The childless go invisible again

I just finished reading an anthology of blogs by women over 45. Most of these women write about their kids and grandkids. They might as well have titled the book “Mommy blogs.” Why are there no childless writers represented? One out of five women over 45 does not have children. That is a significant number. But you wouldn’t know it from this book. Or from many others that I have read. The book I’m reading right now about working from home assumes the reader has children. It’s everywhere!

A year or so ago, I published an essay in another anthology by women—and I was the sole voice of childlessness. Why? Are women without children not writing? I know that isn’t true. Is this part of what we talked about a couple weeks ago, trying to blend in by not discussing our lack of offspring?

In my work as a writer, I study listings of publications looking for submissions. As I go down the list, some of them are so mommy oriented I would never fit in. Cross them off the list. The doors are closed to me. Parenting publications are a huge industry. There are plenty of parenting readers, but also, most publications are supported by advertising and there’s a lot of stuff advertisers can sell to parents and future parents. Even most of the so-called women’s magazines cater to moms. Whereas I’m reading “coastal living” and drooling over the decorating and cooking tips.

It’s not impossible for childless people to write for parenting publications. I did it for several years back in California when I freelanced for Bay Area Parent and Bay Area Baby. I researched, interviewed and wrote, not mentioning my non-mom state unless I had to. (“How long was your labor?” “Uh, I don’t actually have any children.”) I did have a live-in stepson at that time, so I could relate to a certain extent. Plus, a good writer can write about anything. Research is research. I also wrote about business for several years, and I hate business. I’m not handy at all, but I have written about fences, paint, wood stoves, and windows. But at this point in my life, I cross the mommy mags off my list of potential markets.

Whether it’s publishing or other aspects of life, we notice barriers, even when they’re invisible. For example, a church retreat for women is coming up. I’m not going. I can tell from the flyer that it’s going to be all about being a good wife and mother. Our church also hosts a monthly “family movie night.” Not going to that either. “Family” is code for parents and children.

How about you? Do you see the childless represented realistically in your reading? Does it bother you? Have you noticed parent-oriented situations where you don’t feel welcome, even if nobody openly says so? Please comment. Let’s make a list of places we left out. Maybe we can make another list of places we feel included. Chime in.

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Kids, kids, kids, they’re everywhere!

I’ve been on the road this week, which is why my posting schedule has turned erratic, but I’m on my way home now.

 I’d like to write about a run-in I had with a grown stepchild that makes me wonder if I would have been the worst mother ever, but the kids read the blog and are easily offended, so I’ll change the subject–for now.

I’ve never seen so many babies and pregnant women in my life. I sold books at a Portuguese festival in San Jose last weekend and was flabbergasted by the population explosion happening there. Where I live on the Oregon coast, the population is older, so I don’t see so many babies; I just hear a lot of grandma talk. But out in the world, babies are happening.

It wasn’t just at the festival. I stayed with my dad, and whenever we went out to a restaurant, there were bound to be babies or toddlers at the next table. At church, he introduced me to his “girlfriend,” a four-year-old who came running in and gave him a big hug. She sits next to him every Sunday. If only that was my little girl. The child has a one-year-old brother, and the mom is expecting again.

Then there’s me and my dad, both single and living alone. At a party with my brother’s friends, someone actually asked me if that was my husband. Is it that he looks young for his age, or that I look old?

Eventually someone asked me about my children. I had to tell him I didn’t have any. Not one person at that party said, “Oh, I don’t have any either.”

We visited my sister-in-law’s mom, who recently sold her home of 50 years to move closer to her kids. Her house is filled with pictures of her children and grandchildren, and they were the only things we had in common to talk about.

You can’t get away from it. It takes a strong person to feel comfortable being childless in this world where everyone else seems to have a life filled with children. I’m working on it. I think the only thing we can do is enjoy all the children of the world and accept the freedom that comes with not having our own.

How’s that going for you?