This quote from Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, was the reason I joined Gateway Women. A year later this amazing community and several good friends, were the reason I began Walk In Our Shoes as part of a design project for an postgraduate degree in graphic design on a module titled 'Interpretation and Origination'. A summary of the aims of the module was to use design to provide a solution, working with a minority group outside the course. My interpretation module researched design as a solution to cultural and emotional divisions between parents and those who are childless through any circumstance.
Susannah Moore’s article published in ‘The Guardian’ in January 2014 opens with the observation that:
At the moment it’s looking as if a quarter of women born in the 1970s will be childless. Whether we call this childless or childfree depends on a whole set of narratives that are procreating rapidly but are really divisive attempts to isolate women instead of uniting us.
This is not just happening for women either. All kinds of people may be unhappy or ambivalent about their childlessness, but find few spaces in which to express this.
Certainly my generation tetchily struggled to have it all, and many of us failed in the end to manage the perfect work/children/relationship fantasy. Watching younger generations, I can see how that has manoeuvred them into retro lifestyles that are still baffling to me. Some want to get engaged, which I thought was the province only of daft 14-year-olds and public toilets. They want flash weddings and to procreate only with “the one”. Thus the bucketlist required for motherhood is as fixed as it ever was. If they are not partnered up, or forced to confront the reality of taking a few years out just when they are on the up, job-wise, they may begin to understand all that hoo-ha about maternity leave, equal pay, pensions and family-friendly policies.
Moore concludes her commentary with the following
Empathy is rare in daily life. Contextual research shows that celebrations such as Christmas are presented as a time for family and partnership. Famous people without children are challenged. Helen Mirren, Kylie Minogue and Jennifer Aniston are arguably as famous for not being mothers as they are for acting or music.
Social media presents challenges. Over generous pregnancy updates on platforms such as Facebook can force childless people to leave vital communication spaces and isolating themselves.
If 30,000 women are seeking IVF treatment annually, and the sector is worth £500million, there should be a voice that provides a space that shows the next steps and unites us. A space that is a safe space for one in ten couples who struggle to conceive to speak out. A resource that could help one in five women who will remain childless through circumstance for life, put across their thoughts? Words which can be shared to explain why ‘just adopt’ is not a simple process, and can be open to all genders? My proposal was to use design to provide a social solution and so this is Walk In Our Shoes. The site:
- publishes real life accounts from those who are coming to terms with involuntary childlessness using a unique feet photo concept to preserve privacy
- welcomes guests posts from those who can offer support and inspiration to others
- promotes events and talks in this field on the blog
- is a public face for the issues around involuntary childlessness, speaking on radio and delivering talks on the story behind the site and mine and my husband's story as a couple coming to terms with the impact of IVF and infertility on our lives
- curates a links pages welcoming the details of support networks, blogs and articles because the more we share, the more we can unite
- supports the unsung heroes, the men affected by infertility
- is open to new ideas and responsive to our followers at all times.