A Childless Parent

You watch an infant having a tantrum, holding her breath and getting blue in the face. You tell her screaming mother not to panic and try to divert the child’s attention. Instead, the mom turns on you with: ” What do you know? You have no children!”

A Childless Parent - Corinne Rodrigues

It’s the same thing you hear when you advise a friend that her 14 year old son is old enough to take the school bus or public transport. But no, she insists on dropping him and picking him up from school herself.

When a 17 year old, obviously has serious issues at home, gets into a fight at school every day and is eventually imprisoned for petty crime, you counsel the parents. You tell them that their son is actually a soft-hearted kid and very smart. He’s hanging out with the wrong crowd because he wants attention. They look at you as if you’re insane. They know their son is a no-good fellow who needs a sound thrashing. After all, what do you know, you don’t have kids.

Yes, I don’t have kids. It’s not by choice, but by circumstance. However, it does not mean that I don’t understand children. It does not mean that when I tell you not to panic about your child turning blue that I am not worried too. No, I’m telling you that your panic is going to transfer to the kid and make the situation worse. When I tell you to let your son go on his own to school, it does not mean that I am heartless. No, it just means that I believe you’ll be teaching him independence. When I tell you that your son is a soft-hearted kid, it’s because I’ve taken the time to talk to him as a person and listen to his cries for attention.

I know that if I had children, I would have loved them as fiercely as you do yours. I also know that I would make some errors in judgement in their upbringing. I know that there would have been times that my children would open up better with an uncle or aunt or a teacher. I know I would never be a perfect parent – because there never was a perfect parent.

I am childless and that’s a fact that I’ve come to accept.  However, please know that you do not become a parent, the moment you give birth to a child. Parenting is something that is learned from practice, but also from openness. Parenting is the skill of relating to a child in such a way that s/he feels secure, loved, cherished and has the freedom to be who s/he is.

I am childless. But my phone rings early in the morning, on a particular day every year and a young man, now in his thirties says, “I want you to be the first one to wish me for my birthday”. When that young man, who used to be a misunderstood 17 year old, and now a successful manager in an MNC  calls you ‘Mom’, you know that even a childless person can be a parent.

Corinne Rodrigues used to be a teacher to teenagers and has a lot of experience counseling and working with troubled youth. She is now a full-time blogger at Everyday Gyaan.

  • You raised a valid point with “Parenting is something that is learned from practice, but also from openness”. One thing that helped me the most as a parent is breaking my own pre-concieved notions. So, Yes.. the more possessive we are as a parent with our ideologies , the more harm we will eventually do for our kids. Looking forward to read more from you.

    • You’re so right, Amrita. Sometimes, we hang on to ways of doing things with children that don’t work the same with every child. We have to find a unique way of parenting each child as an individual.
      Thanks for your comment and for connecting. Looking forward to reading your writing and getting to know you.

  • Yes, making a baby does not automatically make you a qualified parent 😉 It’s a a long journey with learning all the way up 🙂 Thank you Corrine – for being the parent that so many young children can reach out to – and I am sure there are many of them.

    • Sadly, parenting doesn’t come with a manual either, does it, Nidhi? 😉 I guess that’s the challenge and even the joy of being a parent! I did a quick read of your blog just now and I’m sure you’re doing a fab job of being a thoughtful and loving parent to your little girl. The honesty in your posts is truly commendable.

  • Corinne, you have far more children than you know. That nurturing spirit in you reaches far and wide. Hugs and blessings my friend.

    • Thank you so much, Debra. Your words touched me very deeply – as they always do. ♥

  • You are so right!!
    I’ve seen women raising kids as though they have no clue what to do with them or worse, couldn’t care less.
    Truly, producing a child biologically is no reason to assume one is qualified enough to bring them up the right way!
    BTW, beautiful post!! Looking forward to more from you.

    • Thank you for your comment, Noor. It’s sad that we sometimes don’t realize what parenting entails before we sign up for it. As always, the victims are the helpless children. 🙁

  • Hugs Corinne 🙂
    I totally agree…parenting is the art of understanding the child, by thinking out of the box and sometimes an outsider can do a better job of it !!! But I am glad of the efforts you take to be a parent to many !!!
    Lovely post !!!

    • Thanks, Uma. Appreciate your comment and sharing this post. Perhaps, if parents started thinking of their kids as children of the world rather than ‘theirs’, they could learn more.

  • I am just a college passed out girl and have ages time to become a mom. But believe me I am very good with kids and that ‘parenty’ natural love flows out of me for any and every kid. I totally agree with your statement ‘parenting is a practice’ and it is definitely not a position.

    • Thank you for stopping by to comment. Yes, I have seen some youngsters who have a special gift of working with children. I’m sure you are in demand to ‘babysit’ the neighborhood kids! 🙂

  • Priti

    Corinne absolutely loved your article. I am a parent and had no clue how to handle certain situations in the growing phase with my child. If a person like you is around its really a blessing so that balance can be maintained between parent and child. I have also gone through many miscarriages and know how it feels not to have another child despite how much you wish. And how it hurts when someone just says it how will u know or understand…you have only one child to take care or pay for. But in my heart I never wanted that way. I have always made a point to listen to my kid and allow him to take small small decisions in his life which always gave him confidence.
    Looking forward to hear more from you. Hugs 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing, Priti. I admire your openness to having a ‘neutral’ person be part of your parenting process. Perhaps you can find one in his school counselor or some friend of yours.
      I’m sorry that you have to hear insensitive comments from people. I’m not sure why people sometimes think parenting is a competition! I’m sure you are doing a fine job with your son who must truly be a blessing in your life.

  • Priti

    You have touched the life’s of so many…you are not a childless parent Corinne!!

  • jan

    I couldn’t have said it better. Just because you give birth, or supply the sperm does not mean you know how to love and raise a child. Anyone can sex, it takes a lifetime to be a parent, theirs and yours. this is wonderful.

    • Jan, you would know this better than any of us. You’re doing a great job of being Mom to your lovely grandchildren. They are truly blessed to have you and Randy as their parents.

  • Rachna Parmar

    Of course, Corinne, you are absolutely right. And, it takes some very mean souls to call others name. Basically, it reflects their own closed mindset where they are unable to listen to reason. Trust me, they will find something else to hit out at other parents giving them advice. As for me, I truly love to get perspectives from others. As a matter of fact, there is a close friend of mine, male, who is not a parent yet but has some really sound things to say about parenting.

    • Rachna, I’m not really hurt by what they say, thankfully. However, like you said, such people would say this to anyone who they feel threatens their way of parenting. It’s great to get perspectives from others and then follow your own instincts with each child.

  • For sure one doesn’t have to have biological children or children they are raising to understand children. Oftentimes, it would seem that those outside of a situation, if perceptive enough, can see the bigger picture more clearly than those directly involved.

    I loved reading the end of this post. You are a sweet soul that touches so many…I think you have more children than you are aware of. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment and your lovely words, Jessica. The bigger picture is true – I wish everyone would see it the way you do, my friend.

  • vasudha

    I am sure you are a better parent than I am. I am going from bad to worse.

    • No comparisons, Vasudha. I’m sure you are doing the best you can. ♥

  • I’m so glad that kids have someone like you to turn to! And, there are many parenting books, but not one will predict how your child will turn out to be….it’s just something you pray you can figure out somewhere along the way!!

    • So true about the books, Roshini. Lots of love, openness and praying for wisdom are indeed the way forward! 🙂

  • janu

    When my friend could not conceive for many years, she broke down before me and told me that she felt incomplete because she can’t be a mother. After a couple of more years, she became a mother. After two more years, she conceived again but, felt it was too soon for the second child and got aborted. I sort of failed to understand her.

    As you said, parenting comes from the heart. As parents, we are overprotective and over zealous towards our kids and forget we were kids once too.

    Wonderful post…am not surprised that he calls you MOM.

    • So difficult to understand what makes people tick, Janaki. You’re so right – if every parent recalled their childhood more, the kids would certainly have an easier time! 🙂

  • Corinne, you have no idea how much I could relate to the post. I don’t have any children yet, but I have a whole bunch of friends who do. And man, do some take umbrage when you try to help. I remember this ‘friend’ of mine who wouldn’t take her kid out of the house for about six months because she was worried that the kid would get bitten by bugs, or infected by pollen or something else. I tried to help saying it would be good for the kid to get some fresh air, build his immunity, take him out in a stroller with the mosquito net, the additional veil too to block out sunlight – the response: Only those who have their own kids really know. Its easy for everyone to talk. Result: I shut up. You’re right. Simply having a baby doesn’t make you a parent. And every person trying to help you, isn’t an idiot. God bless you for having been there for the kid. Its a very noble act to touch a life and guide them the right way, be there for them when they need it. Whether its your flesh and blood or not, hardly matters. What matters is the act.

    • Deepa, I’m so glad this post resonated with you. I was a little hesitant to write it, wondering if people would think I was looking for pity when I am not! 🙂
      I’m feeling sorry for that little child whose immune system must be blown to hell. I remember an Indian woman I know who came down with her son from the US, complete with bottled water from there. The maid had to wash her hands in bottled water before she touch the baby! Absolutely ridiculous.
      But then you watch and keep your own counsel.
      Thanks for your comment, Deepa. It means a lot.

  • Your article touched my heart, people can be so cruel sometimes with their judgemental attitudes. You are an awesome parent. Take care

    • Thanks, Sulekha. I don’t think they are mean on purpose, just fiercely protective of their ‘territory’. 😉

  • Anamika S

    Awesome Post Corinne! I don’t think anyone can be a Perfect Parent. Everyone learns by trial and error. Just because a person is a biological parent does not mean that person knows all about parenting. At the same time, just because you don’t have a child does not mean that you know nothing about parenting. There is nothing wrong in taking good advice from anyone.

    • Thanks, Anamika. Yes, a constant openness to learning about parenting, just as we would have with any other skill, is called for.

  • This was a beautiful and touching post. You are so right, one does not become a parent just by giving birth and there is nothing like a perfect parent just like there is nothing like a perfect child. It is all in the eyes of the person. Sometimes I fail to understand the mentality of people when they say all this. A divorced / a single person cannot comment on relationships, a person without children cannot comment on children… but “THEY” can comment on anyone for they are Jack of all trades! I hate such behaviour.

    As it is said, you become a mother / father the day your child is born but you become a parent when you learn to listen to his/her heart without bringing you emotions in between.

    I have always looked up to you in many ways Corinne and found you to be there every time I felt I needed some reassurance. Though we have not exchanged more conversations sometimes its just knowing you are there that makes the entire difference. And I would like to say from the bottom of my heart – Thank you so much 🙂

    • It’s sad that people are mean at times, but I’m convinced it’s more out of ignorance than malice. Thank you so much for your comment, I am deeply moved by the last lines, PT.

  • And once again you touched my heart – just when I had convinced myself that I was hardened. Yes parenting does not happen just because you birthed a baby, parenting comes from the heart. It requires compassion, empathy and openness. I have to read this post again

    • Ritu, I haven’t seen any evidence of a hardened heart as far as you are concerned. You live life with a passion and zest that is to be admired. I know your sons (and daughter-in-law) must be truly proud to call you ‘Mom’.

  • Touching.

    I whole heartedly agree. Just being a biological parent doesn’t mean one has perfected the art of being a parent. In fact I have seen too many clumsy parents who do not have a frigging clue how to handle kids… and by that, I don’t mean just physically.

    • I guess it’s all a matter of learning to be open and aware, Ashwathy. Isn’t it sad that some parents never do learn because of their minds and hearts being closed?

  • This is such a beautiful post. Parenting is far beyond giving birth to a child, and you truly are a far truer parent and so many biological parents. Such a beautiful read, Corrine, and so many points for young mothers like myself to ponder about and remember.. A post, that I am sure to read again and again.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Smitha. I just read your latest post and know what you mean about the challenges of parenting! 🙂 I’m sure you’ll do great.

  • This was a very touching post, dear Corinne. I have heard this argument many times, “What do you know, you have not even given birth.” In many ways, teachers and counsellers are also parents since they know how to understand and take care of a child/teenager. This post that will be etched in my mind for many many days and years. Thanks for writing so beautifully on this touchy subject, dear Corinne.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • Thanks, Susan. You are right, it is a touchy subject. I had a lot of hesitation about writing it at all. I didn’t want it to seem like I was condemning parents. I do understand their feelings and insecurities. But at the same time, I felt the need to say this. I knew you would understand it perfectly!

  • Kudos for the post, Corinne. Every word, the truth.

  • I so agree with you. We as parents tend to become very sure that we know everything but we do not. Parenting is not easy and parents should be open to suggestions. Giving birth does not automatically qualify you to be the perfect parent. I am a mother and I know how difficult it has been at times for me to bring up my son. It is always a challenge. Your post really touched my heart.

    • You’ve done a great job of giving Ron roots and wings, Rimly. I’m sure a lot of parents can learn from you.

      • Thank you Corinne

  • An excellent post! Parenting is a difficult art. I have to admit that I am still learning every day. I think that we are afraid of being judged or patronised, and that’s why parents are quick to snap at you.
    Parenting is also exhausting. It is difficult to hear that you have not done a good job when, basically, you have done all you could.
    I think that respect is key. I am prepared to hear anything as long as it is said with empathy and respect. You have clearly proven that this is what you are doing, so well done!

    • Oh so true, Muriel. Respect and empathy on the part of the ‘adviser’ are imperative. I understand how frustrating things can be when you’re working and you’ve got infants and everything seems to come crashing down around you. You really don’t want to be ‘told’ what to do.

  • I agree with everybody else, if birthing alone made us good-parents, it would be such a wonderful world, full of happy, well adjusted, responsible adults! Parenting does not depend on birthing.

    • Would that be just bliss, IHM. But like everything else that really matters in life, parenting doesn’t come with a manual!

  • Dear Corinne,

    All women are born to be mothers in one capacity or another. I think, sometimes, women become too focused on their ‘own’ children — who do they think is going to rule the world someday along side their precious babies? There’s a whole world of people out there in need of mothering — thank you for taking this role so profoundly to heart! XOXOXO

    • You’re right, Linda. Parents often forget that their children belong to the world family and are on loan to them! 🙂

  • It was interesting for me to travel with my children in other countries and to realize that different cultures have very different views on this issue. I have been in cultures, for example, where people felt very free to come up to me in public and correct something about my child or my parenting. In my own culture, this would rarely happen, even when it might be helpful to the child or parent. I know many people without children of their own, whose advice I seek out because I know they have a wealth of knowledge and experience. I’m sure you would be one of those people!

    • Thank you for about how different cultures respond to this, Galen. Who better than you to tell us. The examples, I shared came from experiences with close friends and one was a teacher-parent situation where feedback was required.

  • That was so heart-wrenching.

    I agree with every bit of what you said. “Parenting is something that is learned from practice, but also from openness. Parenting is the skill of relating to a child in such a way that s/he feels secure, loved, cherished and has the freedom to be who s/he is. ” Absolutely!

    Thank you for this post, Corinne. As a parent to a growing child, there’s much that I can learn from you and your wise words 🙂

    • I’m glad this post resonated with you, Deeps. I had a quick look at your blog just now and saw a picture of your very cute looking little girl. Good luck to you on your parenting journey – I’m sure you’ll do well.

  • fran

    I’m childless by circumstance, and I trained as a Montessorian before I learned that I was unable to have children! Anyway, the main reason I want to leave a comment is because yesterday (I teach English to children in France) I made a cup of Russian Earl Grey tea for a little girl and her mother arrived to collect her. Anyway, it was not a good idea really, because of the caffeine, and I regretted it. The little girl was disappointed and started to cry. Her mother crouched down and very gently said (and this is the genius bit) that she as an adult could no longer slide down on the slide, but her daughter could. That her daughter would one day be able to drink Russian Earl Grey tea, but would no longer be able to use the slide in the playground.

    Basically, she explained that as a little girl of five she could do many marvelous things that her mother could no longer do, and that as an adult she would also be able to do many marvelous things, but that each thing in its time. I was so impressed. Her daughter stopped crying and ran off to play. Now THAT is enlightened parenting.

    • Dear Fran, thank you for sharing this delightful story. What a wonderful Mom, to be able to put that into language her child could appreciate. A lesson in parenting and in excellent communication. I’m going to remember this for a long time to come!

  • Corinne that post was so touching. I am a parent, but one that bumbled through the first few years, and still nursing bruised situations quite often. I also have 2 lovely friends who are, by circumstance, not parents. But they are far more equipped with skills to handle my rebellious nine year old, and my hyperactive four year old…….. makes me wonder how people think they automatically can elevate themselves to ‘parent’ just by giving birth!! And thank God for people like you, who can understand children !! God bless!

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Meena. I’m sure that all parents keep trying out various ‘sizes’ to see which one fits their particular kid. There is no one solution to some situations is there? I’m glad you have supportive friends to be there for you and your kids. 🙂

  • I went back in time when each year on the first day of school ,my first born would be the only one to reach school on her own ,’find’ her classroom and welcome her new friends. I was labelled ‘heartless’. While leaving for outstation trips ,amongst the loud exchanges of, ‘miss me’.. ‘always remember I love you’ … ‘eat on time’.. and ‘visit the loo every few hours’,they wave a hurried bye and settle down excitedly in their seats. The other parents think that my kids are eager to go away from home and imply that all may not be well with my bonding.Well of course they are keen to fly and why not ?! I would not have it any other way.
    When I stopped wearing a saree , amongst many other reasons, one was to let go of the ever available ‘pallu’ .

    • Letting go is the hardest but the most significant thing a parent can do for their child, Sharmila. I love that phrase ‘roots and wings’ when it comes to parenting.
      Thank you for sharing.

  • I read this about a forthnight back Corrine. I was left speechless. I am not qualified to comment on anything save this.
    Being a mother is not something that is dependent on giving birth or even adopting a child or even gender. I have seen individuals,men and women both, who dont have a child, have not adopted and still are the best parents there are. They are blessed . More blessed than the rest of the world can even begin to realize. Just as you are. For, as you say they have so many lil beings whom they have taught how to walk and stand tall.

    And I don’t mean physically.

    And my Leo friend ( I always but always remember that you are a lioness , your zest for life and your words of wisdom have never let me forget:) ) you have one of the most beautiful hearts I have come across.
    ((((((((((((((warm hugs))))))))
    love
    Indy

  • I love the topic… I’m not a parent nor do I have kids, but I often hear those words ~ “How’d you know, when you’re not one…”

    Well, what do I know? Maybe the heart of kids… I could understand them in a way because I’ve been one. Perhaps, my knowledge on Pediatric Nursing also helps. But maybe because I love them.

    Parenting is indeed a skill, I agree. Parents learn by trial and error… by mistakes. Nobody’s born a parent.

    Well, my teachers are also my second parents… I learned a lot from those who have challenged me (a lot to think).