Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Double-Edged Freedom of Childlessness May 6, 2010

Filed under: Childfree by Choice,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I’m writing this post from the airport terminal in Los Angeles. This will be my third trip in as many weeks. My husband and I went to New York for a weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday earlier in the month; next his job called him to Northern California and I tagged along with my traveling office. Now a family emergency means that I need to go home to England for a couple of weeks, so off I go again.

The thing is, if I had children, I couldn’t be doing this. If I had school schedules and missed classes to deal with, or frankly even if I had to find the money for three round-trip tickets instead of just one, it wouldn’t be feasible. Being childless not only allows me the do the fun things without worry, it leaves me free to take care of the other things that are important to me, namely my family—my mother and husband.

There’s a downside to this freedom, too. Although my geographically undesirable location means I’m usually the last person to be called in for family help, some of my friends are given more than their share of the responsibility because of their childlessness. Quite often I think that the sibling without children is given the responsibility for organizing family gatherings or taking care of aging relatives.

What do you think? How does your childlessness affect your role in your family?

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3 Responses to “The Double-Edged Freedom of Childlessness”

  1. Lynne Wyness Says:

    This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. For some time, I felt there was really something missing in my interactions with my parents. They live close by and we see them regularly and have great fun together, but I couldn’t help but feel it would have been more meaningful if I had been able to bring children to the family table, so to speak. My parents have just one grandchild and their relationship with my brother and sister-in-law is strained, so I have always wondered how they felt about me not having children, feeling like I’d let them down somehow.

    Just recently, I came to the enlightening conclusion that my relationship with my parents was so good precisely because we don’t have children. We have time to talk, hang out together, go shopping, share Christmases…and all without our mutual gaze turned towards the child playing on the floor (people do it with cats too I’ve noticed) and stopping us (or saving us) from engaging in any meaningful conversation. As a result of our childlessness, we have had to learn how to relate to each other as human beings, and not as merely keepers of the grandchild. Actually, we have discovered that we all think each other is pretty cool. And bizarrely, we find ourselves in similar life stages – my parents retired and travelling regularly, my husband and I free to travel and spend hours alone with each other. Curiously, we have found we have much in common, something I didn’t think would ever happen. And that of course, doesn’t sit well in our (and society’s) one-size-fits all progression from marriage to parenthood to empty nest to retirement.

    I have found it really hard to come to terms with doing things a different way. For years, I have struggled with the notion that I am not ‘normal’, for all that anyone has said to me, ‘what’s normal anyway?’. Maybe that’s just me. Or maybe that’s because there is such an emphasis on children and child-bearing in our society that we cannot help but feel excluded. That is why these blogs and forums are so important – so we can speak out, redress the balance, and claim our own version of normal.

  2. lmanterfield Says:

    Lynne,
    This is very insightful. I think you are absolutely right. I am visiting my mother right now. She is a widow, so when we are together, it’s just the girls and I am able to really spend quality time with her. Similarly, I spent the day with my older brother yesterday. He has five children and (even though I love my nieces and nephews) I cannot remember the last time we had a whole series of complete adult conversations. And guess what? My brother’s pretty interesting! Who knew?
    Oh, and thanks for pointing out the cat thing. Guilty as charged on that count.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I definitely agree. My husband and I struggle with family demands. They feel we have no excuse for not attending family gatherings or dropping everything when the family has an emergency. They also feel that since we are not raising children that we have unlimited finances (definitely not true).

    It is good though that we are unfettered to do more since we don’t have to worry about children at home. It does make “emergencies” more managable since we don’t have to worry about kids at home and trying to keep their lives as normal as possible.

    Vicki
    http://www.awomanwithoutchildren.wordpress.com


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