This week I decided it would be a good idea to join a local social network for childfree people. I’m not really sure why I thought it would be a good idea, as I already struggle to find time to spend with the friends I have, but childlessness is at the forefront of my thoughts right now, and so finding others like me just seemed like a good idea, even if only for research purposes.
I found a nationwide group with a chapter that meets regularly in my area, and set about finding out more. The FAQ’s explained that anyone who had never parented was welcome to join. Childless individuals (me) whose spouses had children (my husband) could join, but the spouse could not. He or she could, however, come along as a guest.
I didn’t have chance to assess how I felt about this line of exclusion, because another one of those awful revelations swept up and clobbered me in the head.
My husband and I are not a childless couple.
I realize this should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t. My husband has adult children from his first marriage and because I’ve never known them as children, I don’t think of them as children, and I’ve certainly never parented them.
This realization left me feeling very alone. My husband is my teammate; he’s the person I turn to first when I need help. We’re a good team and we’ve weathered all kinds of things together. Being childless is one of them. Except that now it isn’t!
I know that this changes nothing in my relationship with my husband. He is no less supportive and it doesn’t take away from his own struggles, but it struck me that our losses are different. I lost something I’ve never had; it was the loss of the chance of an experience. He lost something he’s already known, but something he wanted for me. It’s a subtle difference, but enough to knock me off kilter for a couple of days.
Are there other childless stepparents out there? Does your spouse feel differently about your childlessness?