Do You Have to Read This Blog in Secret?

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Last week on a whim, I asked whether Childless by Marriage readers felt they needed to hide their participation in the blog, Facebook page, books, etc. I had just had a vision of a spouse looking at the computer and asking, “Why are you reading this crap?” or “Aren’t you over that yet?”

It turns out some of the folks here do have to hide their participation in Childless by Marriage and anything else related to their childlessness. Anon S said it’s her “dirty secret.” Jo, another frequent commenter, said she shares a laptop computer with her husband and can only read Childless by Marriage when he’s not around. She can’t join the Facebook page without him knowing about it.

Holy cow. I don’t know why it took me 738 posts to think of this. I guess I have had the luxury of a private office for so long I forgot that most people don’t have that. I am so sorry.

I have always had my own computer, and my late husband Fred took little interest in what I was doing on it. If I wanted to share something, I called him in or handed him a printed copy. I didn’t start the blog until he was well into Alzheimer’s, so he had no idea. But I’m sure I was journaling and reading about childlessness throughout our marriage. My annual Mother’s Day tantrums were not invisible. I remember him saying “Oh, babe.” That’s all. No further discussion. But I hid most of my tears from him. I didn’t talk much about it with anyone. What good would it do?

Anon S, featured quite a bit in the Love or Children book made from the blog, said she was worried about being found out. She won’t be. Even I don’t know her name or where she lives. With the exception of a few friends from other parts of my life, I don’t know who anybody here really is. All I know is what you tell me, and that’s fine. I want this to be a safe space.

Last week, I attended the first Childless Collective Summit. Most of the speakers talked about infertility. Our main focus here is on our problems with partners who can’t or won’t make babies with us. I feel bad for those with both kinds of problems. I can’t imagine your pain.

Some aspects of childlessness are common to us all—grief, feeling left out, dealing with rude questions, worrying about our future, etc. I wonder how many women attending the Summit, which lasted for four whole days, felt they had to hide what they were doing. If so, it took real courage just to be there, even on Zoom. And God bless Katy Seppi of Chasing Creation who organized the whole thing.

I hate that some (many?) of you have to join us in secret. If we’re ever going to find peace, we need to be able to talk about our situations, admit to our grief and claim our efforts to make sense of life without children. To put it in psych talk, we need to “own our stories.”

In Jody Day’s keynote speech at the Summit, she said that 10 percent of people without children are childless by choice, 10 percent by infertility, and 80 percent by circumstance. That’s us. We need to be free to talk about it and to support each other. Childlessness for whatever reason should not be seen as a dirty secret we need to hide under the mattress like porn magazines. 

Relationships are difficult, especially when you disagree about children. In addition to your partner, you may have stepchildren looking over your shoulder. I can hear them saying, “You’re not childless; you have me.” We all know that’s not the same. We also have parents, siblings, co-workers and friends who just don’t get it. But we have every right to say, “This is my situation. I’m trying to deal with it. I hope someday you will understand.”

It makes me sad to realize you have to hide your reading about childlessness. I pray you can all find space and your own computers, tablets or phones to read whatever you want and the courage to declare, “This is important to me, so I’m going to read it.”

How is it for you? Do you feel free to read and comment or is this something you need to hide? What can we do to change the situation? I look forward to your comments.

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14 thoughts on “Do You Have to Read This Blog in Secret?

  1. Hi Sue, I don’t have to read it in secret, but that’s mainly because my husband can be quite clueless about anything that is not important to him, and my infertility is very low on his list of things to be concerned about. This is not because he doesn’t care about my feelings or what I’m going through. He just doesn’t have the emotional capacity to empathize with me. Partly because he has his own bio kids and partly because he has very low EQ. It hurts me, but it’s not intentional on his part. It would be nice if he could emotionally engage more, but he can’t. He’s borderline Asperger’s. It is what it is.

    While not a secret per se, he’s not aware in a general sense of the sources I turn to for infertility support.

    If I sat him down and lined them all out, he’d probably be quite bored and his mind would roam to what is important to him.

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  2. Wow. This was an eye-opener. In my childless reading travels, I have come across a few posts by women who mentioned they couldn’t talk to their spouses about their childless feelings or their participation in childless social media, but I didn’t realize it might be a common problem. How grossly unfair. It’s bad enough that we are silenced and/or misunderstood by society at large, but to feel that way with a spouse just seems the ultimate insult. This is the person we’re supposed to feel the safest with in this crazy world! I wonder if a professional therapist might have some suggestions on how to handle it. Whoever might be reading this who falls in this category, my heart goes out to you. No judgment; I just hope you find the strength you need to open up and be heard and understood.

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  3. I am pleased to know that I’m in your book. A book, no doubt wonderful, I did not purchase due to this little secret life.

    Reasons #1 for being covert – I talk a lot of trash about people in my life who have said or inferred things that hurt me. If I was featured in a mainstream book I’d brag about it a little. But in this case, I really can’t, otherwise my nosey sister in law might take a peek and see herself in the lines I’ve written. Gulp. I might be full of wordy bravado online, but I’m a wimp in real life. lol

    Reason #2 – If I chatted openly with my husband about this blog, and shared what other readers deal with – he might get curious and dig a little deeper. I’ve been pretty open about our struggles and he might not appreciate that. Also, sometimes my comments are a bit depressing, hopeless sounding even. These are fleeting thoughts that come and go. Most of the time I share with him. But overall, I really do love my life! But he might become concerned that I’m secretly not happy and then try to “fix” me. Then my one emotional outlet would be ruined.

    Reason #3 – I don’t like pity. And that’s mostly what I get if I share even an inkling of sadness with people in real life. If you’re sick, people step in to help and you accept it, because we all get sick. If you are short of money, many people would help out and say, honestly, “we’ve all been there.” So you take the money and repay it.

    But I find that people who are not childless, in this particular way, do not understand. Sort of like when people expect the five minority women in the small town to be friends, because of their color. We have something in common, but . . . that doesn’t mean those are the people we want to talk to. People with medical issues want to tell their story. Or talk adoption. None of that applies to me.

    And people who have kids – they mostly just feel like motherhood is the best thing on earth and they feel sorry for you. “I never knew “real love” until I had a child.” That might be true. It probably is. But wow, that’s a pity-filled humble brag, which insults more than it hurts.

    So. My “dirty little secret,” as I called it – is not something I hide out of shame. It’s something special I choose to protect so I can feel refreshed. Normal. Strong.

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  4. I think for many of us we can’t talk about this because we need to keep the peace at home. It’s like a magnified version of when you avoid talking politics with people who you know think very differently to you. If one person gets what they want and the other doesn’t, that’s bound to cause bitterness. If you are staying then you have to accept, at least on the face of it, that that’s how it’s going to be or you will be arguing all the time.

    I could probably write more, but I’m not feeling very articulate today. It’s been a bit of a crappy month. In the UK, our Mother’s Day is always three weeks before Easter, so we had that a couple of weekends ago. I’m lucky to still have my Mum so I don’t totally dread it like some childless women. My Mum only lives on the other side of my village, but I’d not seen her since Christmas Eve due to being in lockdown. So I stood on the pavement outside her house and she stood on her doorstep and we chatted for a little while. It was raining heavily so we only had about 15 minutes together, but it was nice. I had had to turn the radio off that morning as it was all messages and dedications from children and grandchildren to their mums and grannies. I have my limits.

    Then last Sunday it was Census Day and yet again I had to record for posterity that I don’t work, I’m not married and we don’t have any children. Great. I hope the family historians that may read this in a hundred years’ time will think kindly of Poor Auntie Jo, as I do when I find childless women in my own research.

    This morning a school friend of mine invited me to like the Facebook page for her new business. She’s a doula. I took a peep. I wish I hadn’t. She is the one friend who I told 14 or 15 years ago that I was hoping to start a family. She looked totally shocked and said “really?!” with undisguised horror. As I told you once, no-one has ever said that I’d make a good mother. Ho hum.

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  5. Wow! Thank you so much Sue. I just came across your blog and my thoughts are spinning. My husband passed away only a week ago. Lots of condolences and caring from people, and some from his children. Which I appreciate very much. As upset as I am over him passing (he was very ill for a very long time and it was expected) I have been in severe turmoil following a memorial, lifted by beginning to read your words. He was lost a long time ago because of his illness which affected not only his body, but mind and soul too.
    The pretence (which I participated in and am only comprehending now) of “you and your children, we offer our condolences”, was bringing me to my knees. The honesty of your “childess by marriage” is easing things for me and helping me process my thoughts and feelings.

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  6. Dear Sue ,

    I found your blog via The NotMom resources section. I was starting visiting your website and came across this article which just surprised me a little bit.

    I would suggest to propose this topic to Karen Malone and Laura Lavoie for their podcast. Maybe you could share your now insight through your readers’ comments.

    Thank you for writing this article.

    Like

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