A Safe Place for the Childless Not by Choice

Dear friends,

Lately in the comments, a few people have been sniping at each other. That’s not good. We get enough of that in the rest of the world. As childless people, we face questions, disapproval, accusations, and folks who can’t resist giving you unwanted advice. Right? Let’s not do that here.

Last week we talked about how some of us—maybe all of us—sometimes keep quiet about our childless status because we don’t want to deal with the reactions. We’d rather blend in and let the parent people think we’re just like them. We don’t want them coming at us with why, what’s wrong with you, etc. Most of us don’t know how  to explain or justify our situation because we’re not sure how it happened or what to do about it. We’re still trying to figure it out. There aren’t any easy answers.

Of course, I’m talking about those of us who have not chosen to be childless, who are hurting over their childless status. The childless-by-choice crowd sometimes gets pretty militant about their choice: Never wanted kids, happy about the situation, feel sorry for you breeders who want to waste your bodies, money and time adding to the world’s overpopulation. Get over it, and enjoy your childfree life. But how can you when you feel a gaping emptiness inside?

In an ideal world, we would all accept each other’s choices, but the world is not ideal. We feel left out, guilty, ashamed, angry, and hurt. We need a safe place. Let this be one. If someone asks for advice—and many readers do—chime in, but we need to support each other’s decisions once they’re made. Don’t add to the hurt. And if a certain gentleman wants to leave his childless older wife for a young, fertile woman who will give him a family, ease up on him. We women might resent some of his sexist comments, but we don’t know what it’s like for him. He’s aching for children just like we are. And sir, don’t be knocking older women. Some of us take that personally. 🙂

Let’s try to be kind here. I am grateful for every one of you. Hang in there.

P.S. Easter was brutal for me. All those kids in Easter outfits. All those happy families while I was alone. Luckily I spent so much time playing music at church that I was too tired to care by Sunday afternoon. How was it for you?

May the happy moments outweigh the sad

In my last post, I talked about not letting Easter get to you with its emphasis on children. Well, Easter got to me, but not in the way I expected. There were children around, and they were as adorable as expected. Children with their choir-singing parents, children getting baptized, tots trying to sing in the back of the church, pictures all over Facebook of families with kids. That was fine. But there came a moment last night in the third of the four long services that I sang and played for when we were once again remembering our loved ones who had died. I fixed on my mother and felt a connection. I felt as I often do that I am a direct continuation of her too-short life. Not only do I look like her and carry on many of her beliefs and ways, but I’m taking her life force beyond what she was able to do, in my work as a writer and musician, in my life with my dog here in the woods, and in the adventures I go on.

That’s when the sledgehammer hit me. I have broken the chain. I am not carrying that piece of my mother and her mother and her mother into the next generation. It dies with me. And that sucks. I want to wail. I want a do-over. Give me another chance; I’ll have children. I’ll do whatever it takes. But it’s too late. I can tell myself all kinds of positive things about how God has given me other work to do in this life. I can love everybody else’s kids. But it’s not the same, and that pain will always be there waiting to catch me at a vulnerable moment.
I can still enjoy days like today, Easter, when after church I went out for a very adult brunch with friends (who have lots of kids and grandkids but none of them here). Afterward, I came home, telephoned my family in California, changed into my sweats and set to work cleaning up my back yard. Nobody to worry about. Totally free. Tonight I’ll watch a movie, share a bowl of popcorn with the dog, and maybe soak in the spa under the stars. My life is good. In the middle of Mass today, I felt so blessed I could barely stand it. I was surrounded by friends, playing the music that I love, and yes, Jesus has risen from the dead. The sun was shining in, we were all dressed up in our Easter finery, and I wanted to hug everyone.
Most of the time I can accept that I will never have children, but there will always be those moments when it just plain hurts. Know what I mean?
May we all have more happy moments than sad. Thank you for being here. Keep coming back.

Easter doesn’t have to be all about kids

It’s almost Easter. You know what that means. People with children are going a little crazy filling baskets with candy and toys, buying cute little Easter outfits, dyeing hard-boiled eggs, and organizing Easter egg hunts. They might be attending events in which somebody shows up dressed in a bunny costume. If the kids are in school this week, they’ll be making things like Easter cards and papier-mâché eggs. If they’re out of school on spring break, they’ll be throwing their parents’ schedules into a tizzy, making it difficult to work or do their usual activities.

All of this is a big deal to those who have children, and a lot of it is fun. When I was kid, I would wake up on Easter morning to find big baskets of goodies on my dresser. I believed the Easter Bunny had brought them, although of course they really came from my mother and grandmother. We got dressed up and went to church, but for us kids, Easter was about candy and presents. I guess it still is.
That might make people without children feel a little left out, but hey, Easter is not really about bunnies and baskets of goodies. It’s about the resurrection of Christ from the dead. And you know what? Jesus didn’t have any kids. It’s fascinating to think what might have happened if he did, but he didn’t. He devoted his life on earth to his ministry.
Not everyone reading this is Christian. Maybe you’re just celebrating the arrival of spring. We can all believe whatever we choose to believe. I not only believe the Jesus story, I work as a music minister for a Catholic church and will be immersed in church music for the next five days. In our nightly services, we will take the story from the Last Supper to the crucifixion and on to the resurrection. My only connection with children will be watching a couple of the kids I’ve been singing for all year be baptized into the Catholic church. I may pick up a chocolate bunny along the way, but it’s all about religion for me and not about kids. It’s about my faith and my ministry.
Easter isn’t half as bad as Mother’s Day, but it has its pitfalls for those who don’t have children and wish they did. You may be attending a family dinner in which everything seems to revolve around other people’s kids. You may meet up with people who keep insisting you need to get pregnant ASAP. You may just feel left out of the conversations. I hope you don’t. I think we all have our roles to play, and there’s no reason you can’t dive into the festivities along with everyone else. Just enjoy the fact that you won’t be bringing home a child who is wired on sugar and whining about not getting as many presents as his cousin. You can relax into your childless life and maybe enjoy a chocolate egg and a glass of cabernet in peace.
I wish you all a peaceful and blessed Easter.