Childlessness needn’t define who we are

“Childless is one of the many things I am.”

A year ago last weekend, I was at the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, listening to Jody Day say this. At the time it was one of many things the founder of Gateway-Women and author of Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children, said as I scribbled madly to capture it all in my notebook. But this one line alone gives me a lot to think about this week.

Last Sunday at church, we listened to a visiting priest preach that sex is only allowed in marriage and only for the purpose of creating children. Furthermore, all forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization are sins. What do you tell the men who insist on having sex before, during and after marriage? What if you can’t have children? What if you and your partner disagree about whether to have children? This young bearded priest, presumably celibate all his life, has no idea how complicated real life can get. It is never black and white, more like a rainbow of colors.

And what does he say to those of us in the pews who have not used our bodies as vessels for children? Are we then worthless? Once again, I’m saying things that might get me in trouble at my church job, but they need to be said. It’s not just the Catholic church either. I’m hearing preachers of other denominations on the news saying women should be content with their role as mothers. But what if we can’t be mothers?

We are not worthless. Childless is just one of the things you and I are. It’s a big thing. It makes us different from 80 percent of the adults around us. It affects everything else in our lives. That’s why I wrote my Childless by Marriage book. I wanted people to know how different our lives are because we never had children. But Jody Day is right. It’s not everything, and we should not miss all the good things in our lives because of the one thing we missed.

I am not just a woman without children, any more than I am just a woman whose husband died. I’m a dog-mom, musician, writer, homeowner, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I have a family history I’m proud of. I’m the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree, and the bookshelf bearing my published works is getting full. I like to cook, travel, take long walks, do yoga, learn new songs, watch movies, and read books. I dabble in needlework and make quilted wall hangings. If I could do it over, I might be a mother, too, but I can’t waste my life dwelling on what I don’t have or letting people make me feel like damaged goods because I failed to procreate.

How about you? What else are you besides someone without children? Even if you’re still hoping to have children, there’s more to be proud of. Let’s make a list to remind ourselves that childless is not all we are.

I look forward to reading your comments.


NotMoms Meet to Talk about Childless Life

Tomorrow I’m flying to Cleveland, Ohio for the NotMom Summit, a conference for childless/childfree women. I have never gone that far from home without a husband, but at this point I’ve been alone so long I don’t even remember how to travel with another person.

It might be nice to have a companion, but I like my space and my freedom. I can’t imagine traveling with children. It’s hard enough getting myself organized and arranging for my dog’s care. Foods, pills, dog-sitters, feeling guilty for leaving her.

My dear departed husband would have wanted to come along. If he had, I would have spent the whole conference worrying about him. He’d be asking, “How long is this workshop going to take?” “What took you so long?” and “Why can’t I come to the pajama party?” And that was before he got Alzheimer’s. If he stayed home, I’d make myself crazy preparing his meals in advance and checking in with him by phone every day.

Being unfettered is nice. I’m trying not to feel like a weird person because I like to travel on my own.

I will have to call my father and pray that he stays healthy until I get home. He doesn’t understand what this conference is about. NotMoms?

It’s a little strange for me, too. I’m used to writers’ conferences, where everybody’s asking “What do you write?” and stressing about pitching their books to editors and agents. Keynote speakers tell their stories of how they went from rejection to the best-seller list. Workshop leaders talk about plot, characters, marketing, revision, etc. The books in the bookstore are all about how to be a writer–because every other writer is writing a book about how to be a writer. I wrote one, too. Took it to conferences, taught workshops, sold copies to wannabe writers, of whom maybe 2 percent might actually write and publish anything.

But this conference is so different. We’re going to talk about real life. We’re not all writers. The thing we have in common is not having children. What we do for a living is irrelevant, except that maybe not having children allows us to follow our passions more freely. I’m not sure what the opening question will be. “Childless by choice or by circumstance?” “Are you infertile, too?” At least, for once, we won’t be the only ones in the room without offspring.

I’ll be selling my Childless by Marriage book, and I will probably buy several other people’s books about being “notmoms.” But we’ll talk about relationships, money, aging, health and other real-life topics with people who understand. How often does that happen in our day-to-day lives? Where else can we be totally honest about this childless business?

I’ll take lots of notes and share what I learn. If you’re going to be in the Cleveland area this weekend, you can still reserve a spot. For information, click here.



No kids? Forget Legoland

Did you know you can’t get into Legoland unless you’re accompanied by a child? It’s true for all the Lego parks. This hit the news in July when a 63-year-old Lego fan was turned away from the park near Toronto, Canada because he didn’t bring a child. Actually he did bring his daughter, but she was 30, so it didn’t count.
The account I read at the The NotMom blog went on to say the man was a Lego fanatic with 72 different sets of the interlocking toys, about 50,000 pieces. You’d think the park would welcome guys like him. But no.
The Legoland website states, “Adults must be accompanied by a child to visit the attraction.” Once a month, there is an “Adult Night,” but the rest of the time it’s no kids, no admittance.
Exploring further, I discovered many children’s museums have the same policy. The Building for Kids, a children’s museum in Appleton, Wisconsin prohibits childless adults “for everyone’s safety.” Kidzworld indoor play center, which bills itself the “best place on the planet,” bars grownups unless they bring someone under age 18.
These policies seem to come from a combination of trying to keep the focus on children and keeping out twisted adults who might harm and/or kidnap them. Does that mean grownups without kids can’t be trusted?
It doesn’t seem fair. I’d like to play with Legos and walk through a world of Lego creations. I like playing games and learning and building things. Just because I’m old enough for AARP doesn’t mean the kid in me is gone.
It’s like when we were little and my brother got all the cool toys because he was a boy. Legos hadn’t been invented yet, but we had Tinker toys, Lincoln Logs and these snap-together red rubber bricks that were probably precursors to Legos. I didn’t get to play with them much; I was supposed to stick to my dolls.
We didn’t have Legoland or children’s museums when I was a kid, and my parents wouldn’t have taken us there anyway—although we did go to Disneyland once. But now as a grownup, I find out I can’t get in unless I bring a child? That’s crazy. Of course, I have to ask myself whether I want to be surrounded by hundreds of kids, but that’s another issue.
Moms have access to all the toys. I’m not a child molester. I just want to play, too.
Have you encountered situations where you couldn’t join in because you didn’t have a child? We’d love to hear about it.