“The reality is that most people, whether they’re parents or not, do not, and will not, have it all.”

Lise, Berlin

As a nanny, Lise knows just how hard it is to care for children. Despite doubts from her family, doctors and the men she’s dated, she’s always believed in herself.

I decided around the age of 26, when I’d already started my career taking care of other people’s children. I think I knew before then, but that was when I could say with confidence, “I don’t want kids”.

Working as a nanny has had a profound effect on my decision, because it’s shown me that it’s not an easy job being a parent. If you don’t know what you’re walking into, you can approach parenthood with a kind of peace. But if you’ve seen too much of anything, you think, “Wait, why would I choose that?”

I’m grateful to do the job, but no one wants to work all the time. When I’ve stopped working, that’s it – I don’t want to do anything to do with kids. I’d like to just be me. That’s a thing that a lot of mothers I know wish they could get back. As much they like to think that they are still who they are, you do lose a massive part of your identity when you become a mother. People start to think of you like, “She’s a mum”.

I’ve been asked from as young as 19, “Do you want kids? When are you going to have kids?” You’re made out to be some kind of freak if you say, convincingly, “I don’t want children”. I don’t understand why that’s not a perfectly acceptable answer.

People always say, “Oh, but that’s because you’re single, because you aren’t married yet”. Why are you making excuses for me? You’ve asked the question, I’ve given you the answer. Now, the answer doesn’t fit what you want, so you’re trying to give me reasons why I only think I don’t want children. It’s complete insanity.

A lot of my family really don’t believe me. They’re just like, “You’re 38 – you’re getting on a bit. The main problem with millennials – blah blah blah – it’s much harder to find your life partner now. And it’s unfortunate for you, Lizzie, but this is probably why you think you don’t want kids. If you met the man of your dreams tomorrow…” And then what?

I speak to my mum about this often. She knows how much I love my job, and the kids I look after, but I think, in the back of her mind, she understands that I don’t want children of my own. So she’s looking to my four siblings, and has started to pester them. She still says to me, as her firstborn, “Oh, you’ll give me my first grandchild”, but in the back of her mind, she knows that isn’t true. My aunts and uncles who I don’t speak to as often, they’re fully under the impression that I will be a mother someday.

My mother and I are not very close, but we’ve definitely become closer since she understands what I do for a living. It’s helped me understand the psyche of a parent, and why people behave towards children the way they do. In a way, how I nurture other people’s children always makes me reflect on how my mother raised me, and the things I lacked. We talk about that, and she’s making up for it now. Because she now knows that I understand what it is to be a parent.

My mum’s always been a working mum with multiple jobs. She was single for a period, but then she’d be married and still working, to make up for the support she was lacking. From a very young age, maybe 13, I knew I definitely didn’t want to be a single mum. I saw how hard it was for my mum, and didn’t want that for myself. I was like, “I don’t want to be a single parent, I’m going to marry the richest person alive”.

You can have it all, if you’ve got the money and you’re very well supported. The parents that use my services are very busy, in-demand people. They want support from day one, or rather month three, when they’re thinking about going back to work. Yes, you can take your allocated parental leave, but the fact of the matter is, if you choose to take a whole year off from your job, things move on without you.

I work for a lot of parents who inspire me in some way. I find it fascinating meeting families from different walks of life, finding out what work they do and how they balance that with being a parent. There are situations in which you can have it all, like if you end up creating your own company and being your own boss. But the reality is that most people, whether they’re parents or not, do not, and will not, have it all. It’s a very hard thing to achieve.

I’ve been suffering with severe endometriosis for maybe six years, but I’ve only been diagnosed in the last couple of months. I’ve been to so many different types of doctors to find out why my back hurts, why I can’t walk properly, why I lack energy, why I’m in such pain. And every answer they gave me was more and more outlandish and ridiculous. I never even knew what endometriosis was until a friend of mine told me she had it. That led me to check and see if I also had it.

I’ve shown all of my paperwork to my gynecologist and she’s almost hysterical. She was like, “No wonder you can’t walk properly and your back curves – you’ve got this huge cyst growing inside of you. I can see it quite clearly, but for some reason, the other doctors couldn’t”. I’m so happy I didn’t convince myself I just had bad bones, and, as one doctor suggested, had hip replacement surgery.

I would be inclined to say I’m treated more fairly back in the UK, where doctors see people of different ethnicities all the time. Whereas in Germany, there are far fewer people of colour. But then, my diagnosis of endometriosis has come at a time when we’ve gone through the whole Black Lives Matter thing. So, in Germany, where they’re very conscious of not being seen as discriminatory, I’ve had a slightly different medical experience than maybe I would have had a few years ago. I’ve been treated more fairly

There’s no cure for endometriosis. Ultimately, you can only keep it at bay for as long as possible, or remove part of the biggest problem. I’ve never had a serious operation before, and I’m at the stage in my life where, if I’m going to have an operation, I’d rather just take care of it. Opting for a supracervical hysterectomy is a big deal, but it’s not the end of the world for me. It’s funny that this is going to be the circle of my life, that I’ll go from knowing I don’t want kids to having a hysterectomy, which will mean I can’t have them.

When I finally decided for myself that I’m going to have the procedure, I felt a kind of relief that a decision had been made. But there was almost a moment of sadness, because this is a definitive thing. I’m sure I don’t want kids, but it’s different to know that you can’t have kids. It’s not that it’s a bad decision, but you still need a moment to take that in emotionally and understand what it means.

Now, going forward, not only am I going to have to explain to the people that I meet that I don’t want kids, but also that I now can’t have them. And you’re kidding yourself if you think that isn’t important to single people still trying to be paired off – it really goes against you more than it works for you. And it’s really sad that people are treated this way, you know?

Being in my late 30s, the topics of marriage and kids come up very quickly on dates. I’m very honest about my choice, and still I’ve had someone write me to say they hoped I was joking, or that I would change my mind, and for that reason, they’ve decided not to continue seeing me.

I’ve had men who are 49, 50, who don’t really want a newborn child, say they don’t want the option taken away from them. They are that selfish that they’d rather go out with someone who is young and fertile, than choosing the less viable option. It’s insane to me that a man would try to tell me that I’m less of a woman both because of my age and my decision not to have children. If you genuinely believe that, we’re not a good match anyway.

Trust your own instincts and try as hard as possible not to be led astray by outside influences. This is true for many things in your life, not just your decision about whether to have kids or not. Be true in your conviction, and make up your own mind. Because if you start to believe what you tell yourself, it will manifest.

Photos by Zoë Noble
Words edited by James Glazebrook