Birthdays are tough for childless women

Jody Day of Gateway Women, a UK organization for people who are childless not by choice, is celebrating her 54th birthday. In her blog post today, “Ten Tips for Healing from the Heartbreak of Childlessness,” she notes that she doesn’t mind her birthdays now, but in her 40s, when she was trying unsuccessfully to conceive, it was a different story. Every birthday was a reminder that she was running out of time.

Jody’s post takes me back to my 40th birthday. I was struggling with my childlessness at that point. Fred and I had been married for seven years. My fantasies about somehow getting pregnant in spite of his vasectomy and his declaration that he did not want to have any more children were fading away. It wasn’t going to happen. It was too late. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand it. I struggled with depression, overeating, and overdrinking.

The day before my birthday, I attended a retreat with women from my church. One of the rituals we did, lighting a candle for our loved ones, sent me into a major meltdown. Everyone was talking about their children, and I would never have any. I was not a person who wept in public, but I sobbed for a long time. Then I wanted a drink, but there was no booze.

I shared a room that night with Julie, who was unable to conceive. She and her husband were trying to adopt a child, but having trouble with that process. We talked late into the night before falling into sad, heavy sleep.

The next day, back home, my family threw a big party for my birthday. Everyone was there to celebrate and laud my accomplishments. I made them laugh with a speech about the joys of growing old ( Now I know 40 is NOT old). It was all great fun, but inside I was hurting. Other people’s children ran around the hall, playing and shouting. Where were my kids?

Like Jody, I find birthdays easier now. I have other issues, like being alone and fearing old age, but I don’t think too much on my birthdays about my lack of children. It’s too late to change the situation. The hurt returns unexpectedly at other times, a moment when I’m feeling lonely or when my friends share pictures of their grandchildren. This grief is real and should be acknowledged, Jody emphasizes in her blog.

I know many of you are right in the middle of the hurting time. Someone reading this may be having a birthday today. I feel for you. If there’s anything you can do to change your situation before it’s too late, please do it. If not, then the hard work is learning to accept it. Jody offers good advice in her blog.

Hang in there, my friends. You are not alone.

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Do the Childless Get Ripped Off at Work?

Childless employees, especially women, get the shaft in the workplace. Right? How many times have you watched a co-worker run off to watch a soccer game or take her child to the dentist while you had to cover her hours or finish her work because hey, you don’t have any kids to worry about?

Jody Day, speaking at the NotMom Summit earlier this month, described five areas of dissension:

1) The dominance of mom talk and mom activities. People who just want to do their jobs are subjected to baby showers, mothers bringing their babies to work, baby pictures, and co-workers conversing about subjects the childless don’t feel comfortable joining in.

2) Unfair holiday allocations. Who gets to work on Christmas? Not the moms and dads.

3) Lack of consideration for any real-life needs besides children.

4) Caring for parents, pets, spouses, etc., does not get the same consideration as caring for children.

5) Unfair work load distribution. Give it to her; she doesn’t have kids.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have certainly felt left out when the moms at work all gathered to talk about their kids. But I haven’t experienced discrimination in the same ways that others have. During my years in the newspaper business, we all worked nights, weekends, and holidays, lucky if we got time for lunch. I suspect my co-workers’ kids were fending for themselves.

I think we have to understand that it’s not easy balancing work and family. Children require a lot of maintenance. Somebody has to take them to doctor and dentist appointments, pick them up when the school calls, or accompany them to sports activities or lessons. Somebody has to take care of them when they’re not in school. Parents would tell you that’s more important than any job.

But how is that our problem, you might ask? It’s bad enough that we don’t get to have kids and now we get extra work dumped on us because of it? It’s definitely not fair. Employers need to understand that we have lives, too, and that includes taking care of our homes, spouses, pets, and aging parents. And ourselves. We need time for doctor and dentist appointments, too.

I’m rambling. There’s a situation going on at my church job that has me totally distracted. It has nothing to do with the fact that three out of four of us employees never had children, more to do with working for a crazy person. I’ll bet you can identify with that, too.

So I turn the discussion over to you. Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace because you are the one without children? Are you constantly forced to deal with baby pictures, baby showers, and baby talk that just makes you feel worse about your own situation. Let ‘er rip. I want to know.

Here are just a few of many articles on the subject of workplace discrimination against employees without kids.

“Discrimination Against Childfree Adults”  by Ellen Walker, Psychology Today, May 2, 2011

“Family-Friendly Workplaces are Great, Unless You Don’t Have Kids”  by Amanda Marcotte, Slate, June 21, 2013

“Do Childless Employees Get the Shaft at Work?”  by Aaron Guerrero, U.S. News & World Report, July 17, 2013

I await your comments.