Without Children, What Do We Look Forward To?

We have just welcomed a new month, a new year, and a new decade, another “roaring twenties.” We also had Christmas, but that happens every year. The change of year is a landmark for everyone, but what are the landmarks in our own lives and how are they different because we don’t have children?

Today’s post is inspired by a 2016 comment I found in rereading and editing for a future “Best of Childless by Marriage” book. SilverShil0h, a longtime reader and commenter, was having one of those days when life seemed to offer nothing to look forward to. How many of us have those days? I know I do.

Here is part of what Shil0h wrote:

“We watch other people have new adventures all the time. Preschool for the youngest. The older one is starting junior high, and football is a big deal. Homecoming outfits, a new flute in the house. A friend a couple years older than me just had her third. All of that is a world that my DH and I are only watching from a distance. It’s like one of those old fashioned bank teller windows – a little hole to say hello, a little slot to get the money. We see it all happening and we can talk all we want. But those people behind the window get to decide how much they will give us through that little slot.”

Parents have natural events to look forward to, starting with getting pregnant and the births of their children. Early on, the changes come quickly: first teeth, first words, learning to sit, crawl, stand and walk, potty training. Then comes preschool, elementary school, high school, and college. Parents mark the years with graduations, church ceremonies like baptisms, confirmations and bar mitzvahs. Jobs. Marriage. Grandchildren. Birthdays, holidays. Each event marks not only their children’s life but their own as they become more independent and leave the nest.

But what marks our lives? The first thing that comes to my mind is deaths because I’ve seen so many in my family lately. Death is certainly a marker, too. Losing your grandparents and parents is life-changing, but when you have children, there’s the compensation of something new for everything old that is lost. Your mother died, but your daughter had a baby, you know? Or so I have observed. Me, I just have the dog, and she’s getting old.

So what does mark our childless lives besides death? Graduating from high school and maybe college. Getting a good job. A promotion. Travel. Buying a house. Awards maybe. Surviving an injury or illness, such as cancer.

Our landmarks are our own, not our children’s.

When I think about the biggest events in my life, I count my two marriages and their endings by divorce and death. I count my more important jobs, the 11 different places I have lived, my college degrees, the places I have been, and the books I have published.

But what do I have to look forward to besides dying in 20 or 30 years, if not sooner? More books. I have a new poetry chapbook due out in March. I have other books I’m working on. I’m planning a trip to Texas, also in March. I have never been to Texas. It’s an adventure I can look forward to. I’m thinking I’ll buy a new car this year. Beyond that, I don’t know yet. I look forward to many little things, including lunch pretty soon, but big landmark things? Hey, maybe this year, I’ll meet another Mr. Right. Maybe he’ll have a huge family who will love me like crazy. One can dream.

Speaking of dreaming, what are you looking forward to this year? If there’s nothing, can you create something to look forward to? I know you want to have a baby. Let’s settle that once and for all. It’s 2020. Talk it out with your partner and make a decision that you can live with. Maybe that will give you a new landmark, something you can look back to this year and say, “That’s when that happened.”

But if there will be no children this year, what else can you look forward to? I know if you try, you can come up with something.

Please share in the comments. What have been the landmark events in your life and what are you looking forward to?

SilverShil0h, thank you for being here and for sharing your thoughts.

Happy New Year, dear friends.

 

11 thoughts on “Without Children, What Do We Look Forward To?

  1. Recently over the holiday, my five-year-old nephew asked me when I was going to have a baby. I told him I am not sure. His next question was, “Then well, what do you do with your life since you’re a girl?” I was shocked and hurt actually. So I explained to him that without children, I have been able to cultivate a very successful career in business and have numerous degrees and travel the world. My husband stood by me and even said women are just as smart and capable as men. I hope he got the point, but it saddens me that even still, I am not a worthy woman since I haven’t had a child. I mark my years with what I have achieved personally and professionally as well as what I have lost, similarly to how you have done. But one thing I do look forward to is what is my next adventure to just say yes to. My husband and I are the ones who can pick up and move wherever whenever. We can go on a trip whenever we want. That’s what makes the next day something to look forward to, what is next

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    • Oh lifeANZ, it’s sad that your nephew thinks that way. But remember, at his age, he is simply repeating what some grownup has told him about women’s roles. Keep setting him straight. And congrats on all of your achievements. They are impressive.

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  2. This is a great question to ask ourselves! I am looking forward to getting better at my new career, learning more about my new hobby (quilting), and hopefully moving to a new place. Well, ok, I’m not really looking forward to the actual moving part haha, but I am looking forward to living in a new place in a new town. 🙂

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  3. Oh no, you beat me to it. I’ve had a post on this subject brewing for years.

    Landmark events around my life have generally been travel-related. Moving to a country and moving back, big trips, etc. I can name where I went (pretty much, except for short trips) over the last 30 years! That’s how I remember my sister’s wedding anniversary (we left for South Africa a few days later), and my niece’s age! lol Retirement is a major event that will bring more opportunities to travel, so looking forward to that.

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  4. I live a small life. First by default and then by design. I used to like living small. It’s easy. Comfortable. Safe.

    Milestones are only as good as the people we share them with. I share very few milestones of my childhood. My family isn’t terribly sentimental, so there aren’t many “that time we all went to the Grand Canyon and (insert silly but memorable event).” I was a funny sort of kid who just never fit in with other kids. I was well liked, but my parents were so old fashioned and strict that I didn’t have a “fun” childhood. I only see those cousins or childhood friends at reunions and on Facebook. My memories of childhood are personal. From time to time, I’ll “share” an anecdote with my husband or friend, but it’s an unchallenged story I tell – not one I truly share with anyone.

    In the same vein, most of my 20s are lost to my first husband. We had happy times. But the apartment we shared, his challenging family, the friends we had, the places I worked at that time. They live in my memory.
    No one to “share” boozy bar stories or to reminisce over old apartments, bosses or professors.

    My 30s are mostly painful and best forgotten. A lot of challenges with being divorced, single, and then embarrassing memories of trying to date again. Spoiler alert – I didn’t “fit in” with men either. I was not a strong person when I met and married my husband. I’m ashamed at how I let myself down in various situations. My career paths have been boring because of my lack of confidence. No travel. So many opportunities passed me by.

    I collect friends here and there. I am well liked wherever I go. But as I said before – I don’t “fit in” with my peers. A connection is made but somehow doesn’t really last unless I extend a lot of effort. I do have a couple friends that I’ve known for about 30 years but they are kind of misfits too.

    My husband and I have sorted ourselves out and we’re happily married, but we don’t relish those early days in our marriage. To be honest, 2012 (the year we put our marriage back together) to the present is about the only time in my life I have lived authentically and with pride. My husband and I share milestones via our work and our pets. Awesome things are on our horizon. But if he goes, then my “person” is gone and I will have to start again.

    This year seems different. I do have lovely friends and family that I can count on. But it’s like I figured out that I AM my own person. That I AM the person I’m supposed to share my OWN milestones with. It’s only hard because I don’t really like the milestones. I feel a lot of resentment towards people in my past. I feel stunted (and sick of it) by the adult bullies in my life (that awful sister-in-law, the head of an organization that I volunteer for – to name a few). My religious views are changing. My work is impressive, but I’m slacking more than usual. Let’s face it, therapy is probably in order.

    I know this whole post seems depressing but it’s actually a positive thing. A bigger life is coming! When I let myself feel it – it’s exciting. However, the challenge of mourning the children I never had WILL happen. And that will be hard. But then I will be free.

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    • Wow, Anon S, I’m not sure what to say. I had a very restricted childhood, too. We did’t do fun things together either. Milestone from back then? Uh, puberty? Ha. I’m sorry there were so many negatives, but I agree that better times are coming and we can make our own milestone. Thanks for being here.

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      • Thanks for listening, Sue! I want to apologize because I often feel I’m a Debbie Downer when I post. I’m actually not in real life. I have lots of fun, interests, hobbies. I have a great sense of humor and laugh a lot. It’s just that things in general seem really hard for me and it overwhelms. I come here when I’m down. I unload and life goes on.

        Everyone else makes career choices, plans vacations, throws parties, redecorates their home. Most people plan their families and raise children. Me? It took me three years to go to a different hairstylist. My new stylist ran her fingers through my hair and said carefully, “Okay, well. I’m not sure what is going on here but you have beautiful, healthy hair. I’ll shape it up and in time we’ll be able to fix this . . . style.”

        Ha! I knew I wasn’t crazy.

        I’m very uncomfortable when trying to assert myself, and many days I’m sure I’d be an awful parent anyway. Then other days I KNOW that I could have used all my sensitivities and quirkyness and I would have been a really great mother. Anyway, HERE is a good place for me to be and I’m always thankful.

        p.s. love your new photo. You look lovely.

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      • Your comment about the hairstylist makes me smile. It took me about that long to make a change, too, and today I have been putting off calling the new stylist when I really need a haircut. I’m sure you would have been a fine mother. Thanks for your kind words about my photo.

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  5. Great question, Sue!

    Things I’m looking forward to this year:

    * our first great-nephew’s baptism and first birthday
    * our 35th wedding anniversary in July
    * my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary (later in July)
    * a family reunion (also in July, lol)
    * I have tickets to see Elton John with my sister-in-law in March, and “Hamilton” with dh in May
    * my best friend from high school might be coming to visit me later in the spring
    * reading some great new books and hopefully matching or exceeding my Goodreads total from 2019 🙂

    And I’m always hopeful we’ll get in a trip somewhere, even a mini-getaway somewhere relatively local would be great. 🙂

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