I think I made the decision twice. From the very beginning, I didn’t ever imagine myself married with children.
So at first it wasn’t an active decision, I was just going with the flow. I hadn’t said a definite “no” to a life with kids, but I definitely wasn’t chasing it. I was looking to the future that I wanted, and not necessarily making decisions about the futures I didn’t want.
Then, at around 30, I split up a serious partner who had also not wanted children, and I took that opportunity to reassess. You know, you think you’re on one path, and then suddenly all avenues are open again. It was good, as an adult, to sit down and think, “is this something I want?” The answer was no, I was still feeling the same as I had always felt.
From the beginning we’re told that our decisions about having children, or not having children, belong to society and not us. Other people make decisions about what our worth is, and what we should be doing with our bodies. So whatever age a woman is, when you say, “I don’t want to have kids”, you’re told that you’ll change your mind, or regret your choice.
That’s the thing that’s frustrating – we’re constantly having to make excuses, or come up with reasons, to negotiate this. At some point, someone has to acknowledge that maybe we actually know what’s best for us. Get out of my body – just go away!
Tattooing is thought of as a traditionally male job, so in the beginning it was, of course, a nightmare. You have to know your place as a woman, and you’re supposed to act and look a certain way. I was working with a lot of biker-y dudes, with way more traditional views of gender roles, and they didn’t like me so much, because I have opinions and I voice them.
If you ask the old boys, they’re not very happy with women being involved in tattooing. You see them griping online about how the industry has been feminised, and how women only get ahead because we look good. I find it quite amusing, because everyone plays the hand they’re dealt. If you’re clever, talented, beautiful, whatever… we all have a different combination of things, and we use them to the best of our abilities.
How many times have you seen a male tattooer posing in front of a Harley, surrounded by a bunch of babes? It’s OK for men to use women’s bodies to sell their product, but god forbid you have a pair of tits and want to use them to sell your own product. Because that’s not allowed. You can only use tits you’ve hired!
When I got Ludwig, my dachshund, I’d been firm in my decision not to have kids for a long time. We’re still creatures of instinct and biology, and I had a desire to love on something, to take care of something. I think you could channel that energy into projects or other people – I wanted to have a little creature.
Understandably, parents get upset when you compare owning a dog to parenting. But there are some obvious similarities, because they’re small creatures, and we’re creatures too. A dog is a lot less commitment, but still, it’s really shitty when someone says you’ll never understand the intense love between a parent and a child. They don’t have any understanding of how you feel, or the relationships that you have.All of us build relationships differently. There are plenty of people who have fucked up relationships with their parents. You may love them, but each love is going to be different, and complicated.
Telling someone that they can’t understand that intense love is bullshit. What do you know about me? What do you know about how I feel? There are plenty of things that you won’t know because you chose to have a child. We each take a different path – why can’t we all just respect each other’s choices on this?
There are many different ways of living life now, and people have more choices than they used to. When I first met my boyfriend’s grandmother, who’s in her 80s, she asked me if I wanted children. I told her, and now she loves us – we’re her favourites. She was like, “Good for you. In my day, I had no choice. I had to be married, and I had to have children, whether I wanted them or not”.
Imagine having to live that life. When you think of women from that era who didn’t have children, once you reached a certain age, then you were seen as strange. Something that’s carried over from that time is a sort of suspicion about childfree women, about what we are doing with our time and money. People wonder, when left to our own devices, what trouble we get up to.
Photos by Zoë Noble
Words edited by James Glazebrook