There’s more than one way to be a parent

I still had a little rant left over after last week’s “We Don’t All Have Kids!” post, so I wrote what follows. Either this is very strange or it makes total sense. You can tell me in the comments.

These days, especially here in uber-liberal western Oregon, we hear a lot of talk about “gender fluidity.” With the whole LGBTQ alphabet (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer), some folks decline to identify as just one gender or stick to one flavor of sexual partner.

My mother, God rest her soul, would have shut down the computer in horror by now. No fluidity in her gender world. I’m all girl, Mom, although sometimes I think it would be swell to be a guy and never have to shave anything.

Unlike my mother, I’m okay with a spectrum of gender identities, rather than just boy/girl. Be who you want to be, love who you want to love.

Wikipedia offers this definition: “Genderqueer, also known as non-binary, is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are outside the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression.”

In this article by Dr. Laura McGuire, who identifies as queer, she talks about how people didn’t always see gender as such a black and white, male or female, penis or vagina, thing. Some cultures had more than two genders and attributed special powers to those who showed traits of more than one. Even today, she notes, while most people are born with either one x and one y (male) or two x chromosomes (female), a significant number have a different combination (like the folks with Klinefelter Syndrome, which we have discussed here before). It’s quite interesting and surely a comfort to those who are not comfortable in the male or female identity they were given at birth.

What does this have to do with childlessness?

If the world can accept fluidity in gender, why can’t it accept fluidity in maternity and paternity? Rather than saying the only way to be a mother or father is to combine human sperm and egg and grow it in a uterus for nine months, maybe we should look at all the other ways we act like parents, whether it’s as godparents, aunts and uncles, friends, teachers, caregivers, doctors, artists, priests, zookeepers, animal lovers, or people who plant trees. Of course, it’s not same as making and raising a human baby, but is it not nurturing and loving in a similar way?

Perhaps we’re not all mothers or fathers in the traditional sense, but why can’t the definition be just as fluid as the modern-day definitions of gender?

Just a thought. What do you think?

No Children? What is your Plan B?

Jody Day, a British woman who founded an online community for childless women, recently published a book called Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Future Without Children. In it, she tells about how she struggled with infertility and other issues that prevented her from having children. They also prevented her from enjoying the life she had because she was so busy thinking about the life she did not have. In her book, Day talks about the “shadow life.” She was simultaneously living the life she had while living a shadow life in which she was a mother.
“At no point in that time (a 15-year stretch, no less) did I fully and completely embrace the life I was actually living, that of a childless woman. I was always in transition to the next stage when my real life would begin.”
My friends, we only get one life. As my father likes to say, “It is what it is.” And it could be much worse. Ask anyone who is paralyzed or suffering from a fatal illness or who has lost a limb. Ask anyone whose spouse or child has died. Every day that we can get out of bed on our own and choose what we want to do is a good day and should not be wasted.
We risk poisoning our relationships not only with our mates but with everyone else around us if we see only that they have kids and we don’t. Try to see beyond that. Why do we love these people? How would we feel if we lost them?
Examine your lives. Acknowledge what you are probably not going to do. One of the childless women I interviewed for my book said she looked at having children like a lot of other things she had never done and probably never would. She would not be a published author, would not live in Paris, would not be a concert pianist, would not be rich, tall or thin. But she loved the life she had.
If there’s something you really feel you must do, then do it. If it means finding another mate or adopting a child instead of giving birth, just do it. But if you are not willing or able to take these steps, look at what else you can do. You probably have more choices than most because you are not tied down with children. The “childfree” crowd sees that as a good thing.
Make a list of everything that you CAN do, that you get to do, that God gave you the opportunity to do. Now use that list to design your own Plan B.
In future posts, we’ll talk about rituals to let go of childless grief and places to find support from people who understand. Meanwhile if you haven’t read Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Future Without Children, do yourself a favor and read it. Jody will take you through the steps toward starting to not only survive but enjoy the life you have.

Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick