Childless Thoughts About U.S. Elections and Thanksgiving

Dark-haired little girl surrounded by her grandfathers, both in white shirts and ties. Table full of holiday food.

Last night, I stayed up late watching TV coverage of the mid-term election. As I type this in the morning, we are still awaiting results in many races, still waiting to find out whether Republicans or Democrats will rule.

Reproductive rights is one of the big issues this year, especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the decision that protected the right to abortion. Many states have since enacted anti-abortion laws that either prohibit terminating a pregnancy or make it nearly impossible. If the uber-conservative Republican Party dominates the government, more states will follow.

What does this have to do with childlessness? Well, more oops pregnancies would be carried to term, babies that might not otherwise have been born. We hear threats that if the Republicans rule, they will go after contraception next. What if you didn’t have easy access to the pill or other contraceptive of your choice? How would that affect the choice to have children with a spouse who doesn’t really want to?

At 8 a.m. on the Oregon coast, frost covers the lawns. It’s 33 degrees out, darned cold for this area, and my neighbors across the street have already turned on their Christmas lights. Too soon? It is for me, but Thanksgiving is only two weeks away. Normally I spend the holiday with my brother’s family, but he and his wife are going to Hawaii this year. Bravo for them, but I don’t want to spend Thanksgiving alone.

The other day at church, I got to thinking about the circle of life. Traditionally, when the old die, young people are born to take their seats at the Thanksgiving table, so the numbers remain about the same. I have fond memories of sitting at my parents’ dining room table surrounded by grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins (see photo). As the years passed, the grandparents died and my brother and I moved up a generation as young newlyweds. While I remained childless, my brother had two children. Now he has three grandchildren who climb into his lap and play with his white beard. Our parents and the aunts and uncles are gone, but his table in California is still full. At my house, 700 miles away in Oregon, it’s just me. I’m hoping to get together with friends from church, but it’s not the same.

If I look more closely at the old photos, I see the cousin who never married or had children. I see the childless aunt and uncle who never talked about why they didn’t have kids. But they all had a place at the table. In every generation, there are some who do not have children. In my generation, that would be me. And you.

This post meanders a bit, but I wonder if it sparks any thoughts or comments from you. If you’re in the United States, how do you feel about this election and the way reproductive rights seem to be going? (Be nice. I know these issues engender strong feelings). How are you feeling about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday? Do you have a place at the family table?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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7 thoughts on “Childless Thoughts About U.S. Elections and Thanksgiving

  1. A couple weeks ago we celebrated my dad’s birthday. EVERYONE was in attendance including a niece, and her husband, who live out of state. Including my sister and her kids who used to never show up to these things. My parents’ house was buzzing with the most togetherness we’ve ever had. Until my brother’s mostly grown kids (and their spouses) congregated together.

    My sister-in-law, reasonably, used that opportunity to have them exchange names for their family gift exchange. Then suddenly it seemed like a second party started. And it was my parents and me at the kitchen table and everyone else in the adjoining room. My sister-in-law was so happy. I could tell. She had all her kids in one place. And they bickered and joked with each other and got louder and louder. My parents and I felt left out. I felt like I was getting a glimpse of what my future Christmases might look like after my parents are gone – IF – I’m included in my brother’s family gatherings. I don’t think I would last a whole night.

    I mostly love my life. So why should I be sad/scared to be alone on Christmas when I’m generally very happy to be alone most weekends? Why have I (we?) hyped up the holidays so much that unless we are surrounded by tons of people – we have nothing?

    This year I’m going to do all the things as “me”. Not as “me who isn’t a mother.” I’m going to bring the fancy dip to share – even if everyone else is bringing kid-friendly snacks. I’m going to attend my friend’s gingerbread house party – even if it’s really a party for kids and their parents. She invited me for a reason. I’m going to show up with the best candy contributions and enjoy watching the kids decorate their houses. I’m going to give out special token gifts in my shop – just because I have time to do it. I’m going to collect some friends for a festive taco Christmas meal in the week leading up to Christmas. I’m going to HAVE plenty of Christmas joy. In my own way, not the way that I “think” I’m supposed to.

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  2. I’m in Canada (albeit my mother is American & we’ve had our share of American Thanksgivings, especially growing up!) so today is mostly just another day for me. But yes, I do think about what the holidays will be like in years to come. Aside from 2020, when we were all locked down because of the pandemic, my husband & I have always travelled to be with my parents & sister & her partner (and our grandparents, when they were alive) at Christmastime. I think I secretly thought/hoped that when we had kids, they might come to spend the holidays with us, at least once in a while. But that never happened, my parents are now in their 80s, and it’s too late to change. My sister does not have children either (by choice), and I do wonder what’s going to happen once our parents are gone. I’m happy to spend Christmas with her, if invited — but I do hope she will come to stay with me at least once in a while. And I think my husband’s family (his brother & our nephews) would include us in at least some of the festivities, if we stayed here. But who knows?

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