My mother always said the most important thing she did in her life was to raise my brother and me and help raise my cousins who lived with us for a while during a tough time. She never worked a paid job after becoming pregnant with me, her oldest child. She was brilliant and could have done anything, but my father didn’t like the idea of her going out on her own, so she put all of her efforts into home and family and an endless stream of needlework projects. This was an earlier time when things were different than they are today.
I was raised to be a mom and housewife like my mother, but things didn’t turn out that way. After two marriages, I find myself widowed and childless. Oh, I am married to a house right now, with a never-ending to-do list. But you mow the lawn and it grows back. You wash the clothes and they get dirty again. You bake a cake and it gets eaten. None of that is a legacy; it’s just maintenance.
Unlike my mother, I have always been driven to do more. I’m a musician and a writer, and I volunteer for far too many things. I think I’d do the same if I had children. I can’t see wasting a minute of my life. But if nothing else, I would know I had added these people to the world.
At today’s webinar “Leaving a Legacy,” part of World Childless Week, I will join other women over 60 to talk about what we leave behind if we don’t have children and grandchildren to guarantee we make a lasting mark on the world. For me, I hope my writing will live on in my books and other projects, that my blogs will survive until the Internet changes so much that no one can read them. I hope someone will include me in the family memories, but I am aware that my branch of the family tree ends with me. Maybe I shouldn’t look for anything large. Perhaps something I did or said made a difference in someone’s life. Maybe someone learned something from me that helped make their life better. Maybe it’s enough that I occupied this portion of the earth for a while and took care of it the best I could.
There’s also the question of keepsakes and photo albums that most of us have collected. Who will get them if we don’t have kids? Who will take Grandma’s rocking chair? That’s another kind of legacy. I know, it’s all “things.” Most will end up going to charity or a dumpster. Do things really matter in the end?
I suppose we can’t really know what our legacy will be.
You may be 27 years old and thinking you have decades ahead of you before you have to think about this stuff. What’s this got to do with having babies? Maybe you still haven’t figured out whether or not you’ll have children. But it’s interesting to ponder. What do you think your legacy will be after you’re gone, hopefully after a long and happy life? Do you worry about what you will leave behind?
If you can, please register for the webinar right away, if you haven’t already, and join us tomorrow. This is a fun group of fascinating women, and I guarantee an interesting chat. It will be recorded. If you are registered, you will receive an email with the link to the recording.
Please share your thoughts in the comments.
One thought on “What is Your Legacy If You Don’t Have Children?”
I have a sister-in-law who doesn’t usually mingle much with the family. She’s a very selective person and when she doesn’t like you – welp, she doesn’t like you. She doesn’t much like her mom (or me for that matter but that doesn’t really apply here.)
There is an irritation that gets out of hand when they are around each other. Now me – I get along great with this mother-in-law. I include her in a lot of things, I’m happy to accommodate her when plans change and she needs something. She loves and appreciate me – I’m sure.
My father-in-law had surgery recently. And it was my sister-in-law who went to sit with her mother during the long wait. Irritations were put aside and she did it happily and she provided a great deal of comfort. My mother-in-law was so pleased.
And I get it. She was the one that needed to be there – but it was clear where I stand within the family. Loved and appreciated, but when something real is needed – they want their own there. My mother-in-law didn’t want me, she wanted her own daughter.
Which of my nieces and nephews will remember and keep a torch lit for me? Maybe a few (it’s a big family) but I’ve experienced time and again – your immediate family comes first. Again – I get it. But it really starts to make you think – “what the hell was I put on this planet for? What is my legacy?”
The last couple years I’ve been coming to terms with a lot of things. Toxic family members, my insecurities, the friends I spend time with, how I live my life. As the months turn into years I see how haphazardly I crafted my life. My legacy will not be found with children or grandchildren. And maybe it’s not a big deal. After all, when the next generation passes, my legacy will be a name on a family tree. Even people with children will be forgotten after their grandchildren pass.
So my thoughts about legacy (lately) are more like, “how can I live my life today in order to enjoy the time I have on earth?” I haven’t figured it out yet but I’m trying.