It’s not easy being childless at Christmas

Christmas! It’s almost here. Grownups are driving themselves crazy buying gifts, sending cards, and cooking for parties while kids act like my dog just before she goes for a walk: unbearably hyperactive, following me everywhere, barking at me, and even nipping at my hands because she just has to go for her walk RIGHT NOW.

As for the birth of Jesus, oh yes, that too.

If we have no children, it would seem to be less stressful. Stepchildren may up the anxiety, requiring you to act like a parent when you aren’t, but they might also be spending the holidays with their other mom or dad. So no problem, right? Wrong. If there was ever a time of year when our childlessness is shoved in our faces, this is it.

I stared at my little fake Christmas tree last night with exactly one tiny gift under there for me and felt so sorry for myself. If I had kids, if I still had a husband, I would have presents. I would have somebody making sure “Mom” or “Grandma” wasn’t alone. The kids might be coming, or I might be going to where they live.

I remember my own grandmother, whose birthday was on Christmas Eve. Everyone gathered on Dec. 24 to honor her with gifts, cake, and Portuguese food. The next day, Christmas, everybody came our house. Nobody was alone, and everybody had presents.

Yes, I know, it’s all about Jesus being born.

When I was looking at my tree, I happened to be sitting in the hot tub in my back yard looking through the window. The hot water soothed every joint and muscle. The stars twinkled bright above. The dog puttered around in the yard. Afterward, I put on my nightclothes and watched the Tony Bennett birthday special on TV. It was wonderful. Then I slept and woke up to a fresh new day full of possibilities. Nobody bothered me about anything. Hard life, huh?

I know I am blessed in so many ways. I just found out another friend has been fighting breast cancer all year. That’s a real problem. Looking at that little tree, realizing what I could have had, not the presents but the people, the pain was excruciating. But as my father often says, it is what it is. You curse a little and go on.

And yes, Christmas is about Jesus. With most of our choir spending the holidays with their kids and grandkids, we’re short of singers. I will be singing and playing at two Masses on Christmas Eve and another one on Christmas Day. Afterward I’ll have dinner with friends whose kids are far away. We will exchange grownup gifts and probably watch TV or a movie. I will cry at some point, but it will be fine. Next week, when we meet again, it will be over.

Dear friends, how are you dealing with Christmas this year? What’s the hardest part? What advice do you have for others who don’t have children and wish they did? Please share in the comments.




9 thoughts on “It’s not easy being childless at Christmas

  1. My hardest part is that my horrible family member still won’t budge. And her children are still off limits. The way our holidays plans fall, we could have attended and enjoyed a Christmas concert featuring some of those children. We are not welcome and will not attend.

    I’m trying very hard to let go of my resentment on that whole matter. I’m getting closer.

    While Christmas will be lovely with my side of the extended family, I’m focused on the New Year. I really want 2017 to be a year of living in peace. Authentic, joyful peace. I want to make changes to my work habits and discover that life doesn’t have to be “children or career”. How about a balance of career, hobbies, friends and family?

    If living the life I want attracts children my way – awesome! If no children materialize, well, at least I’m living the life of my dreams. I can’t lose.


  2. Hi Sue, I do think about this, but honestly fewer presents = less complicated = less drama, and that means a great deal to me. I am spending it with my own drama-free family. Should/If/When the day comes they are not around for me to spend it with, I could easily volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter; that would be right up my alley. However I do have a funny step-kiddo story for you. I booked a room at a nice local restaurant in a tourist district for this year’s “Christmas with the Kids” (i.e. gift exchange) because I’ll be at my family’s (and they won’t be). Historically the “gift exchange with the kiddos and grandkiddos” was hosted a few weeks earlier than Christmas with various kiddos traveling to other family members’ homes on the actual day of Christmas. I wanted, yes I actually wanted, to allocate several hours to spend with them, eating then enjoying the nearby touristy stuff, pics with Santa and all that family stuff. Do you know the kids canceled it? Because they didn’t want to have two Christmases. So naturally the step-mom’s Christmas plans were canceled. So they got cheated out of a nice meal, a lovely afternoon making memories as a family and having a few hours of a Christmas celebration with me (sans my husband’s ex, i.e. just “us”). You know, it seems that no matter how hard I try, these kids sabotage my efforts to bond with them. I love them. All I know to do is keep trying. The silver lining is I got my day back and had a special time with my husband, shopping and dining out, totally drama free.


  3. The hardest part this year has been my husband telling me he really dislikes Christmas. I think he’s feeling it this year, as I was a few weeks ago (though I’m not now). Whereas I generally like Christmas, though a Christmas on my terms.

    This year though, I’ve distributed any Christmas presents already (only a few), and my husband and I aren’t doing presents (though we might hit the Boxing Day sales). So there will be a grand total of nothing under our tree! I don’t mind though. I just intend having some nice champagne, just the two of us, on Christmas night.


    • I am prone to say I don’t like Christmas. I appreciate parts of it, such as time off work and different food. Hopefully you, and your husband, can appreciate parts of it too. Even if he can’t bring himself to say it. Enjoy your champagne. X


  4. You ask for “Advice for those who don’t have children and wish they did?” Do, and feel, whatever you need to, to get through it. I have to go to the in-laws this year. There is a big get-together for the wider family in the morning. All our peers have children. I do not take pleasure in the other people’s children. I just do not feel it, they are not mine, nor am I related to them by blood. I chit-chat to people there, but I don’t feel like they are my family. I try to be sociable and not rude, but it is quite an effort to be so. If my husband wasn’t around, I wouldn’t go. I have been fantacising about being on my own for the day. I would go to church, out for a walk, make some nice food, have a glass of fizz and watch TV. It can be harder to have to be with people.


    • I just do not feel it, they are not mine…..

      I’m glad somebody finally said that (er typed) out loud. I was married 23 years. Husband had custody of his son from the divorce. Son was 13 when he moved in. “Mom” nowhere around and certainly not financially responsible. Came my turn to have children and, well, he didn’t want to start over. After son turned 18, it was all about “Mom”. I’m the only one who attended every football game and every conference. When he got married, we weren’t involved in anything. The husband’s grandchildren were coached to call me “Auntie”. I fully understand sitting there “making merry” for everyone else, but not being anybody in reality.

      Fast forward, I filed for divorce two months ago. Christmas this year will be just me and my elderly parents. There are no other relatives, I’m an only child. I will not hear from the step-son and family because in reality, I was not really anybody. Just the person who did the cooking and shopping and made Dad/Grandpa look good at tree time.

      Having been an only, I had always dreamed of those big family get-togethers. I’m a Martha Stewart at heart, I suppose. Now having no children and basically no family, while it’s hard to see everybody’s “happy,” I’m looking forward to new holiday traditions where things are different than the usual. I’m going to find people like me and will not feel as though we belong to the land of misfit toys.

      While this year is a bit sad, I’m finding it easier than looking through the window at someone else’s happy.


      • Oh yes, mdoe, you’ve got it nailed, especially where you say “I’m just the person who did the cooking and shopping and made Dad/Grandpa look good at tree time.” Boy, can I relate. I’d love to have that big family get-together too, but only if they were actually my family. We do have to create our own holiday traditions. Thanks for sharing this.


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