The Sex and the City actress told BBC Radio 4 this week, "I am not a biological parent, but I am a parent." When I heard that, I assumed that meant she’d adopted children, in which case, I agree, you are not the biological mom, but you did raise them and you are their mom. Then I learned I was wrong about that assumption, and I saw that her words were very misleading.
She then clarified that, no, she is “not a mother" but a really good auntie, although she doesn’t dare use the word “aunt” because it implies a lesser relationship in her mind, I suppose. Instead she says, “There is a way to become a mother in this day and age that doesn't include your name on the child's birth certificate.”
But aside from being a stepmother, to that I say, no, there is not.
You are either a child’s mother, or you are not their mother. You can be a fantabulous grandparent, the best aunt they’ve ever had or even a close cousin, but the role of mother is very specific.
My bigger issue is her unwillingness, almost deliberate, to use the word “aunt." You can be a great auntie without calling yourself a "parent" — there's no shame in that.
I think her whole attitude stinks, and it minimizes the importance of different roles women can play in children’s lives. I would have liked her to have said, “I am the greatest aunt on the planet…” and then she can enumerate all the wonderful and loving things she has done for the young people in her life.
Nobody is judging her for not having kids. What year does she think this is? It’s not new information that women can live long, fulfilling lives without ever having a baby. Besides which, people are so focused on their own lives and their own families that nobody cares if women — celebrities like Kim Cattrall or just us regular folk — have children or not.
Most of my friends and relatives love that I don’t have kids because they can bring theirs to my house to take some time for themselves. It makes them feel less guilty to leave children with me, because they know I am not overwhelmed with my own. I’m a great auntie and proud to be one.
But I also would never dare assume that because I can spend money on other people’s children or advise them in areas that I know more about, that makes me their parent in any way. I, like Kim Cattrall, do not have to rush a child to a doctor with a fever at 3 a.m. or worry if they are doing their homework or have had a fight with a classmate, or the litany of other things parents do that we aunties will never really know.
Cattrall says, "I didn't change nappies, which is OK with me, but I did help my niece get through medical school. I did sit down with my nephew when he was [experiencing] a very tough time to join the army," she said. "And those are very motherly things to do, very nurturing things to do."
Yes, those are nurturing, loving, caring, generous things (I’ll even give her "motherly"), but what they are not… is “parenting.” And that is OK.
Nobody is judging you for not having children. They don’t care now, and they didn’t back in 2001 when Madelyn Cain wrote The Childless Revolution.
At the time, Cain said, “Due in part to birth control, later marriages, and the emergence of two-career couples, 42 percent of the American female population is childless, representing the fastest-growing demographic group to emerge in decades.”
That was 2001. Now, in 2015, 47.6 percent of women between ages 15 and 44 have never had children. Those numbers are even more pronounced for women between the ages of 25 and 29, where the number of women without kids is closer to 50 percent.
That means new generations of adoring and devoted aunties, stepmothers and other women who are not parents themselves will be offering their unconditional love and endless support to some of the luckiest children on the planet. Children who will have an extended family that may or may not include both parents but that will be a support system that, nevertheless, will help them develop into healthy adults. And in the end, isn’t that really all that matters?
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