Is there more to life than children?

12:34pm Thursday 7th February 2013

By Amie Mulderrig

Like most little girls, when I was younger I imagined I would meet my prince. We’d both share a love of music, particularly Otis Redding, a passion for Asian horror films and a disregard for musicals.

We’d have the big fairytale wedding and, just like our parents before us, we’d have children, lots of them. And we’d be really successful in our respective careers, maybe not fabulously wealthy, but happy in the knowledge that when it came to the winter, yes, we could indeed have the heating on.

Former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Helen Gurley Brown may have sold women the idea that they can indeed have it all – high flying careers and the quintessential family –but as the years pass with increasing speed, I’ve started to realise that my dream may well stay just that – a dream.

It’s getting more and more difficult to achieve this blueprint, and I’m certainly not alone in this crushing realisation.

Artist Emma Scutt has taken the theme of childlessness and is exploring it in her new exhibition, No-one to Bestow, which opens at the Tokarska Gallery.

“No-one to Bestow was originally exhibited as part of the 2012 E17 Art Trail and the inspiration came from the theme for the Art Trail, Bestow,“ explains Emma.

“For his own exhibition, my friend Fabien decided to follow the bestow theme and photographed Walthamstow residents with a cherished object bestowed to them. He photographed me with the beautiful wooden doll’s house my grandfather made for me when I was a little girl.

“I started to think about the doll’s house and how as I grew up I’d have no-one to leave my things to. I've always wanted children, though at the age of 42, I realise this is unlikely and it is something I’m trying to come to terms with.

“I wanted to explore the theme of being childless or child-free – a conscious decision not to have children.“ Emma contacted a dozen female friends who don’t have children for various reasons, asking them if they would like to participate in her exhibition.

“The response I got was mostly positive, from women who were very keen to be involved and tell their own stories. Some friends were reluctant as they were concerned that the process would bring up feelings and issues which they were perhaps not yet ready to explore,“ she says.

Those that wanted to take part were sent a series of questions, which asked them to answer whatever they felt comfortable sharing. Their replies, in all their frankness and honesty, form the basis of the exhibition.

“Some of them always wanted to have children and feel sad that they have never had the chance to fulfil this dream, whether through age, infertility or just simply not meeting the right man at the right time,“ Emma says. “Some have never wanted children and feel completely fulfilled with their lives.

“My final question to everyone was ‘Are you happy with your life right now?’ and the unanimous reply was ‘yes’. The women who would like to have had children have all found other meaningful ways to fill and enrich their lives.“ So perhaps there is more to life than childhood dreams.

No-one to Bestow is being exhibited at the Tokarska Gallery until Saturday, February 9. Details: www.tokarskagallery.co.uk/emmascutt

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