Childless Elderwomen Share Their Thoughts on ‘Renewal’

Renewal. What does that word mean to you? A fresh start? A new way of seeing or doing things? It seems like we ought to be discussing this in the spring, not in the midst of a huge winter storm, but renewal was the topic yesterday when childlessness guru Jody Day brought together 12 “childless elderwomen” for another solstice chat on Zoom. If you are younger and not sure whether or not you will have children, listening to these wonderful women should prove that either way you can live well and become a badass elderwoman or, as Jody likes to call us a “nomo crone.”

For me, renewal this year means taking my recovery from my fall in October and COVID in November into a concerted effort to reassess my body and my lifestyle in 2023. I am working to counter my aloneness by reaching out more to other people and creating my “village” so we can take care of each other. It also means reaching out to my family and basically demanding to spend time live and online with all of them, especially the young ones, so they know who this “Aunt Sue” is and let me be part of their lives.

Does this sound like New Year’s resolutions? Yes, but this is different. This is a restart on our lives, looking at it fresh. For some, that means getting rid of possessions that weigh us down. For others, it might be changing a life situation that has got us stuck, including this bit about your partner not wanting to have children or you not sure what you want to do. If you knew you only had a short time to live, what would you do? Don’t wait until you’re old or facing a terminal diagnosis to change what needs changing.

What do you think? I welcome your comments.

Have a wonderful holiday. Do your best to make it your own. All of you are a gift for me. Thank you for being here.

Sue

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Surviving childlessness: It’s all in how you look at it

“I hate this rainy weather. It’s so dark and wet,” I whined to my counselor the other day. I live on the Oregon coast, where it starts raining in October and keeps going until Fourth of July. We hadn’t seen the sun in two weeks. I’m fully aware that other parts of the country have much worse weather, but I’m from San Jose, where it never rains more than a day or two.

She held up her hand like a stop sign. “Every time you say things like that, it plants a negative thought in your mind.”

She was right. I can’t change the weather, only my reaction to it.
It’s like the fog. My friend from New England says she loves it. I feel closed in, as if I’ll go crazy if I don’t see the sun within the next few minutes. It’s the same fog, just different ways of looking at it.
Life is like that. I’ve been complaining because the neighbors behind me just built this giant building directly across from my office. At first I saw bare wood sticking out through the trees. Then this week, they installed a bright blue metal roof. It’s so blue. It’s the first thing I see in the morning when I go to turn on my computer. I hated it those first few days, but you know what? I’m starting to get used to it. It’s kind of a nice blue. In time, I might even like it.
Childlessness is a little like that. I think about Karen, one of the women I interviewed for my book. Physically unable to bear children, she grieved until she discovered the term “childfree.” The concept changed her whole perspective. She stopped feeling as if she was missing something and started spreading the word that it was okay not to have children.
In a book called Childlessness Transformed, Brooke Medicine Eagle describes how among the Crow Indians when a person has no children, all the children are her children, not just humans but every life form. When a woman, parent or not, passes through menopause, she moves into the Grandmother Lodge. These “grandmothers” are responsible for all the children of the earth.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel better.
If we wanted children and we can’t have them, we are entitled to grieve, but we mustn’t let it rule our lives. By changing our attitude, we can see the good things we do have, like maybe a loving partner and other ways we can use our mothering energy.
I’m not saying it’s easy. That same friend from New England posted a photo yesterday of her with her new grandson, and I felt the familiar ache. When I took my dog to the vet for her kennel cough shot in the afternoon, an employee on maternity leave was in the waiting room showing off her four-week-old baby.
Annie stared at it, puzzled. “That’s a tiny human,” I explained. “I wish we had one of those.” We both gazed in awe at the baby’s tiny hands and feet. Then I took a deep breath and said out loud to the mother, “Congratulations. She’s so cute.”
After which, the technician called Annie in and my 77-pound baby dragged me into the examining room, where she knew there were dog treats on the counter. Who cares about babies when there are cookies to be eaten!
It’s all in how you look at it.