Antidotes to the Childless Christmas Blues

So, we’re drowning in Christmas. Even if you’re not Christian, it’s pretty hard to avoid the deluge of holiday music, TV specials, ads telling you to shop, shop, shop, and kids lining up in front of Santa to make their demands. The month is full of obligations. Send out cards; decorate; buy, wrap and send gifts; bake goodies for parties, gift exchanges, and bazaars; and do it all while the weather outside is just as frightful as it says in the song. Here in western Oregon, we’re underwater and getting battered by high winds, but the clock keeps ticking toward Dec. 25 anyway. I don’t know about you, but I just want to be teleported to another planet where it’s sunny and warm, and nobody gives a fig about Christmas.

What does all this have to do with being childless? I don’t know. Maybe that there’s no magic in the season without children, for whom all of this is new and exciting. Instead of a burden, it’s the most magical time of the year. Maybe Christmas shopping would be more fun if you were doing it for a child who will be ecstatic over his gift instead of aging adults who already have all the trinkets they can handle. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Yes, I have the Christmas blues. Too many rejections of my writing. Too many dark windy days with nothing to look forward to but a break in the rain to go outside to clean my gutters and pick up fallen branches. A sister-in-law who wants to stop exchanging gifts between me and her family. A step-great-granddaughter shown on Facebook praying to Santa, folded hands, amen and all, as if Santa were God. I can’t do anything to help her understand that there’s a real God and He isn’t Santa Claus because I have never met the child and probably never will. A wacko new priest who cancelled my singing with the kids at church tonight. The outside Christmas lights I was so proud of putting up not working now and I can’t figure out why. Daily pictures of my cousin with his wife and kids on a sunny beach in Mexico.

Maybe you feel the same way, but we have to find the light somewhere.  There’s this. My church, like many, puts out a holiday giving tree with tags for gifts desired by children and senior citizens who might not otherwise get any Christmas presents. Setting aside the whiny thought that my name should be on that tree because I may not get any presents, I perused the tags and chose an old lady named Gladys. I enjoyed shopping for Gladys yesterday. I avoided the kid tags because I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to buy. But next year, I think I should pick up a handful of them and adopt myself a family of poor children to shower with gifts the way I would my own if I had them. I’m not exactly overflowing with money, but if these children were mine, I would find the funds to make sure they had something good under the Christmas tree.

You can do that, too. Somebody somewhere is seeking gifts for poor families.

I think about my “Gramma” Rachel, who was actually my dad’s stepmother. His real mother died when I was a baby, so I don’t remember her. Rachel, who never had children of her own, was the only Fagalde grandmother I knew. She sent her seven step-grandchildren and four nieces and nephews packages of crazy gifts she had accumulated over the year: a sea shell, a book, a hair ornament, a coin purse, a cassette tape, a newspaper clipping with her favorite passages underlined. Not one thing advertised on TV or sold at Toys R Us, but all chosen with love and very little money. I loved these boxes, and I loved the fact that when she and Grandpa came for dinner on Christmas, Rachel went straight to us kids to see all our presents and talk about what was new in our lives. Mind you, our parents thought she was annoying and a little nuts, but we kids loved her, and I credit her with inspiring a lot of my writing and music today.

Rachel was married three times, but she never gave birth. I don’t know why. I never asked. By the time she married my grandfather, she was probably too old. But I didn’t think much about it because she was my grandma. I didn’t care about anything else.

Of course Rachel didn’t have to compete with a living mother and grandmother. She took over where Grandma Clara left off when she died at 58 of heart disease. But maybe somehow, some way, whether it’s through helping underprivileged people or showering young family members and stepchildren with special gifts, we can make this holiday season easier for them and for us.

There’s a way to make this time of year easier, if we look hard enough.

Okay, I feel better. Maybe I can make a wreath out of those fallen branches. After all, my home is surrounded by real Christmas trees.

How are you faring this holiday season? Please share in the comments.

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16 thoughts on “Antidotes to the Childless Christmas Blues

  1. I have been reading your blog for over a year now and look so forward to it. Today I have found myself in the Christmas blues. I can’t really talk to people about my situation, childless because my husband decided he does not want to have kids after 3 years of marriage. People don’t understand, and in a wierd way I don’t want people to think bad about him. It is a lonely time for me. But reading your blog is my therapy in a way. And I wanted to thank you for putting yourself out there and being “real”. It means more than you know. Merry Christmas.

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    • I’m just like you… I would never tell a living soul the truth about why we didn’t have children. The one and only one time I felt I could, she looked at me and said “I would have left him, I couldn’t imagine my life without my kids”…. Yep, and that’s why still today everyone thinks I have defective reproductive parts. But this place is awesome…. For the first time in 30 years, I can talk about the truth and my feelings…. And the best part…. Surprisingly i’m not alone!! I could have sworn I was the only person on the planet that married someone who refused to have children. So happy I found this site too!!!!

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      • Hey Candy, you are so not alone. I did the same thing. When people asked why we didn’t have children, I’d say, “We can’t.” I didn’t get specific but implied it was a physical problem. I rarely mentioned that Fred didn’t want them. Because yes, the first thing people say is that you ought to leave him. They just don’t get it. I’m so glad you found this site, too.

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  2. I’ve been feeling pretty blue as well. It’s party the weather, all these rainy, dark days don’t encourage a joyful attitude. And I try and remember that I get to be the cool Auntie that spoils my nieces and nephews in ways their other Aunties cannot. I don’t have kids so I can focus on getting them something special, and I always try and plan some kind of special activity for each of them to do with me (like going for afternoon tea). But this year is hard, my husband never really wanted kids which was fine initially as I thought there was time and he might change his mind (why do we always think that?). Unfortunately, in October I was told that I would not be able to have children due to endometriosis. I’ve really been grieving the permanence of this result and I have to grieve alone as my husband does not understand. He never wanted kids and sees me being unable to have them as more of a blessing then a problem. And like S.L., I don’t want people to think badly of him, in every other way he is a great husband! I’m 32 so many of my friends are currently having children or have young families and to make things harder, I work in a reproductive mental health clinic which means I am surrounded by pregnant women or new babies everyday! Thanks for providing a place where people like us can rant and support each other! I have often found comfort reading your blog Sue, and the responses from others going through similar things.

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    • Anonymous, I’m sorry about the endometriosis. I’ve heard it’s quite painful physically as well as the emotional pain. I identify with what you and S.L. are saying about not wanting to make your husbands look bad. I remember feeling that way, too, especially with my first husband. He wasn’t perfect, but I loved him. I didn’t want people to say bad things about him. Also, if we make our husbands look bad, then people wonder about our choices. Why are we staying with them? Then we have to defend them and ourselves, and it gets very uncomfortable. Maybe this is an issue we should explore in a new post. Meanwhile, Christmas will pass, and summer will come again. Enjoy every moment that you can.

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    • Anonymous, I was blessed to work in an obstetrics gynecology clinic and was surrounded as well! I lived vicariously through their journey! I have recently been diagnosed with fibroids and need surgery. My husband too does not understand. Keep your head up! Definitely not alone!

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      • I find you amazing! There is no way on this planet that I could work in that environment!!! My jealously would be to great, and I would hate them all. I have no doubt I would go home crying every day after spending all day with numerous women all gett ing what I wanted so dearly but never would get. I admire you!

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  3. I’ve been feeling pretty blue as well. It’s party the weather, all these rainy, dark days don’t encourage a joyful attitude. And I try and remember that I get to be the cool Auntie that spoils my nieces and nephews in ways their other Aunties cannot. I don’t have kids so I can focus on getting them something special, and I always try and plan some kind of special activity for each of them to do with me (like going for afternoon tea). But this year is hard, my husband never really wanted kids which was fine initially as I thought there was time and he might change his mind (why do we always think that?). Unfortunately, in October I was told that I would not be able to have children due to endometriosis. I’ve really been grieving the permanence of this result and I have to grieve alone as my husband does not understand. He never wanted kids and sees me being unable to have them as more of a blessing then a problem. And like S.L., I don’t want people to think badly of him, he’s a pretty great husband otherwise. I’m 32 so many of my friends are currently having children or have young families and to make things harder, I work in a reproductive mental health clinic which means I am surrounded by pregnant women or new babies everyday! Thanks for providing a place where people like us can rant and support each other! I have often found comfort reading your blog Sue, and the responses from others going through similar things.

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  4. I feel like I go back and forth between thinking of the many ways I’d be a bad mom, or how kids would stress me out and thinking how much I’m missing. I am 30, so no one has made any comments yet (I guess I’m still young and they may think that we’re waiting). As Anonymous pointed out, many of my friends are having children. I made myself stop looking at Facebook as often because of the reminders.

    I just added a supplement to my antidepressant, so I am less down than I normally am around this time of year. There aren’t really any kids in my life either, as my brother-in-law and his wife have decided not to have kids (they never wanted them in the first place) and I’m an only child.

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  5. I’ve never thought to read how or what others feel and how they cope with being childless. My husband and I have been married nearly 32 years and found out after only 9 months of marriage that we could never have children because he’d been injured in a bicycle accident at age 10 and no treatment. . . long story, but the outcome is still no children for us.

    We were surrounded by co-workers, and “friends” who told us we “must have committed some great sin for God to curse us” like this. Or, “it was like a broken arm, it will heal, get over it.” Many other hurtful, cold, callous comments over the years but rarely, if ever, understanding or encouragement.

    The cost of adoption was/is much higher than we could ever afford, we seem to always (even now) struggle with finances due to job loss. Co-workers quick to chime in that if we “really wanted them would make a way to adopt one” so I question myself often about it.

    I always dreamed of having a house full of children, and Christmas’s with my husband and kids making Christmas cookies (I can’t cook – lol) and the tree decorated with all the hand-made ornaments they would bring home from school. Notes to Santa written with crayon in those big “kid” letters. . . watching them sing Christmas carols with other kids at church and hearing their sweet voices sing as they pick their noses. . .seeing them open their presents on Christmas morning, watching my parents hold them on their knee as they share stories – so many hopes and dreams that I’ve never been able to share with anyone because nobody cares about my “dreams” and how it hurts to know they’re only ever in my mind.

    Christmas is always a painful reminder of the fact we have no children or grand children.
    Nieces and nephews are grown and distant – our lives are truly empty of children and we hate it. It still hurts after all these years.

    I like the idea of the Children and/or Senior tree to give Christmas to someone who’s hurting and longing to be loved. Maybe that can help fill the void in our hearts.

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It’s easy to fall into the “why me” thing and feel it’s “only” us. Not that I’m happy anyone else experiences this pain, but that I’m thankful there are others who understand it and offer encouragement.

    Thank you and God bless you ~
    I pray you have a blessed Christmas.

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  6. I’m finding this season hard to cope with, having turned 40 this year and realising too slowly, too late, that although I thought I was ok with not having kids, actually I’m not and am very sad about probably not ever being a mother now because my husband’s position went from “maybe” to “no” about a year ago. I was caught off guard at a Christmas party recently when someone (a mother) asked if we’d decided not to have kids, I.e. if I didn’t want them, in a way that vaguely implied (though I may have imagined it) that not wanting kids is abnormal. I said that it’s mainly because we both feel too old – and i’m not sure why I said this, but I added that if I had been with someone who wanted them I would probably have had them. She said I mustn’t let anyone stand in the way of me having children and looked over at my husband with a look of contempt. I felt – still feel – so bad for having said that. Now she’ll not only think less of him, she’ll be thinking I’m an idiot for staying with him… 😦 So I must remember to give a more vague answer when people ask such questions, or get better at just changing the subject! But it hasn’t really helped with the Christmas spirit…
    Thanks for this very helpful blog and I hope you have a peaceful rest of the year.

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    • Jane,

      I used to always tell people that we were waiting, that it wasn’t the right time yet, but that we wanted a child. My husband always told people he was on the fence. Well, he’s no longer on the fence (he said no, hence why I’m here). I feel like it’s just easier to say that we don’t want kids, because then I won’t have to answer questions as to why we’re not having children. It’s hard for me to talk about it.

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  7. Thank you Sue for your book (I finished it a couple of months ago) and for this blog. It is so important to me. For the last few months I felt like I was moving forward, not thinking about babies all the time, not being angry with my husband, focusing on things that I like to do – started writing a novel (we’ll see how that goes), reading a lot, and exercising more – things I probably wouldn’t be able to do with a child in tow. But the holidays are pushing me around.

    We went to a Christmas party on Saturday filled with friends we have known forever. We were the only couple without children. Twelve kids were running around. Nine of them three years old or younger. On the way home, I made a comment about how we’re not too old yet. He got angry. We got into a silent fight – everything there is to say has been said so many times before. We didn’t talk most of Sunday.

    It seems like every time I feel like I have a foothold on moving forward someone older than us has a baby, a couple who said they would never have kids changes their mind, or something else throws me into a place of nagging hope that maybe now he will change his mind. Imagining my life without him seems unbearable. The same with imagining forever without kids.

    I try so hard to enjoy my friends’ kids and my nieces and nephews. I adopted a little girl from a tree at the University where I work and bought her twice as many Christmas gifts as she listed. I’m lucky that we don’t get the questions and comments that it seems others do. We were both pretty adamant when we were much younger that we didn’t want kids, so I think people just kind of leave it alone now. But I changed my mind along the way and only a couple of people know that.

    I wonder if anyone has any tips for dealing with the anger when it shoots up like a cornstalk in winter? My husband seems to think that if I don’t mention anything for a couple of months then I’m over it even though I’ve told him that it’s not something that I think will ever go away – this longing.

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  8. I’m so happy to have discovered your blog. I will be 33 this year and as long as I can remember have always dreamed of having a large family and fantasizing about names and nursery gear. My husband has recently told me he is beginning to have second thoughts about children. He hasn’t said no outright but I’m scared he will decided too late. My parents had difficulty conceiving and my gut tells me I may experience the same. Time is ticking away and I’m scared the window will close and I will regret it every day of the rest of my life. As the last few of my close friends have become parents, I find myself feelings more and more removed from my niche of friends (some over 15 years of friendship) I no longer enjoy the visits so dominated by kid-talk that slowly seeps it’s way into conversations. I feel I cannot contribute and my responses are forced and meaningless.
    This is all very fresh and raw for me as I begin to seriously examine my life without children.

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