This is a first-person chronicle of artist and photographer Jackie Dives who chose not to have children. For more information on CBC’s First Person Stories, please see the frequently asked questions.
When people get married or have a baby, they can create a gift registry for themselves.
It’s a way for people to help them celebrate and take the next step in their lives. But what if marriage and children aren’t something you want for yourself?
I know I don’t want kids. In my late thirties, I became more confident in sharing my goals and desires, which are not what women have traditionally done in the past. But I’m starting to think about just why some lifestyles are celebrated. Similar to those who choose marriage or pregnancy, I want to shout from the rooftops about my choices because I’m proud and excited about them. So, to celebrate the road less travelled, I made myself a gift list.
‘Are you sure?’
When my partner of five years left so he could have kids – something I always knew I didn’t want – I really felt like I was choosing myself.
But this decision was not celebrated. People asked, “Are you Of course?”
Some women told me how brave they thought I was, and even said they weren’t sure they could have walked away from the relationship for fear of the unknown of being without. child.
Of course, many women have not had children in the past, but this decision has rarely been seen as something to celebrate loudly or to congratulate and cheer for. It was seen as something that could not have been chosen, but must have been the result of unfortunate circumstances.
When my partner and I broke up over our differences over having kids, I had no idea what my future might be like. It’s been a strange and difficult phase of life – a struggle to figure out how to move forward.
I knew I didn’t want the life of a parent, but there’s little portrayal in the media of women who don’t want kids.
I grew up in an unstable home full of emotional and physical abuse and I think that made me less confident in choosing the road less travelled.
Make art to help me move on
Making art from my experience is how I make sense of the world.
This child-free gift registry will be part of a larger work I’m creating to help me move forward – to celebrate who I am, where I’m going, and the choices I’ve made.
The registry contains items I can use when traveling alone, books from women who have chosen not to have children, art supplies, and a few household items like an air fryer and milk frother.
I photograph the registry items as well as the personalized notes that people have sent me.
I’ve been amazed at the response so far. I received gifts and notes from some of the closest people in my life and also complete strangers. Gifts are fun and amazing, sure, but the notes that come with them are the real gifts.
From one childless woman to another, from one photographer to another, from a survivor of childhood trauma to another; enjoy your childless life and the adventures you take on and the art you create. I can’t wait to see the results! From Dee
I’m encouraged that I’m not the only one who thinks it’s important to loudly celebrate women for more than just getting married and having babies.
Jackie Dives is a Vancouver artist who has created a ‘road less traveled’ gift registry as part of an ongoing art project. Do you have a compelling personal story that can provide understanding or help others? We want to hear from you. here is more information on how to introduce ourselves.