What is Your Legacy If You Don’t Have Children?

Register here to attend.

My mother always said the most important thing she did in her life was to raise my brother and me and help raise my cousins who lived with us for a while during a tough time. She never worked a paid job after becoming pregnant with me, her oldest child. She was brilliant and could have done anything, but my father didn’t like the idea of her going out on her own, so she put all of her efforts into home and family and an endless stream of needlework projects. This was an earlier time when things were different than they are today.

I was raised to be a mom and housewife like my mother, but things didn’t turn out that way. After two marriages, I find myself widowed and childless. Oh, I am married to a house right now, with a never-ending to-do list. But you mow the lawn and it grows back. You wash the clothes and they get dirty again. You bake a cake and it gets eaten. None of that is a legacy; it’s just maintenance.

Unlike my mother, I have always been driven to do more. I’m a musician and a writer, and I volunteer for far too many things. I think I’d do the same if I had children. I can’t see wasting a minute of my life. But if nothing else, I would know I had added these people to the world.

At today’s webinar “Leaving a Legacy,” part of World Childless Week, I will join other women over 60 to talk about what we leave behind if we don’t have children and grandchildren to guarantee we make a lasting mark on the world. For me, I hope my writing will live on in my books and other projects, that my blogs will survive until the Internet changes so much that no one can read them. I hope someone will include me in the family memories, but I am aware that my branch of the family tree ends with me. Maybe I shouldn’t look for anything large. Perhaps something I did or said made a difference in someone’s life. Maybe someone learned something from me that helped make their life better. Maybe it’s enough that I occupied this portion of the earth for a while and took care of it the best I could.

There’s also the question of keepsakes and photo albums that most of us have collected. Who will get them if we don’t have kids? Who will take Grandma’s rocking chair? That’s another kind of legacy. I know, it’s all “things.” Most will end up going to charity or a dumpster. Do things really matter in the end?

I suppose we can’t really know what our legacy will be.

You may be 27 years old and thinking you have decades ahead of you before you have to think about this stuff. What’s this got to do with having babies? Maybe you still haven’t figured out whether or not you’ll have children. But it’s interesting to ponder. What do you think your legacy will be after you’re gone, hopefully after a long and happy life? Do you worry about what you will leave behind?

If you can, please register for the webinar right away, if you haven’t already, and join us tomorrow. This is a fun group of fascinating women, and I guarantee an interesting chat. It will be recorded. If you are registered, you will receive an email with the link to the recording.

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Is It It Better to Keep Hoping for a Child or to Move On?

My husband is 23 years older than I am and had a vasectomy 20 years ago, during his first 20+ year marriage. When we initially got together I told him I could not imagine not being a mother someday. I also told him that I was absolutely okay with adoption and that I had never been incredibly attached to the idea of carrying and giving birth to our children.

Cut to several years later. My husband and I went through two rounds of IVF (very begrudgingly on his part). After that, we had an adoption fall through very late in the process. My husband then made his opinion very clear that he was done trying and had absolutely no interest in trying anything further to have a family with me. He unfortunately made it very clear that he was only attempting everything up to this point for my feelings; he never wanted children with me.

My husband is the love of my life and I could not ever imagine spending my life with anyone else. Time has passed and I have acknowledged that children are not in the cards for us. Largely in part from your blog and books, I have realized that there is more to my life than childlessness.

My husband and I were talking yesterday about a coworker who had had a miscarriage (after having one healthy child). I asked, “Is it better to have no hope at all? Or is it better to have hope? Hope that today may be the day?” I often wonder this now that I have in large part accepted the facts in regard to my childlessness. I wonder if it is better to have this hope that your situation will change and that you may finally get what you long for so dearly? Or is it better to have no hope at all about ever having children?

–Lynne

Hope. It can be the thing that keeps you going. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. Maybe he’ll change his mind. But how likely is it? When do you give up hope? Are you putting your life on hold just in case things change?

I was looking up quotes about hope last night. There’s a long list at Goodreads.com. I was struck by this one by author William Faulkner: “You cannot swim for the horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”

That could be interpreted as: if you don’t let go of the dream of being a parent, you’ll never discover the other wonderful things you could be. Or in the words of UK childless guru Jody Day, you’ll never find your Plan B.

Author Pearl S. Buck wrote: “Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”

Fashion designer Coco Chanel put it more simply: “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

And Greek philosopher Epicurus wrote: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

I could go on, but you get the idea. There are just as many writers who preach holding on to a dream no matter what. Without hope, they ask, what’s the point?

But which will make you happier today, tomorrow or next week? For me, menopause ended my angst over whether I might maybe somehow still be a mother. The baby factory was closed. Before that, while I still had viable eggs, I fantasized about getting pregnant. I had hope. But I was running out of time, and it drove me crazy. Now that the possibility has ended, I feel more at peace. Sometimes I also feel grief or regret, but I often feel that my life turned out the way it was supposed to. I didn’t have babies, but look at all the wonderful things I have had.

Lynne, thank you for sharing your story. It will resonate with many readers.

What about you? Is it better to keep hoping? Does the hope keep you going? Or would it be better to know there’s no hope for that dream, so you could let it go and look for a new dream?

I welcome your comments.

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The books Childless by Marriage and Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both are now available not only through Amazon but at any bookstore via Ingram, the biggest distributor of books in the U.S. Why not support your local bookstore by ordering a copy?

I’ll be joining the Nomo Crones—childless elderwomen—in an online chat again on September 15 as part of World Childless Week. The Crones start gabbing at noon Pacific time. Check the website for information on all the week’s activities happening on Zoom from all over the world. You’re sure to find something that grabs your interest. The sessions will be recorded so you can watch them at your convenience.

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Without Kids, What Does September Bring?

It’s September 1. For most of us as kids, this meant the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. It was like there were two New Years, the one on January 1 and the one that came in September with new clothes, new classes, and a return to cooler weather. No more vacations, no more running around in flip flops. Back to sitting in our classrooms and doing homework. Term papers! Argh.

How many of us started the first day of school having our picture taken in the front yard? Many adults will be taking pictures of their own children going to school this month, most for the first time in person since early 2020. But we don’t have any children. Unless we are teachers or going to college ourselves, September is like any other month, except the leaves are falling and the days are getting shorter. As with Mother’s Day, the back-to-school ads and photos of school kids on social media don’t apply to us. Is this a good thing or a relief?

This year, the news is full of worries about COVID and whether the teachers and children will be safe. Too young to be vaccinated, the students may or may not be wearing masks, and even that might not be enough protection. One of my writer friends reported last night that both of her children have already been sent home to quarantine because someone in their classes had the virus. If I were a parent with a child in school now, I’d be terrified. For this one moment, I am grateful I don’t have to worry about my own children or grandchildren risking their health to go to school or struggling to learn online, which is barely adequate. How fortunate we were to grow up in safer times.

Most of the time I hate that I don’t have children. I have started watching a TV series on Netflix, Bloodline, featuring this huge family with so many characters I can’t keep them straight. They don’t get along very well, but the show emphasizes my aloneness. I want to be a matriarch like Sissy Spacek, beloved by all these offspring. These are the moments when I think I really messed up my life. But it was just bad timing. The first marriage was doomed from the beginning, and my second husband, Fred, was done having kids. Still . . .

It’s September. I thank God I don’t have to worry about children or grandchildren in school. Many of my friends are teachers, and I worry about them. For years, we have worried about people with guns coming into classrooms. Now we also worry about a virus. What a world.

Earlier this week, I thought I had COVID. I was feeling sick and just off. But I got tested, and it came out negative. It could so easily have gone the other way. Please be careful out there.

COVID aside, how do you feel about back-to-school time as a person without children? Does it emphasize your childlessness or just make you nostalgic for your own school years? Some of you may be going to school yourselves, something that might be more difficult or impossible if you had children. That’s something to be grateful for.

What are your thoughts as the world goes back to school? Please share in the comments.

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The books Childless by Marriage and Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both are now available not only through Amazon but at any bookstore via Ingram, the biggest distributor of books in the U.S. Why not support your local bookstore by ordering a copy?

I’ll be joining the Nomo Crones—childless elderwomen—in an online chat again on September 15 as part of World Childless Week. The Crones start gabbing at noon Pacific time. Check the website for information on all the week’s activities happening on Zoom from all over the world. You’re sure to find something that grabs your interest. The sessions will be recorded so you can watch them at your convenience.

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Do You Ever Lie About Your Childless State?

People end up childless for many different reasons. Some are unable to conceive or to carry a baby to term; some don’t want children; some have never met the right partner; some of us are with partners who can’t or don’t want to reproduce; and some of us are just victims of bad timing—when you were young enough, the opportunity wasn’t there, and when the opportunity came along, you were too old. There are all kinds of variations on these themes.

But most of the world sees only that we have deviated from the norm by not having children. I’ve experienced that. People have said, “Oh, you didn’t want kids.” I scrambled to convince them that that was not the case, that I did want children, but it didn’t work out. “Well, then, why did you stay with Fred?” they might ask. Soon I feel as if I’m on trial because I’m not a mother. It’s easier to jump in with a half-truth. “We couldn’t.” “God had other plans.” Or, when I was younger: “We’re working on it.”

We weren’t working on it. We were never going to work on it. Fred had no sperm, thanks to his vasectomy, and he was done with babies. There would be no reversal, adoption, or other work-around. But I didn’t want to get into another 20-questions situation. At baby showers, when people would announce that I would be the next to have a baby, I’d just smile or laugh. I didn’t want to spoil the party.

In the book I just finished reading, Childless Voices by Lorna Gibb, she describes horrible things that are done in some parts of the world to women who don’t produce children. They are shunned, imprisoned, beaten, or banished. (I’ll share more about this next week.) But even in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, the childless are considered “other,” a weird and foreign species.

Gibb writes: “Western society is predominantly pronatalist and the childless and child-free are often interrogated as to the reason for their state. If it then becomes known that someone is voluntarily childless, they suffer from negative stereotyping and may be regarded as deviant, and treated with disbelief and disregard.”

In other words, we get stink-eye. Even if it’s not our fault, if we are childless because it takes two and we don’t have a willing or able partner.

So my question today is this: Do you find yourself lying or shading the truth about your lack of children to avoid awkward conversations? Why? What do you say? In similar situations, what does your partner say? Does his/her story contradict yours? Let’s talk about this in the comments.

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Forgive me for missing last week. I had a minor medical situation, but it’s all fine now. See my Unleashed in Oregon blog for a most unflattering photo. 🙂

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The Nomo Crones—childless elderwomen—are chatting online again on September 15 as part of World Childless Week. It’s at noon Pacific time. Check the website for information on all the week’s activities happening on Zoom from all over the world. You’re sure to find something that grabs your interest. The sessions will be recorded so you can watch them at your convenience.

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Do We Settle Because We’re Afraid of Being Alone?

Do we commit to less than perfect partners because we’re terrified of being alone?

A webinar about spinsterhood got me thinking about this over the weekend. On Sunday, Jody Day of Gateway Women led the discussion with Civilla Morgan, who hosts the Childless Not by Choice podcast; Shani Silver, host of A Single Serving podcast, and Donna Ward, author of She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life. (Read my review of her book here.) Ward, who lives in Australia, has just released an American edition of her book.

Our world is not kind to women who for whatever reason, aside from becoming nuns, never marry or have children. The assumption that everyone has a partner is even stronger than the assumption that everyone has children. Have you noticed how the world is set up for couples? Two settings at the restaurant table. Win a trip for two. Here’s a two-for- one coupon.

The word “spinster” has ugly connotations. It implies that something’s wrong with you, that you failed to attract a man. You’re unattractive, weird, asexual, can’t get along with people. Then again, as Ward writes, maybe you attracted plenty of men, but none of them were good enough to spend your life with.

Bachelors are not quite as frowned on, but still we wonder: what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have a wife and kids like everybody else?

Maybe, like Silver, you like being on your own. You don’t need to be married or have children. She complained that every resource she sees for single women focuses on dating: how to get a man and end your single state. But for some singles, that’s not the issue.

It’s like being alone is a fate worse than death.

I have been alone for 12 years now. I get lonely. I have my memories to keep me company, but memories don’t put their arms around you. Memories don’t help you move that fallen tree branch that weighs more than you do. Memories won’t watch your purse while you go to the restroom, drive you to the ER when you sprain your ankle, or listen when you really need to talk to someone.

But having been married, it’s like I get this check mark from society on the box that says, “Approved.”

The list of challenges living alone goes on for days, but I don’t want to get married again. I like my freedom. Most of my widowed friends feel the same way. We have found our solo power and we like it. When we need help, we call each other.

When I was younger, would I ever have considered a single life? It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it could have happened.

No one asked me out until I was in college. Too nerdy, too fat, not social enough, parents too strict? I don’t know. I was already wondering if I’d ever find anyone, if I’d be like my Barbie doll without a Ken. I was afraid no man would love me when everything in my world told me a woman needs to get married and have children. So when someone finally wanted to date me, I didn’t ponder whether I liked him; I said yes. And I continued to say yes through a first marriage that failed and a series of unsuitable boyfriends between marriages. When I think of all the garbage I put up with just to hold onto a man . . .

By the time I met Fred, I had come to believe I would be single for the rest of my life. What if he hadn’t come along? I hope I wouldn’t have married another dud just to have someone. I know people who have done that. Don’t you?

I can count on one hand the number of people I know who never married. People wonder about them. Are they gay, do they have autism, are they mentally ill, or are they just plain weird? What if they’re regular people who surveyed the choices and said, “I’m fine by myself”?

My dog follows me around all day. She’s afraid of being alone. Humans are afraid, too. Maybe it’s the herd mentality. The zebra that wanders off alone gets killed by the lion. But maybe we don’t need to partner up for safety anymore. We can just be part of the herd.

So how about you? Have you settled so you wouldn’t be alone? Do you think it’s better to make a life alone rather than to be with the wrong person? Does the idea of a solo life scare you so much you’re willing to put up with a less-than-perfect relationship to avoid it, even if that means giving up the chance to have children? Let’s talk about it.

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The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.

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Childless Fun Coming Up This Weekend!

Dear friends,

I want to share a couple things that are happening online this week that you might want to participate in.

Nomo (non-mother) Crones

“The Body and the Cycles of Life” is the topic of a new “Nomo Crones” childless elders’ chat happening Saturday, March 20. Jody Day is the organizer. I’m one of the women participating, along with Karen Malone Wright, Stella Duffy, Maria Hill, Kate Kaufman, Jackie Shannon Hollis, and Donna Ward.  

The flyer is posted above. Although most of you are much younger, I think you might enjoy taking an hour to listen. Our bodies, these amazing places where our spirits live, are fascinating. They have been made to procreate, but what if we don’t use those baby-making parts? Or what if they go wrong on us? Register here at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QBZqJhxxSqyjmxhIyqg2Zg. Be sure to convert for your time zone.

Childless Summit

If you’re not ready for crone wisdom, consider participating in the first annual Childless Collective Summit March 18-21. Katy Seppi, who has organized it, who is a young dynamo who wants the world to understand what it’s like to be childless not by choice.

Seppi is the founder of Chasing Creation: Designing an Unexpectedly Childfree Life, which includes a blog, Facebook page, and more. Find out all about the Summit, register and watch a video with Katy at https://www.chasingcreation.org/. Once you register, you will receive links to all the sessions.

Seppi’s story is an interesting one. She talked about it recently on Jo Vraca’s (un) Ripe podcast. She and her husband both grew up Mormon in Utah. Although the church is very pro-children, her husband wasn’t keen on the idea for the first decade of their marriage. Then, when he felt ready to be a father, they couldn’t get pregnant. Katy had fibroids and endometriosis. She had surgeries and tried IVF, but it didn’t work. She had suffered pain from her endometriosis for years and opted for a hysterectomy. She has spent the years since then dealing with her grief and finding her way through a life without children.

The Childless Collective Summit is a four-day virtual event, featuring 28 speakers, all focused on topics related to being childless not by choice. The free Basic Access Pass gets you in to all the sessions. If you can’t watch them when presented, you can still watch the recordings online later. There’s also a paid All Access Pass that gets you transcripts of the presentations and other goodies.

Day 1 focuses on our stories, Day 2 on healing, Day 3 on making connections, and Day 4 on looking ahead. Keynote speaker Jody Day will address “How to Create a Meaningful Life Without Children: Lessons from a Decade of Healing” on Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m. EDT. Click here https://www.chasingcreation.org/summit-schedule/ref/26/ for the complete schedule.

We’ve Got to Talk About It

When I started writing about childlessness back in the 1990s, I had to look hard to find anyone else writing and speaking about the subject, but we are blessed now to have lots of people joining the conversation. You can read books and attend conferences and podcasts online, but you can also start the conversation at home. I know we’re limited by COVID right now, but if you look around, you may find others with stories similar to your own. You may have to start the conversation by noting that you don’t have children and asking if they do, but you’re not alone. With 20 percent of women not having children these days, the answer might be “No, I never had children.” Get together, ask them how it has been for them. If they say they do have children, explain your situation anyway. Help them to understand.

Etc.

I hope to see you online this weekend at the Summit or the Nomo Crones chat. Thank you to everyone who participated in the 99-cent sale for Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. I appreciate your support. If you missed it, it’s still only $2.99 on Amazon for the Kindle version.

It just occurred to me: Do some of you have trouble looking at all this childless stuff online because your partner might see it and get upset? I live alone, so I don’t think about it, but I can picture someone’s husband or wife–or their stepchildren–looking over their shoulder at the screen and urging you to shut it off. Does that happen? Let’s talk about it.

St. Patrick’s Day hugs to one and all. I’m wearing my green socks, shirt, and earrings. Have you got your green on?

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