As many childfree and parents know, there is an art to friendships where one person has children and the other does not-by choice. These friendships all too often have their challenges. But what about friendships in which one person is having no problem having kids, and the other ……person does not have kids, definitely not by choice? The article, “Consumed by Baby Envy: The New Social Divide,” sure paints a challenging picture when it comes to fertility jealousy.
According to Norah Harding, an infertility counselor, those who are having trouble conceiving experience multi-layered emotions when it comes to their friends who are pregnant or who have children. They “often find their jealousy is compounded by guilt.” A woman can often “feel like such an awful person,” because she doesn’t understand how she can “feel mean” towards someone who’s having a baby, but she does.
And “On top of feeling envy and a sense of failure as a woman, you can feel doubly bad because you’ve also become a bitter person,” says Harding.
She also indicates that surveys show that “women say infertility is the worst thing that has ever happened to them, even when compared to the death of a loved one.”
Not being able to have one’s own biological baby is worse than the death of a loved one? When I read that, it stopped me in my tracks. Now I can see that it could be hard to watch someone else have something you want to have, but feel so badly about it that it’s worse than say your spouse/partner/mate had died??
What is underneath these intense negative feelings? Believing pronatalist dogma that says if you can’t have your own biological children, then something must be very wrong with you. And the dogma that says adoption is a distant second to being able to have your own children.
Pronatalist beliefs like these are so strong that people not only let them ruin their friendships, but deeply affect how they feel about themselves. If our belief system did not put biological parents on such a pedestal, people and their friendships would not face these kind of emotional challenges.
Fertility jealousy is but one example of how pronatalism unnecessarily puts a toll on too many people and their relationships. When will more people see that it is a system of beliefs that some real re-thinking? If having children, not having them by choice and not were seen equally, friendships would not have to be put to the test because one was seen as “better” or more accepted than the other. It would encourage support for one’s friends, not distance, judgment, resentment, or jealousy, leading to friendship ruin.
What do you see out there when it comes to fertility jealousy?
Do you think it puts a harder toll on friendships than parent/childfree friendships?