Are We More Youthful Without Children?

I feel younger than my age. I believe that not having somebody identifying you as the old person, as the parent or grandparent, means you don’t feel as old. You have not moved up the generations so that now you’re the elder. You’re still you. I really think there’s something to that, something even to be grateful for. I took one of those bogus tests online recently. It guessed I was in my 30s. I’m double that, enjoying my senior discounts, but I don’t feel that way. Most of my friends are a little older than I am. To them, I’m a kid.

So many famous authors, artists, musicians and others who have achieved great things never had children. Not having to take 20 years out to raise children gave them time to follow their dreams, and they seem to go on and on. I know most of you want to have children. I would trade it all to hold my own babies in my arms and watch them grow, to teach them and love them forever. It would be hard to focus on work while doing that. But since that’s not going to happen, so let’s look at the bright side. When you don’t have kids, you can still BE the kid.

I know people my own age who are so much older than I am. The non-parents I see are often more energetic, more playful, and more open to new experiences. Maybe they would have been that way anyway, but I wonder if parenting would have aged them. I think about my grandparents at my age. They were OLD.

Here are a few things to read about this:

From the Telegraph: “Does Having Children Make You Old?”

From Kristen Houghton at the Huffington Post: “Why (Most) Successful Women are Childless”

My own 2013 post “Does Being Childless Mean We Never Grow Up?” offers another way of looking at this question.

What do you think about this? Could never having children keep you younger? Please comment.

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Updates:

Last week I wrote that I was going to the hospital for a scary procedure. Well, it’s over, and I am not dying or damaged by my day in surgery. No tumors, no ulcers, no infections. The doctor did take some polyps to biopsy, but he didn’t think they were anything to worry about. Best of all, he says I can eat anything I want. Whoohoo!

One of my essays is included in a new book titled Biting the Bullet: Essays on the Courage of Women, published last month by Chatter House Press. You might want to check it out.

Another benefit of childlessness: More time to read!

Finally, there’s a pretty heated discussion happening in the comments for a previous post, “Childless Readers Help Each Other.” Me, I’m going to try to stay neutral, but this guy named Tony has really pissed some people off.

Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes you have to stick with your decision


You know what drives me crazy? When someone who has been married for 15 or 20 years decides to break up a marriage because NOW one of them has decided they have to have children. Sometimes it’s the one with baby lust who ends it. Sometimes it’s their partner because they can’t bear the resentment of the childless spouse—or because they believe that ridiculous old saying if you love them set them free.
Here’s a thought. Why not stick to the commitment you made years ago to stay together for the rest of your lives, no matter what? Rich or poor, in sickness or in health, through snoring, foot fungus, cancer scares and second thoughts about not having kids? So many people who comment here mention that they love this person, that he/she is their soul mate and they don’t know if they’ll ever find anyone else they love this much. Yet they’re thinking about leaving in the hope they’ll find someone else who has all the same great qualities, along with a yearning to be a parent.
The grass is not always greener, and the eggs are not getting any fresher. Before you leap out of a relationship or poison your relationship with resentment, consider that when you accepted this person into your life, you accepted the whole package, including his family, his kids from previous relationships, his big nose or balding head, and his reluctance to parent. Sometimes, as with my first marriage, there are a lot more problems besides disagreeing over whether to have children. That marriage was doomed. But if you really love him (or her), you stop looking around and considering other possibilities and other lives. Think about it.
Enough nagging. It’s the holidays. I hope you all survived Thanksgiving and are looking forward to Christmas. I spent Turkey Day with my dad, brother, and my sister-in-law’s vast family. All of the other women had children, lots of them. They also had living mothers and husbands. Did I feel a pang of sadness and loss? You bet. But then I thought about having to buy Christmas presents for six children and sixteen grandchildren, and I felt lucky. I can hang out with my niece and nephew and shower them with gifts. I can love the young people who are in my life through church and my writing and music activities. Then I can come home and do Christmas my way—and stay out of the shopping mall. I don’t mind that at all.
How are you doing this holiday season? Let us know in the comments.

Sometimes it might be a blessing to not have kids


This weekend I played piano and led the choir for the funeral of a friend’s son. He was 24. He died of a drug overdose. This young man grew up in our church. He was a little kooky but beloved. Every pew in the church was full. Everybody knew him and his family. But we didn’t know he battled depression and anxiety and turned to drugs for comfort. As with any young person’s death, a life cut so short is a tragedy. I keep seeing his mother’s ravaged face and his grandfather sitting in the front pew trying not to cry. He’s battling cancer, and everyone thought he would be the one to die next.
The three remaining children, in their teens and twenties, all spoke at the funeral, sharing memories, laughing, and fighting tears. In the choir and in the pews, many people wept, especially those whose children grew up with the one who died. They too have sons and daughters who could die.
I keep thinking that I don’t know how to help, except with my music. To be honest, I’m also thinking I’m glad that I can never feel that pain because I don’t have sons or daughters to lose. It seems as if from the moment of conception, mothers and fathers worry about keeping their children alive. If they can avoid miscarriage or death in the womb, if they can avoid premature birth, if they can have the baby safely and avoid losing him to sudden infant death, disease or accidents, if they can get them to adulthood . . . No, even then, their job is never done. When a child dies, a human being created by the parents in the mother’s body, how can anyone bear the grief? They will always feel loss, emptiness and failure.
Although we wish we had children, sometimes it is a relief that we don’t.
On the same day, at the 5:30 Mass, where I was at the piano again, a little boy was baptized. Colby. Little blond kid with stick-up hair, wearing a suit, accompanied by his handsome parents and godparents. New to the parish, they were probably unaware of the funeral that had happened earlier. They just know they have this precious gift they will do everything they can to protect.
Being childless, I won’t experience the joy of that little boy either. But at least my son won’t die.
I’m on my way to spend Thanksgiving with my father and my brother’s family. Being on my own, I  can travel wherever and whenever I choose. I only have to worry about getting time off from work and hiring a dog-sitter. That’s probably a blessing, too.
This Thanksgiving, count your blessings. We all have them.
I’m blessed to have you.

The coldest reaction to childless grief

“Get over it.” That’s what his girlfriend said when this man who wrote to me told her he’d have a hard time dealing with not having children. They were talking about marriage. She had been married before and had a daughter. Now 45, she wasn’t interested in trying for another. But he was younger and still wanted kids. He wanted her to understand that he would need a lot of moral support if he never became a father. She said, “get over it.” 

As far as I know, they’re still together, but now he’s worried about her attitude.

You don’t just “get over” losing your chance to have children. We all need to find a way to live with it, to keep it from ruining all that is good in our lives, but that feeling of something missing does not just disappear. It’s a bit like the feeling we have when someone we love dies. As the priest told my father, brother and me before my mother’s funeral, there’s a wound in our hearts that will never completely heal. Ten years later, I know it’s still there.

I have heard people say “get over it” about lots of things. Childlessness is definitely one of them. I know men and women who have progressed from childless to childfree. They have come to a place where they don’t mind not having children. They’re even glad about it. God bless them, but it’s not that easy for most of us. The least our partners can do is try to understand that sometimes that old wound will still hurt.

I think “get over it” is one of the most hurtful phrases in our language. It denies our right to have feelings, and those who say it should get over that.

Has anyone ever said this to you?

Being childless has its blessings

We often mourn here about what we don’t have and the grief we feel over our lack of children. But it’s important to look at the flip side, too. Because we don’t have children to take care of, we have a lot more time and freedom to devote to other things that are important to us.

Most of our marriage, Fred and I were able to do things that parents can’t do as easily. We traveled a lot. We did not have to worry about taking the kids along or going places that children would enjoy, and we had enough money because we weren’t taking care of children. We went antiquing a lot. We bought things that maybe parents of young children couldn’t afford. I went back to school and got my master’s degree. If we had children, we would be paying for their education. We were able to go out whenever we felt like it: lunch, romantic dinner, shows, hiking, without worrying about babysitters or school schedules. I was able to go away as needed for work.

We were “childfree,” a word that makes me cringe, but not having children does give us freedom to concentrate on adult things. I could not have done all the things I have done in my life if I had to take care of children. I believe I would gladly make the sacrifice in exchange for the chance to be a mother, but I have to remember the blessings, especially this time of year when I’m missing my husband and feeling awfully alone.

Let’s all stop and think of at least five things that we can do because we don’t have kids. Take comfort in the blessings we do have. Feel free to share here.