That question makes me squirm.
I happened upon a podcast from a couple years ago that was titled “Childfree by Circumstance and Happy.” It’s not uncommon to hear people who are childfree by choice say they are happy, delighted even, with their choice. No regrets, just loving their freedom. But what if it wasn’t your choice, what if it just happened due to medical problems, infertility, bad timing, or lack of a willing partner, and you decided to be happy about it? Can you do that?
Jackie Shannon Hollis and Shirley Wang, the two guests on the show, said they could.
Hollis is author of a fantastic book titled This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story. Her first marriage ended in divorce without children. Her second husband, who was older than she was, declared he absolutely did not want children. She wanted to spend her life with him, so she made a conscious choice to live without children and embrace a childfree life.
Rather than mope about it, Hollis added being a parent to the list of things she would never be in her life, the parallel lives she might have lived, just as she would never be a doctor or an Olympic athlete or a hundred other things. Hollis asked herself “Am I happy right now?” She was, so why not continue living the life she had?
Wang, an opera singer, pianist, and author, said she had never met the right man to be her life partner and father of her children. A medical issue at age 38 forced her to decide whether or not she really wanted to have children. She realized she didn’t need to have children of her own to be happy. She enjoyed her life of traveling and performing. With her students and nieces and nephews, she had plenty of kids in her life. “I felt free,” she said.
How emotionally healthy these women sound. Wang says she rarely thinks about the fact that she doesn’t have children. She just enjoys her freedom. In fact, the slogan on her website is “freedom to create.”
I am a creative person, too, and I appreciate the time and freedom to do my writing and music, but I can’t let go of my childless grief. I really wish I was a mother and grandmother. It hurts that I’m not. I envy people my age with big families. My marital life was very similar to Hollis’s, except that I didn’t make a conscious choice to be “childfree.” I thought my stepchildren would fill the gap, and I somehow thought that at some point I would have my own babies. That didn’t happen. Now that my husband is gone, I’m living with a dog in the woods far away from my family, and I’m lonely.
“Let it go,” says a voice in my head, possibly my former therapist. “Move on.” You wanted to be thinner, a concert pianist, and have curly hair, too. You wanted to sing in a band. Let it go. Let it all go. But you know what? It’s my grief. I’ll weep if I want to.
This is getting pretty heavy. How about you? Can you stop torturing yourself about not having kids? Can you let go of being childless and celebrate being childfree? What would it take to do that?
As always, I welcome your comments and really appreciate you being here.