heaps of sleep and the freedom to pursue our goals and dreams seems to be working out for both of us at the moment. But sure, screaming at him to pass the breast pump whilst furiously looking for a maternity pad and shooting him evils if he even suggests heading out for Friday night drinks does sound like a sure way to ‘keep’ him!

9. Oh, that’s a shame.

I’m sorry, what’s a shame?

10. What will you do instead?

Travel the world; build a house; hit the gym; go for dinner; lie in my bed; watch movies; read books; have a bath; have whole conversations; buy nice things; pursue my career without feeling guilty or like I’m half arsing it; pee alone; not answer the question “why?” a gazillion times a day; write books; fly first class; climb mountains; dedicate time and money to charitable causes; learn to speak a new language; take holidays outside of the school holidays; spend a month in an Ashram in India. But I’m just spit balling. I can really think about it and give you a more thorough list if you like. But I guess what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to worry about me. I am executing my right to ‘have it all’ by not ‘doing it all.’ I am choosing a lifestyle. And it’s my choice to make.

Note: There are many other paths this blog could’ve travelled down – the undeniable fact that so many women are economically forced to work when they’d rather stay home and be a full time Mum, or that paternity leave is devastatingly scarce and scant, or that childcare is bullshit expensive, or that there are women and men who are facing the heartbreak of not being able to have children of their own, or that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way we work, live and support families. I know all of this. But I wrote, as I always do, from my own experience and from a place of good intent. I trust it served.

I am a huge believer in the power of choice, and I help my clients uncover their fullest potential and then teach them the discipline and mindset to achieve their personal and professional goals. If you’d like to know more about the programs I run, my upcoming retreat or have a topic you’d like me to cover on my podcast, Unashamedly Human, then send me a DM on Insta emily_thatcrazythingcalledlife or email info@emilychadbourne.com

Comments 10

  1. Emily, I have read a few articles recently on this topic. I am astounded that people feel they have a right to even talk about your decision. It is your decision. People don’t usually question other life decisions, like your career choice or where you live or which car you drive. Sometimes I am curious as to why someone doesn’t have children but usually refrain from asking in case it wasn’t a choice for them. Or that they did make a choice not to have children and might think that I was judging them.
    Your decision to have children or not is your decision and nobody else’s business. Having children is just one of the many things you can choose to do in your life. It can be a beautiful thing to do, but it is not the only thing that brings one joy and fulfillment.
    So, don’t regret it, love the people you love, get cats or not (still be crazy though), be a good friend, be unnatural (!) and be with a man who doesn’t want kids either, and worry about getting old when you get old, it is not a shame, and do everything that you want to!!!

  2. Well said!!!! It’s HORRIFIC that anyone thinks they get to say any of 1 – 10 to anyone else. From the “mother” side, it doesn’t change if you DO have kids, you just get told how to parent instead of whether to! Smash the patriarchy is the only good response to all of it 😉

    “a society which is advocating women having both, but doing sweet fuck all to actually support her” my ONLY criticism would be I think you’ve understated this… Advocating is far too kind a word for the pressure put on women, and there’s nothing sweet about the fuck all with which government (I’m in the UK but ya know, probs similar) force families to have two working parents all the while forgetting that babies will do better with their mothers that care one-to-one for them than with paid caregivers who are horribly under appreciated, under paid, and under valued, and working with multiple babies and young children at once, and THEN blaming the parenting for kids increasingly having issues, solving that with pressuring them in to school and testing and all of that earlier and harder and not having any free time to be family or be kids!

    LOVE the message that you CAN’T have it all. You have to choose what’s important to you, and give your all to it. You can’t give your all to multiple things at once!

    I’ve totally got a case of “the grass is greener” when I imagine how free I would be to pursue other passions if I didn’t have small children lol… I carried on down the expected path quite quickly and early, before I had any self-awareness to think about how stressful it would be to have my heart walking around outside of my body in this plant of ours that we are destroying. If I hadn’t had kids yet, I would DEFINITELY be thinking a LOT longer about whether I wanted to or not rather than just following the path assumed for me. Which is OBVIOUSLY not to say that I don’t ADORE my kids. I console myself with thoughts of them changing the world, which is lofty when I apparently can’t even teach them to listen to the simple request to put their shoes on, but hopefully there’s still time 😉

    Huge respect for the discussion of the sadness around your decision, I think that’s part of the conversation that gets missed. People do at times speak up strongly about choosing not to parent, which is awesome because it totally needs to be seen as a choice that all women have instead of an assumed path that all will go down. But people who speak strongly about that often miss the vulnerability and fragility of accepting that there may be moments of sadness within that – which totally fails all the women out there who are also struggling with making the decision and don’t know how to deal with the sadness but the (current) certainty about their choice side by side. Also love the “I can change my mind if I want to” because, too right!

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Hi Em, sounds like quite a journey you have been on to get to your decision/realisation. Well done. For me, it has always been very clear. I have never wanted to have kids, never thought I wanted to have kids, don’t particularly enjoy other people’s kids. I’ve received all the comments you have plus way more. Back in my Christian days, the classic one was “But children are a gift from God. You can’t reject God’s gift by not having children!!” And of course people love to psycho-analyse and be like “Just because your childhood sucked, it doesn’t mean your kids’ will too”. Thank you for the vote of confidence, but so not relevant or the point. Though the comments are all annoying in the sense of just being non-respectful of choice and very unenlightened, they have never bothered me too much, because my resolve and level of absolute surety in my decision has always been 100%. So other people’s thoughts just don’t get a vote or any mental space. Ultimately, I support all children being born into homes and the arms and hearts of parents who really want them, who really choose them and who have really considered what that means. I also support all humans going for what they really want and having the energy and time to selectively invest in those things/people/situations etc that really bring them the most joy. And I do think that trying to have it “all” is often born from a fear of missing out that distracts people, fragments their energy and can lead to a lot of mental and physical health problems. There are a lot of “assumed” life paths that some people do automatic because it has never occurred to them that there is another choice e.g. get married, go to university, buy a house, have kids. And for many people, some or all of those choices are right for them. And conversely, there are also some people for whom one or more of those choices is not for them. May those people have the wisdom to know that, the courage to choose it, and the bravery to find what is even better or more aligned for them.

  4. This is amazing! So true, so ‘me’ and it’s made me realise a lot of things. I didn’t ‘choose’ to not have children, I’m now 44 and would’ve loved children but it didn’t happen. This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time, well done for putting it out there, you get one life and you’re living it – love this xx

  5. Thank you so much for penning this blog. Every word resonated with me. I married and divorced ‘biologically late’, and turned 40 last year. A number of people I know felt sad for me when they heard my marriage had ended, basically because now I’d never be a mother (despite the fact I was happier than I’d been in years). Like I’d failed on one of life’s benchmarks of success. And they weren’t real shy about saying it to my face either. Kinda pissed me off. Actually, it pissed me off a lot, lol.
    I’m not denying I was upset that I wouldn’t have children at the time. It took me a fair time to grieve and make peace with the fact that I likely wouldn’t have children. I cried many tears about it. I mourned the loss of padding feet down the hallway, a little voice calling “Mummy!”, all the joys I’d never know.
    But I also knew I didn’t want a baby JUST BECAUSE. I wanted a FAMILY – meaning, I didn’t want a donor, or a one night stand, or a slap together relationship because ‘oops I got pregnant to a bf of a few months’, or to adopt, or any of the ways I might find a baby in my life…
    Now, I’ve accepted that time and biology being what it is, and making peace with it, I now actively don’t want children (because I love my life the way it is *gasp*), I have found the joys in being the ‘cool Aunty’ and I fucking love it. I can hype them up on sugar and play with my friends kids all day. I can give advice that wouldn’t necessarily be heeded if it was delivered by mum. I can give cuddles like a boss. And I can go home at the end of the day, and sleep uninterrupted, and watch all the Netflix with the swear words. Or nap whenever I like. Or go on holidays, and all the things you’ve listed. I’m focused on my career and becoming a better person. I love my life. I personally don’t want children, and I won’t be ashamed of that decision. Ever.

  6. Omg I love this so real I feel sure many women if they were truely honest would resonate with this I most certainly do and I guess I can only speak for me It never ceases to amaze me how people judge other people’s choices Keep on being Awesome unashamingly human You Love your work Love You 💜

  7. I am divorced
    I also had 3 children before I was 30 worked ft even through the pregnancys ..he left me for another woman and because of my depression…I loved being a mum it felt like I had a purpose in life …25 years of giving to find myself totally broken ..worthless ashamed…I read books listen to all the Gurus but the ache in my heart never leaves …I’m not weak I’m actually fucking strong I dont regret one minute…but the illness took years from my life
    I cant give advice to you except you made a decision that was right for you …I’ve made so many fuck ups after he told me he was leaving me for another woman…i keep searching for meaning…meaning to life ..my purpose…the pain in my heart is overwhelming at times …the loss of a family…a life i once loved so much
    Happiness and love are an illusion
    I have no idea at times how to get through the pain
    I judge no one because my footsteps are imperfect…sending love …Tracey xxx

  8. Great blog Em. For me ‘having it all’ is all I have right now. It’s more than I ever dreamt of. I do all I can to love and nurture it, because when you ‘have it all’ you most certainly don’t want to lose it.

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