Jane

Malta feels like a small Catholic village. My mum, who’s Maltese, moved us there from England when I was eight, for about 20 years or so.

Which is a long time on a small island; it’s a bit claustrophobic at times. I was looking to move somewhere, and at the time happened to meet someone who was from Berlin, so I took the opportunity to come here with her. I’ve been living here for nearly eight years, and was married four years ago. In Berlin, you can be who you want to be, which is one of the big reasons I really like it here.

Back in Malta, there’s a really huge expectation for people to have children. And even though there is legal equality for same-sex couples, you don’t always feel that on the street. When I go back, I sound like a tourist, even though I understand the language. I’ve heard people talking behind my back about me and my wife, even young people, which is scary. Because religion is such a huge part of people’s values and how they see themselves, anyone who’s different really sticks out.

Most people think I don’t want children because I’m a lesbian. That’s totally wrong; for me, they’re two separate things.

I knew I didn’t want to have kids before I realised I like women. I went to an all-girls school, and I remember, back when I was 13, 14, saying, “No, it doesn’t sound very appealing to me, or what I’d like to have in the future”. Everyone told me that my opinion would change, but I knew it wouldn’t. I guess I've always felt that motherhood was just not for me.

I was very relieved when my wife said she also didn’t want to have kids. If your partner really wants to have kids and you don’t, that’s a big issue. It’s something I couldn’t compromise on; you can’t have half a baby. We have cats - that’s enough!

My grandmother was always trying to get me married, obviously to a guy. But I never had the same pressures from my mother - she’s actually rather happy that my sister and I don’t want to have children. She was like “yes, I never wanted grandchildren - this is fantastic!” She wasn’t happy with her own marriage, and the way things went. She’s also a big worrier, and having more people to worry about wouldn’t help.

I used to work at a sustainability institute, studying air quality and air pollution, and the future isn’t looking good for the children we have now. These things about climate change have been known; I remember hearing about them in school, and we’re talking about the same thing 20 years on? It’s pathetic. It’s not fair to dump our problems on a younger generation - it’s going to be worse for them than it is for us.

When I was working in Malta, I noticed that some women would have master’s degrees and be good at their job, and then they’d get married and just stop working. I don’t get that. I’m not sure if that’s an internal thing, or if it’s just what they think society expects of them… It’s such an alien concept to me that I just don’t understand it.

I think it’s a myth that you can have a career and children without support. There’s so much pressure to be good at a career, and then also be a good mother; I cannot imagine the pressure and the stress that someone would have to go through to try and juggle that.

As a woman, you have the whole pregnancy to deal with, and then after that, the societal expectations of you as a mother are just huge.

It’s great that here in Germany, men can also take parental leave. That helps mothers go back to work and not lose six months of their career, which is a huge amount of time. There are lots of countries that don’t have that, and it’s all on the mother. That’s terrible. You have to be in a really special situation for everything to work out. You need to have a lot of support around you, not just from your partner, but also from your job, and the other people in your life.

Because I always felt so strongly that I didn’t want children, I never thought I’d regret my decision. I would however have regretted giving into societal pressures. I tend to ignore people’s questions and comments. It’s my own personal decision, so if you think any less of me because of it, then that’s your problem not mine.