Everyone’s family looks a little different. Mine happens to consist mostly of four-legged animals, or as I like to call them, my kids. For the longest time, I thought I would get married, have 2.5 kids and live happily ever. I also thought I would have my own Equestrian Centre and have gone to the Olympics by the time I was twenty-five. As of today, I’m 1 out of 5, so it’s obvious that sometimes things don’t work out quite the way you think they might.
The equestrian community is fortunate in that people live all sorts of life outside of the boots and breeches, but we have been programmed from an early age, that you should go to school, get married, buy a house, and have kids (picket fence optional). While we’ve come a long way as a society as far as accepting people’s general life choices, still in 2018, often a couple’s or an individual’s decision to not have children can be met with disapproval and judgment.
When I was 18, living in England on my gap year, working at a boarding school that had an Equestrian program, my Mom sent me an email. She had read an article in our local paper about a successful horse trainer, who, while she had gone to the Olympics and ran a successful equestrian business, didn’t have children. My Mom told me not to forget to have kids. Like it was along the lines of picking up milk from the store and as such could be so easily forgotten. She also said “You don’t know true love until you hold your own child in your arms,” and I believed that for some time. Almost twenty years later and I still have that email. I thought I would have kids because that’s what the world told me to do. But when it came time to do so, I realized it wasn’t something that I wanted. And that’s ok.
Being in a relationship with someone who already has a fantastic daughter, and was happy to have more kids or not, gave me the room to realize there was nothing about motherhood that I wanted to be a part of. In the end, the decision was easy for me. What was hard was telling my Mom, and believe it or not the reactions I got from other people. As anyone who isn’t taking the path to parenthood, for whatever reason the responses are common: “You will regret it one day,” “Who will take care of you when you’re old?”, “Your life won’t be fulfilled without kids”, and so many more ridiculous and unwelcome comments.
But the thing is; I know what love feels like, and it comes from family. I love my family, which in my world includes my dogs, my horses, and my friends. I have nieces and nephews, who I would do absolutely anything for, and I get to share in their lives in a very small but oh so special way. I get to see the magic of a child growing up, and I hardly had to change any diapers to do it or suffer any sleepless nights. I’ve tucked my sisters and brothers kids into bed, and I marvel at the amazing little human beings they are becoming, and admire the fantastic parents my siblings are. I am in awe of anyone who takes on being a parent and bringing a child into this world, but I am also self-aware enough to know that it is not for me.
I have a full family, and the love I have for MY “kids,” while different, is no less fulfilling for me than anyone else’s. Watching my young horse grow up and develop has been so incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. For a lot of my friends, this the new norm. These choices are not always their own but instead can be made for them due to medical or financial reasons, or something else completely out of their control. People don’t judge others for deciding to have children, and those of us with only “fur children” should be given the same courtesy. A family is made of up of anyone you deem worthy, and love is love regardless of who is sharing it.