Where do we “childless by circumstance” people fit in?

In preparing to write this blog, I look at the posts in the various related Facebook groups I belong to. It always makes me uncomfortable. The posts at the Childless Stepmothers group burn with anger. The stepmoms seem to hate their stepchildren as well as the kids’ biological mothers. They resent the fact that they have to take care of these “brats” while they don’t get to have their own kids. Although my own relationship with my stepchildren has not always been smooth, I am always aware that by giving me a chance to interact with his kids, my husband gave me a family. It’s an opportunity to be a mother in some ways. I am lucky that the kids’ mom is a great person, and we all get along. It doesn’t always work out that way.
At the Being Fruitful Without Multiplying group, the overriding theme seems to be that people who have babies are idiots. Not smart enough to use birth control. Look how pregnancy ruins your body. Look how it ruins your life. How dare these breeders make us share our world with their “spawn?” And how could a doctor refuse to sterilize a person in his or her 20s, saying they’re “too young?”
At Childless Not by Choice, the grief fills my computer monitor with tears. Some members are childless because their partner can’t or doesn’t want to have kids, some don’t have partners, and some have struggled with infertility, including multiple miscarriages, stillbirths and failed attempts to get pregnant.They’d give anything to have children.
I feel most comfortable with the Childless Not by Choice group, but it’s not easy to face all this sadness.
In real life, too, it’s hard to fit in sometimes. At my new dentist’s office last week, the dental assistant went on and on about her children and grandchildren—as well as her husband. She didn’t ask if I was married or had children, and I couldn’t tell her because of the sharp instruments in my mouth.
At lunch last Sunday after church, I sat with four friends, all mothers, three of them grandmothers, as they passed around baby pictures and talked about their families. I love these women, but I felt like a papaya at a table full of apples. I sipped my iced tea and hoped our food would arrive soon.
I have other friends I meet at writing workshops and other events who are militantly childfree. If I say anything about kids, they proclaim that they never wanted them, thank God they don’t have them. They shudder at the thought of being mothers while I quietly hope the program will start soon.
It’s a crazy time. In my mother’s generation, everybody had children if they were physically able to do so. They were all happy apples. Now, with so many choices, it’s one big mixed-up fruit cocktail.
What are your experiences dealing with the moms and non-moms? Please share in the comments.
(If you want to join any of these Facebook groups, search for them by name. Most are private so people can share freely. If you need an invitation to get in, let me know.)

10 thoughts on “Where do we “childless by circumstance” people fit in?

  1. Do we fit in? While sitting with my thirtysomething group of friends at lunch, I could hear the chatter of ladies at the next table celebrating an 80th birthday. Their discussion turned to pregnancy, labor and delivery. It was in that moment I realized I will never escape the conversation…


  2. As I am starting to feel better after three years of grieving, I am starting to notice more women who are childless because they are single or because they have chosen to be childfree. I have not noticed so many who are married and childless (maybe one or two). It makes me wonder if the latter more invisible or less likely to talk about it.


  3. Anonymous,
    I think you're right that the married childless might be less likely to talk about it. For one thing, it may not be completely decided yet. Or they don't want to seem disloyal. Can you think of other reasons?
    I'm glad you're feeling better.


  4. It depends on the situation. When it is with my friends who started their families 10-20 years ago, I am fine. I care about them and their children and I want to know how they all are.

    It's harder with strangers or with people who are just starting out with their families, especially if they are older miracle pregnancies or 'oopsies'. It is probably the pregnancy, newborn and infant talk that I have the most trouble with.

    I think that anytime you can't, or don't want to contribute to a conversation, it becomes difficult, no matter what the subject! The other day I so wanted to leave the table because two of the girls constantly talked about our careers which I am now drifting away from. I just wanted to get away from it! I'm not in that place anymore!


  5. I find this difficult too. I feel like the “unrecognized” group of one. Most people I know tell me I need to “just be who you are.” I am being who I am. I just don't think the things I deal with or think about are things that these other woman think about. I have had to grow by being caring about things people are upset about that I can't always relate to. I feel “in between” all the time. I notice many people feel uncomfortable caring for someone when they don't have the same experience, so they don't try to grow empathy for me. I think they think someone else will understand. I have had to grow emotionally. I can really be concerned, even when it isn't something that I am worried about. I also can be concerned when it has to do with pregnancy, children, etc. ( which can be painful for me). I just need a few more friends who can do the same for me. I try to share my perspective but gingerly.


  6. Sue, I read your book, and in it you don't really seem like you were grateful to have been a stepmom, so I am really surprized at what you wrote in this blog post.


  7. Anonymous, I can see how it would look like I am saying two different things about how I feel about being a stepmother. Things were very different when the kids were younger. They were much more in my life and there were times when I was delighted to have this chance at motherhood, even if it had its limitations. Now, however, I have very little contact with any of them. I'm not sure the oldest is speaking to me these days. So it's a bumpy road. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy.


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