Without Children, What Do We Look Forward To?

We have just welcomed a new month, a new year, and a new decade, another “roaring twenties.” We also had Christmas, but that happens every year. The change of year is a landmark for everyone, but what are the landmarks in our own lives and how are they different because we don’t have children?

Today’s post is inspired by a 2016 comment I found in rereading and editing for a future “Best of Childless by Marriage” book. SilverShil0h, a longtime reader and commenter, was having one of those days when life seemed to offer nothing to look forward to. How many of us have those days? I know I do.

Here is part of what Shil0h wrote:

“We watch other people have new adventures all the time. Preschool for the youngest. The older one is starting junior high, and football is a big deal. Homecoming outfits, a new flute in the house. A friend a couple years older than me just had her third. All of that is a world that my DH and I are only watching from a distance. It’s like one of those old fashioned bank teller windows – a little hole to say hello, a little slot to get the money. We see it all happening and we can talk all we want. But those people behind the window get to decide how much they will give us through that little slot.”

Parents have natural events to look forward to, starting with getting pregnant and the births of their children. Early on, the changes come quickly: first teeth, first words, learning to sit, crawl, stand and walk, potty training. Then comes preschool, elementary school, high school, and college. Parents mark the years with graduations, church ceremonies like baptisms, confirmations and bar mitzvahs. Jobs. Marriage. Grandchildren. Birthdays, holidays. Each event marks not only their children’s life but their own as they become more independent and leave the nest.

But what marks our lives? The first thing that comes to my mind is deaths because I’ve seen so many in my family lately. Death is certainly a marker, too. Losing your grandparents and parents is life-changing, but when you have children, there’s the compensation of something new for everything old that is lost. Your mother died, but your daughter had a baby, you know? Or so I have observed. Me, I just have the dog, and she’s getting old.

So what does mark our childless lives besides death? Graduating from high school and maybe college. Getting a good job. A promotion. Travel. Buying a house. Awards maybe. Surviving an injury or illness, such as cancer.

Our landmarks are our own, not our children’s.

When I think about the biggest events in my life, I count my two marriages and their endings by divorce and death. I count my more important jobs, the 11 different places I have lived, my college degrees, the places I have been, and the books I have published.

But what do I have to look forward to besides dying in 20 or 30 years, if not sooner? More books. I have a new poetry chapbook due out in March. I have other books I’m working on. I’m planning a trip to Texas, also in March. I have never been to Texas. It’s an adventure I can look forward to. I’m thinking I’ll buy a new car this year. Beyond that, I don’t know yet. I look forward to many little things, including lunch pretty soon, but big landmark things? Hey, maybe this year, I’ll meet another Mr. Right. Maybe he’ll have a huge family who will love me like crazy. One can dream.

Speaking of dreaming, what are you looking forward to this year? If there’s nothing, can you create something to look forward to? I know you want to have a baby. Let’s settle that once and for all. It’s 2020. Talk it out with your partner and make a decision that you can live with. Maybe that will give you a new landmark, something you can look back to this year and say, “That’s when that happened.”

But if there will be no children this year, what else can you look forward to? I know if you try, you can come up with something.

Please share in the comments. What have been the landmark events in your life and what are you looking forward to?

SilverShil0h, thank you for being here and for sharing your thoughts.

Happy New Year, dear friends.

 

Christmas and a new year still childless

Another year is ending. Time to look at where we have been and where we are going. I’m going to repeat some of my words from last year because they still apply. I’ll just change the date. If we didn’t do it in 2016, 2017 offers another chance.

Let’s make 2017 the year we don’t waste a minute with what ifs, the year we live each precious moment consciously and with gratitude for the gifts we have right now, whether it be a person, a pet, a job, a home, or coffee and donuts.

I’m excited about a new year. I hope you are, too. I ask two things of you all in 2017. First, if you have been dithering for years about the whole baby-partner thing, resolve it this coming year. Talk about it, pray about, think about it, make a decision and move on. Might you change your mind later? Of course. But for now, stop torturing yourself. Either accept your situation or make the leap to a new one.

Second, tell us what happened. We get so many comments here from people who are in crisis, who don’t know what to do, who are considering leaving their partners, who feel like they can’t bear their grief, but we rarely hear the rest of the story. Please, if you have commented before, send us a follow-up. We want to know how things turned out. If you would like, I can offer you the whole blog space to tell your story.

That’s what I said last year. Of course saying and doing are two different things. I also promised myself that this Christmas I would not get depressed, I would not get myself worked up over not getting presents, I would not weep over the family I don’t have. Well, I’ll try again in 2017. I spent most of Christmas feeling ridiculously sorry for myself. There were some good reasons: the pellet stove that heats my house died on Dec. 22 and is still sitting there like a cold lump of metal, awaiting parts; my financial situation is not great; my aunt sent fruitcake when I was hoping for a real present, and my brother’s present got lost in the mail; as choir director, I had to sing the Christmas Day Mass alone because my singers were off with their kids and grandkids; and I got a flat tire on Christmas Day. Dead husband, disowned by the stepkids, far from my birth family celebrating together in California. I stared at my pitiful little fake tree and sobbed. Poor me.

But with a little perspective, I can see that I spent most of the weekend with friends at church or at their home, I got some nice gifts from my church buddies (and a boatload of chocolate), my Christmas tree is cute, and I’m better off than a lot of people I know. I do not have cancer. I have a good house, plenty of food, steady income, work I love, and a fabulous dog who adores me. I also have all of you.

I can see that I need to work a little harder on bringing people into my life and including them in mine. I tend to be a workaholic hermit, but that’s not healthy. When people have spouses, children and grandchildren, they have a built-in family and community with which to share their lives. But when we’re on our own, we need to build our own communities or get used to the solitude.

Having children is no guarantee of Christmas cheer anyway. My closest friend’s kids were not available for the holidays and one didn’t send a card or gift and was not answering his phone. My physical therapist who just moved here from Utah was on her own because she’s divorced and her kids were with their dad. She said she valued having time to herself, which doesn’t happen very often. Another friend was snowed in with his dog, couldn’t get to his family.

You make the best of what you’ve got. And if you have to cry a little bit, that’s okay.

So how did you make out this Christmas? And what are your plans for the new year? Let’s talk.

 

 

Looking back at 2012 and ahead to 2013


Dear friends,
This is my last post of the year, so I feel compelled to offer some kind of wise analysis of the past year and guidance for the coming year. I wish I knew what to say.
For me, 2012 was a year when it became much easier to live with the loss of my dear husband, Fred. He died in April 2011. Soon I won’t be able to say he died “last year.” Attention from other people has dropped off. Several people who surprised me with Christmas gifts last year did not offer anything this year. I guess after a year, you’re supposed to be “over it.” But as with the grief of not having the children we wanted, the grief of losing a spouse never completely goes away. It just gets easier to live with. I find myself able to focus more on the happy times and less on the sad ones, to look at his picture and smile, and to enjoy the freedom of not having to coordinate my life with another human being’s. (The dog is another story.)
In 2012, I finally published Childless by Marriage, my book about not having children because one’s spouse couldn’t or didn’t want to have children. It started out as a journalistic/sociological study and turned into my own story, with lots of research included. The e-book came out on Mother’s Day, and the print version on July 7. In between the two versions, my stepchildren went ballistic over what I said about them. After many painful phone calls and emails, a revision followed. We don’t talk much anymore, and I feel bad about that. But Fred was the link between us, and he’s gone.
I’m writing a novel and a lot of poetry now, which shouldn’t make anybody mad at me. I’m still blogging here, as well as at Unleashed in Oregon . I’m also doing a lot of music, as much as I possibly can. I turned 60 this year, and I feel a strong need to do what I was sent here to do and not waste time on things that don’t feel right.
My dog Annie is almost five. Her favorite thing is to snuggle with me. I swear she likes it better than eating or going for a walk. I do feel like her mother and often call myself Mom. I don’t care if it sounds silly. I’m constantly watching out for her needs. This year, I’ve treated her four times for ear infections, and everyone at the vet’s office knows me well. My first thought when I have to go away is always: “Who will take care of Annie?” I raised her from a seven-week-old puppy, and she will always be my baby.
My friends are showing grandchild photos all over the place lately. Am I jealous? Yes. But more and more often these days, I’m finding myself feeling happy, thinking my life is good. I have my house, I have Annie, I have good friends, I have family even though they’re far away, I’m healthy, I live by the beach, and I get to do the work I love every day. I know it all could change at any minute, but for now, as Fred used to say all the time, life is good.
So what do I resolve for next year? To use every day as well as I can and thank God for my blessings. On the practical side, I hope to finally attend to several little problems that I’ve been putting off. But I’m not starting any new diets or anything like that.
Enough about me. What about you? What did you accomplish in 2012, and what do you hope to do in 2013? Will this be the year you finally make a decision about children or find peace with the decisions you have already made? Life is short. Look at the people who died last year from tragedy or illness who had no idea they wouldn’t be around for 2013.
My wish for you for the new year is to treasure each day and use it well. Love the people around you, including other people’s children. If something needs changing, stop putting it off.
I’d love to hear your comments.
God bless you all. Thank you for being here.