It needs to be called something else; basically, it’s love. I’m a lion: if someone is bad to my boyfriend, I would like to go and punch them. I think that’s what people feel with their children, it’s no different. The people you really love, of course you care for, and feel protective of. Love is love, and it manifests in different ways.
I’ve always known that I do not want to have kids. My brother is visually handicapped, and I had to look after him from quite an early age. This thing happened with his eyes - it’s an autoimmune condition - and my mum was working, my dad was working, so I had to cook for him. I really resented it, I was actually a bit of a bitch to him. I have an autoimmune condition too, so very early on, I thought I didn’t want to knowingly pass that problem on. I remember, at 10, saying that I don’t want to have any kids.
I’ve grown up between two shifts in women’s emancipation, and between two cultures. There was my dad’s Irish side, which was emancipated, and my Greek mum was among the first generation of emancipated women. Her mother never wanted to have children, and she would have been great had she not been forced to marry at the age of 17. I spent some of my childhood in Greece, where there was still this regressive thing going on - you had to be back before sundown because “you know what men do”.
I also grew up in Switzerland and England - I’m a real Euro-bastard - and Berlin is one step further along in the evolution of women. At university, I spent an exchange year here, while the Wall was still up. I loved it and wanted to stay, but things took a weird turn, and I ended up working in Greece. I returned to Switzerland, and met my then-husband. We came back to Berlin, and separated two months after we arrived. Two years later I met my partner, who’s an East Berliner, and was initiated into a massive crowd of about 150 people.
I really like the way the women are, in that group. I like the emancipation, that these women have grown up not depending on men. One of the reasons I was attracted to Berlin years ago was because of this spirit; I had the first feeling that women had as much freedom as men. I had friends who did it: you could sleep with as many people as you wanted…
In East Germany, they used abortion as birth control. I have a few female friends who had four, five, six abortions. If I hear another man say I never wanted kids, yet he’s fathered three, that really pisses me off. There hasn’t been a shift towards men: we say to them, “you got this girl pregnant, you have to marry her”, but we don’t say, “actually, we expect you to a) pay for an abortion, and b) go to some sort of counselling, so you’ll stop doing this”. It’s amazing how many women my boyfriend got pregnant, not wanting to have children. Why didn’t you tie a knot in it? Why didn’t you get yourself sterilised?
I think you have to start with men. Male birth control is still not happening, because they’re not interested. There’s this underlying sub-program that’s running: “I don’t want any kids - but I’m going to impregnate 10 women”. I’m a beekeeper, and it’s really interesting that males are only used for sperm. Once the queen’s been inseminated, it’s: goodbye, good riddance. Forget birth control; men need to take more responsibility. Governmentally, there should be incentives: if you get your tubes tied, we’ll give you some money.
You need to give people alternatives. If more people realise that they can have a different life, that they have the freedom to do something different, then we can preserve what we have now. It shows a lack of imagination, if this is what people feel that they have to do. Greece is in an economic slump, so the birth rate is falling, but unfortunately some people are still procreating extensively. I’m like, “why do you have 10 children, and feed them white bread?”
Everyone needs to be educated: if you really have this urge to have kids, please stop at two. But they’re still in the mode of, “if we don’t have a pension, our kids will look after us”. We’re dealing with people in different eras: you have people who are living in the middle ages, others who are actually living in 2017, and others who aren’t living anywhere at all, because they haven’t woken up to themselves yet.
It’s The Handmaid’s Tale, it really is. I’ve always had little faith in human nature, and, given how things continue to devolve politically and socially, it turns out I was right. I would hate to have a child now and to worry what kind of a world I'd brought them into.
Everything is everyone’s fault these days; if things go wrong in your life, then you must be a bad person. It’s women against women, too. I’m 53 now, and in the 80s I had the feeling that there was more solidarity between women than there is now. Now we’re competitive, and we’re actually our own worst enemies in some of these areas.
I feel that there’s a regression going on, among younger women. If you have freedom, you have to make choices. And a lot of women don’t want to do that. We humans are quite lazy, and we’re willing to sacrifice freedom for comfort. We’re not comfortable with discomfort. If you say to someone, “I don’t do that”, it makes them have to question and examine their own lives.
I’ve never known anyone else who didn’t want to have children, at least no one who would admit it. People just aren’t used to being different. When we moved from London to this cowpoke town in Switzerland, we were called “the Ausländer”, because we were the only ones. It was a form of racism: “the Ausländer do things differently”. At some point, I was just like: fuck it, I am different.
The word “alone” originally comes from “all one”; it actually means being at one with yourself. It’s becoming endemic: a lot of people are petrified of being alone, of hearing their own thoughts, and they’re missing the excitement of realising, “I never knew I thought this”. Some people have children just because they want to belong.