Childlessness needn’t define who we are

“Childless is one of the many things I am.”

A year ago last weekend, I was at the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, listening to Jody Day say this. At the time it was one of many things the founder of Gateway-Women and author of Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children, said as I scribbled madly to capture it all in my notebook. But this one line alone gives me a lot to think about this week.

Last Sunday at church, we listened to a visiting priest preach that sex is only allowed in marriage and only for the purpose of creating children. Furthermore, all forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization are sins. What do you tell the men who insist on having sex before, during and after marriage? What if you can’t have children? What if you and your partner disagree about whether to have children? This young bearded priest, presumably celibate all his life, has no idea how complicated real life can get. It is never black and white, more like a rainbow of colors.

And what does he say to those of us in the pews who have not used our bodies as vessels for children? Are we then worthless? Once again, I’m saying things that might get me in trouble at my church job, but they need to be said. It’s not just the Catholic church either. I’m hearing preachers of other denominations on the news saying women should be content with their role as mothers. But what if we can’t be mothers?

We are not worthless. Childless is just one of the things you and I are. It’s a big thing. It makes us different from 80 percent of the adults around us. It affects everything else in our lives. That’s why I wrote my Childless by Marriage book. I wanted people to know how different our lives are because we never had children. But Jody Day is right. It’s not everything, and we should not miss all the good things in our lives because of the one thing we missed.

I am not just a woman without children, any more than I am just a woman whose husband died. I’m a dog-mom, musician, writer, homeowner, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I have a family history I’m proud of. I’m the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree, and the bookshelf bearing my published works is getting full. I like to cook, travel, take long walks, do yoga, learn new songs, watch movies, and read books. I dabble in needlework and make quilted wall hangings. If I could do it over, I might be a mother, too, but I can’t waste my life dwelling on what I don’t have or letting people make me feel like damaged goods because I failed to procreate.

How about you? What else are you besides someone without children? Even if you’re still hoping to have children, there’s more to be proud of. Let’s make a list to remind ourselves that childless is not all we are.

I look forward to reading your comments.

 

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9 thoughts on “Childlessness needn’t define who we are

  1. Ah, Sue. I hear the anger in your voice and feel it in my heartbeat. I’m so sorry you endured that visiting dictator, ahem, priest, and his malevolent message. Even moreso, I’m sorry for his poor wife and children, if he has them/one. I am a member of the Gateway tribe so naturally I am crazy about Jody. Let’s take a deep breath and let it out…. one, two, three. That is just 1 man and the rational people blew him off. The fruitcakes who embraced the message were already fruitcakes. His impact was small. I admire your bravery for sharing your thoughts. Currently I’m listening to The British History Podcast and I’m at about 600bc, the start of the Middle-Dark Ages. Before the Anglo-Saxon immigration or invasion, women fought alongside men in battles and had a quite a hefty say in the political and social stratospheres. All that melted away, between the Romans and Anglo-Saxons. Women were objects for usage, nothing more. Indeed it was mandated by Rome that a couple could only have sex for procreation purposes prior to attending church, and must wash before attending church if they did the deed. There were strict guidelines about sex, more strict than any other facet of life. I say this to say, his lamentable bias has trickled through the centuries down to our modern day. Yes, I fault him for not asking questions and challenging the status, not researching scripture to find the verse that specifically states that. What about hot and steamy Song of Solomon? But I digress. I am many things, and Jody would back me up on that. But I am not a womb at your service, for usage or disposal as you see fit. Shake off the negativity of that guy, and hold your head high. God is bigger than any man’s twisted perspective. It is not too late for God to shake that tool to the core, and revamp his thought-wiring. Big hugs to you sis!

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    • Thanks, Silver. Catholic take vows of celibacy and never marry, so the guy knew not what he was talking about. You know what I was most upset about? The kids in the pews listening to this. Not only was the topic too grownup for their ears, but I don’t want them thinking life is all black and white because it isn’t.

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  2. First, you are brave for speaking up and sharing your thoughts, even when you realize your work/church may not be very happy with what you have to write. I know I often hold back, I know it’s difficult to speak up, so you are very courageous!

    To answer your question, I am more than a pair of walking ovaries. I am an author, a follower of Christ, and a terrible cook 😉 I am loved by God not by what my ovaries can or cannot do, but because I am His daughter.

    I also speak out about alcoholism and sobriety, supporting others in their way to a sober life, which can include many relapses. I am most proud of that at this time.

    Reading the books “Captivating” by Stasi Eldredge and “The Love Every Woman Needs: Intimacy with Jesus” by Jan McCray have helped me understand the Lord’s relationship with women (with many Bible verses) so I am very happy to say I feel loved for who I am– not for my procreation capabilities (or lack thereof).

    Take care,
    Yari

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  3. Sue,

    We men are considered worthless in some areas for being childless. I don’t think that Catholic priests are good in advising couples, especially in matters of contraception and having children. It’s none of the church’s business about peoples sexual practices and having children. How can priests, in good conscience, counsel married couples when they’re are celibate ? To me it’s hypocritical.

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  4. Thank you for writing this. I had to leave Church over a year ago when the priest devoted the entire liturgical year to marriage and family. I didn’t even get out of the gate to have a family because I’m also single and it’s more than I can bear. How sad to have my one sanctuary from secular babymania able to do nothing more than bray and crow every Sunday about their exalted royal class of Catholic marrieds-with-kids. Church should be for everyone but it has become too emotionally distressing and more than I can bear.

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    • I’m so sorry this happened to you. I plan to stay as long as I can stand it, being a noisy voice that keeps reminding people that we don’t all have children or husbands and that does not make us big sinners.

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  5. My comment really doesn’t pertain to the topic at hand. I’m just needing a place to “vent?”. Not sure if that is the correct word but here goes.

    My newsfeed this morning included the big news of the amazing pregnancy of the Royal couple. It’s lovely for them. It really is. Luckily I was on the road all day and otherwise occupied, however when I got back to the office to catch up on things I had to wade through countless articles of Megan and Harry. Including what she’s worn since announcing the big new. How strange. This woman is reduced to a guessing game, then a triumphant reveal of what the media seems to believe is her only valuable contribution to society. And then to further the vapid situation, is a rundown of her first public pregnancy outfit.

    I’m annoyed on her behalf. That out of all her accomplishments (not that I’m a huge fan or anything, but she seems to be a woman who has made contributions before Harry even entered the picture) this is what the world is panting to know, report and swim in. Her pregnancy and her pregnancy clothing.

    Again, it’s lovely for them. I just don’t want to have to read all about every bit of joy and drama this woman will experience, as if nothing else is of importance.

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