We offered a talk about my Childless by Marriage book at the senior center today and nobody came. My sweet hostess, who I am guessing is about 80 years old, suggested that maybe my topic was not of interest to older people. I don’t think that’s true. I think it’s that they didn’t publicize it very well. But that’s not what I want to write about today.
Here’s the thing. I believe not having children affects your whole life, including your Medicare years. As someone who is rapidly approaching that time of life, I can tell you that it definitely affects mine. The opportunity to change your situation is pretty much over. You’re too old to get pregnant, and unlikely to qualify for adoption. Some grandparents wind up raising their grandchildren, but if you’re not a parent, you’re not going to be a grandparent. So, it’s a done deal.
But that doesn’t mean childlessness does not affect your life in a hundred different ways. You will never be a full-fledged member of the mom club or grandma club. While your friends are showing off baby pictures, you’ll be showing off your nieces or nephews or your dog. As they celebrate the various milestones in their children’s lives–graduation, marriage, babies–you, um, won’t. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, when other people’s homes fill up with their descendants, there’s just you and your spouse celebrating alone or with friends or tagging along at someone else’s party. The good news is you have a lot fewer gifts to buy.
You don’t have children who might help you in your old age. Yes, I know you can’t count on your kids even if you have them; that’s why I say they MIGHT help you. At least they might be around sometimes to talk to, to remember your birthday, to give you much-needed hugs.
The young people in your family can also help you keep up with our rapidly changing world. Sunday night, I had no idea who half the people on the Grammy awards were. My dog didn’t have a clue either.
“I don’t know what I’d do without my kids,” said my senior center hostess as we chatted about childlessness. We agreed that most of her generation automatically had children, if they could. If they couldn’t, they adopted. But there doesn’t mean there aren’t any childless seniors. Recent statistics show that 20 percent of women reach menopause without having babies. In 1970, it was 10 percent, so there are plenty of childless seniors. Childless or not, I think childlessness is of interest to seniors as much as anyone else. After all, if you never had children, you can be 100 years old, and you’re still childless. Plus, even if they had kids, a lot of their children and grandchildren are choosing not to become parents. Not interested? Balderdash.
What do you think?