Does being childless mean we never grow up?

 Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my Childless by Marriage book. Since my mind is full of earthquakes and tsunamis for another writing project, we’ll look at this section from my chapter “Do We Ever Grow Up?”
“Although I never had children of my own, I still remember with guilt how my stepson Michael would get hungry and cook his own macaroni and cheese while I was off chasing newspaper articles. When the epic 1989 LomaPrieta earthquake hit, Michael was home alone. Despite books and knick-knacks falling down around him, he ignored all previous instructions and sat under his bedroom window until the house stopped shaking. Then he ran to his friend’s house, not next door to the daycare lady, but to John, whose parents would end up taking care of him more than I like to admit. Where were we? Fred was driving home from work, watching the power poles sway and the pavement move in waves, and I was at the downtown library reading microfilm for an article on urban anger.
Where did I go after that quake? First I hit the pay phone in the parking lot (no cell phones yet), eventually locating Michael and Fred. Then I thought about going home.
Big, knock-you-off-your feet aftershocks hit every couple minutes. The library was closed, the floors buried in fallen books and shelves. The power was out; we had no stoplights. I could see an endless stream of cars heading south, which was where I lived. So I didn’t go south. I went west, back to my parents’ house, sitting in the dark with them until bedtime, raiding their fridge when I got hungry.
Meanwhile, Fred had gotten home, collected Michael and started cleaning up. My office was the epicenter of fallen office supplies. Books, binders and that six-pound rock my father gave me years ago covered the carpet, but it was cleaned up before I got there. Likewise, the broken clock and the broken coffee mugs were gone. Fred, a parent, took care of things, while I reverted to the daughter role . . . .
If you don’t have children, are you doomed to perpetual self-centered child status? If I had children of my own waiting alone in South San Jose in the dark as aftershocks shook the area, wouldn’t I have done whatever I had to do to rescue my babies, even if I had to walk or crawl the whole eight miles, rather than going to my parents’ house? Does it count that if it happened now, I’d do it for my puppies, fearing those poor dogs would be crushed under a bookshelf?”
Some people argue that people never really grow up until they have children. What do you think?
Dear readers,
Last Friday’s post titled “I’m childless and widowed, but I’m free”was re-published as a Huffington Post blog yesterday. This is pretty exciting for me, bringing extra attention to me and my book, but I want to direct you to the comments. At last look, there were well over 100 of them. The article started a pretty interesting discussion about childlessness that you might want to get in on. Click on over to to see what people are saying.

6 thoughts on “Does being childless mean we never grow up?

  1. A snarky comment from out of the WWW here: Does being childless mean we never grew up ? ” Absolutely NOT! Staying single ( and managing to be childless not by choice too, quite the rare accomplishment) means I never grow up. See: “You're not a real grownup unless you're married” (Hope I didn't ” hijack ” the thread here) However, I will grant you that being childless carries LOTS of “you don't know what life is like 'til you've had kids” baggage out there amongst “them.”


  2. At 38 and childless, I have to admit that I don't feel “grown up”. Looking in the mirror is sometimes a jolt – I thought I was 28!I'm the same age as my sister-in-law, but for some reason her 13-year-old daughter thinks I'm way more hip and cool. Probably she thinks I'm 10 years younger than what I am.Lunch with my mom (with no kids to tow with us) she treats and I feel like I'm 12 again.Since I am not burnt out from raising children, I can be fresh, fun and playful with nieces and nephews, thus making me seem (to them) like a fun teenage babysitter. When they really need something though, they look for a mom – not me. I guess to them I'm not really a grownup.In adult situations, I sometimes feel a bit immature. Once, while chatting with my sister-in-laws, I asked if any of them had seen a particular movie that was in theaters. They all sort of poo-pooed about how they didn't have time to do something as frivolous as THAT.When I bring a fancy dish to potlucks, other woman will lament that they haven't the time to pull together something “so nice”. What with the kids and all. Other mothers will agree and then they're OFF – chatting about their stresses and issues. All the while gulping down my “fancy” homemade guacamole.And I will admit that while the stresses in my life (marriage, my business) are real – I've never had to sit up half the night worrying about taking a child to urgent care or not. I'm careful to remember that being a parent is a tremendous responsibility and I don't want to take that away from anyone. It really is a club with rites of passage. Those who are not in that club will likely grow in other ways.In regard to the above comment about “not being a real grownup unless you are married.” I try very hard to practice what I preach when I converse with single people. Much like I don't want to always hear about “the kids,” they don't want to constantly hear about what restaurants “we” like. Or where “we” like to vacation. And a single person in a new relationship might have different difficulties than a person with a 10-year marriage behind them, but that doesn't make those issues any less important.Suppose I do have a child in my 40's? I wonder if I won't keep my more youthful image. I've been maintaining it for so long that it might just be a permanent part of me. Wouldn't that be a nice reward after waiting all these years? Anon S


  3. Occasionally, I've been aware of people who've never had children (or perhaps stayed single) who were for whatever reason the “designated sibling” who took care of aging parents/relatives. Years after this one man died, I found out the reason he'd never married/had children was he was the oldest of 5 or 6 children. When he was 17, his Mother died and, in his longrunning grief, his Dad wasn't a good parent. Jimmy basically took up the slack and successfully raised all his younger siblings. Lots of different lives/reasons out there.


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