Without Kids, What Does September Bring?

It’s September 1. For most of us as kids, this meant the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. It was like there were two New Years, the one on January 1 and the one that came in September with new clothes, new classes, and a return to cooler weather. No more vacations, no more running around in flip flops. Back to sitting in our classrooms and doing homework. Term papers! Argh.

How many of us started the first day of school having our picture taken in the front yard? Many adults will be taking pictures of their own children going to school this month, most for the first time in person since early 2020. But we don’t have any children. Unless we are teachers or going to college ourselves, September is like any other month, except the leaves are falling and the days are getting shorter. As with Mother’s Day, the back-to-school ads and photos of school kids on social media don’t apply to us. Is this a good thing or a relief?

This year, the news is full of worries about COVID and whether the teachers and children will be safe. Too young to be vaccinated, the students may or may not be wearing masks, and even that might not be enough protection. One of my writer friends reported last night that both of her children have already been sent home to quarantine because someone in their classes had the virus. If I were a parent with a child in school now, I’d be terrified. For this one moment, I am grateful I don’t have to worry about my own children or grandchildren risking their health to go to school or struggling to learn online, which is barely adequate. How fortunate we were to grow up in safer times.

Most of the time I hate that I don’t have children. I have started watching a TV series on Netflix, Bloodline, featuring this huge family with so many characters I can’t keep them straight. They don’t get along very well, but the show emphasizes my aloneness. I want to be a matriarch like Sissy Spacek, beloved by all these offspring. These are the moments when I think I really messed up my life. But it was just bad timing. The first marriage was doomed from the beginning, and my second husband, Fred, was done having kids. Still . . .

It’s September. I thank God I don’t have to worry about children or grandchildren in school. Many of my friends are teachers, and I worry about them. For years, we have worried about people with guns coming into classrooms. Now we also worry about a virus. What a world.

Earlier this week, I thought I had COVID. I was feeling sick and just off. But I got tested, and it came out negative. It could so easily have gone the other way. Please be careful out there.

COVID aside, how do you feel about back-to-school time as a person without children? Does it emphasize your childlessness or just make you nostalgic for your own school years? Some of you may be going to school yourselves, something that might be more difficult or impossible if you had children. That’s something to be grateful for.

What are your thoughts as the world goes back to school? Please share in the comments.

*****

The books Childless by Marriage and Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both are now available not only through Amazon but at any bookstore via Ingram, the biggest distributor of books in the U.S. Why not support your local bookstore by ordering a copy?

I’ll be joining the Nomo Crones—childless elderwomen—in an online chat again on September 15 as part of World Childless Week. The Crones start gabbing at noon Pacific time. Check the website for information on all the week’s activities happening on Zoom from all over the world. You’re sure to find something that grabs your interest. The sessions will be recorded so you can watch them at your convenience.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

“Back to school:” What does it mean if you don’t have kids?

Once upon a time, September brought golden leaves, new clothes and the first day of school for my brother and me. While the dew was still wet on the grass, we posed on the front sidewalk for pictures in our new school clothes. Then we kissed Mom goodbye, picked up our sack lunches and shiny new binders and walked the three blocks to Cypress School, excited to meet our teachers and reunite with our friends.
Many years have passed. For people who went on to have children of their own, September is a time of getting ready for the new school year. The moms who were once the children now buy clothes and shiny new binders for their own children. They kiss them goodbye, send them off to school and sigh in relief that their kids are taken care of till 3:00. In the evenings, they help them with their homework and prepare lunches and clothes for the next day. The cycle of life goes on.
But what does the beginning of school mean for those of us who don’t have children? Some of us are teachers who say they have hundreds of children from September to June and love them all.
Some of us are students ourselves, taking college or university classes in preparation for new careers or just to learn. For many years, I was one of those students. I earned my bachelor’s degree before I got married, but I kept going back to school, studying photography and then taking three tries at a master’s degree in writing before I succeeded. If I had had children, I probably would never have earned that degree or spent those earlier years going back to school. College costs so much these days. It’s a luxury that parents struggle to provide for their children. No way can they pay for more education for themselves at the same time.
I dropped out the first time because I was getting divorced and couldn’t afford school anymore. A few years after Fred and I got married, I went back to school. I spent two years taking classes to qualify for the master’s program and was just starting to take master’s-level courses when my stepson Michael moved in with us. I was delighted to have him, but I was working for two newspapers and now I had a child to take care of. I never got to my homework before midnight, and my professors seemed to think school was the only thing we had to do. I reluctantly dropped out.
It was only after Michael grew up and we moved to Oregon that I had the time to finish my degree. I enrolled in a low-residency program and pushed on through the deaths of my mother-in-law and my mother and the beginning of my husband’s illness to finally achieve my goal of a master of fine arts degree in creative writing. I’m still paying on my student loan at an age when lots of people are retired.
I’m not telling you this to boast. I’m trying to make a point. If Fred and I had had children together, we would have spent all our money on their education. My education would be over. Being childless allowed me to focus on my own career and education, and that has been a blessing. When you get to feeling down about not having children, especially in times when so much attention is placed on the kids going back to school, think about how you are free to do things that moms can only dream about.
Is there something you would like to do and can do because you don’t have children to take care of? Why not do it?