I recently stumbled upon the Childless by Marriage blog. Author, Sue Lick, married a man who already had children and didn’t want more. She understands that she made a choice and is largely happy with her decision, but is still coming to terms with being childfree, and the hole that has left.
I know that some of you fall into this category, so I thought I’d share her blog here.
Last week, she posted about childlessness from the man’s perspective and included a link to Him+17, a blog written by a man who married a woman 17 years his senior and was unable to have children. The author of that blog responded to Sue’s post and I found his comments insightful. He says:
“The struggle, I find, is understanding the various shades of my reactions to childlessness. Likely, this is an ongoing, never-ending effort. There’s the honest grief that I’d have loved to bring forth a child with my wife, watch the baby grow, and then enjoy (I would hope) a subsequent friendship with the adult who I helped make. There’s also the part of me that just feels plain left out in a societal, cultural way. At family events, with friends who have children, I’m partly the odd one out.”
Ah, yes, I’m all too familiar with those reactions, but here’s what he went on to say:
“Of course, everyone feels left out in some way: the family that only had daughters or only sons, the man or woman who never married. Perhaps people with kids sometimes look at my wife and I and think, ‘We could have had a life as free as theirs.’”
Although I know that thought offers little comfort, this does go back to a comment loribeth made on this blog a while ago. She said, “Everyone has holes in their lives; mine just happens to be child-shaped.” I think about that comment often.
Him+17 goes on to say:
“I’m missing something; I’m not sure exactly what. I’ve tried to fill that gap by spending time with young people, by being a mentor through teaching and as a volunteer with Big Brothers. It helps, but truly, I’ll never understand on the most fundamental level what it means to love one’s own child. As I age, as I learn to live with the reality, this reality remains a grief, sometimes sharper, sometimes less so. I suspect it will never fade and never become something to which I grow accustomed.”
Sadly, I think he’s right. From my own perspective, I have come-to-terms with the fact that I’ll never have children; I can even write a short list of reasons why my life is better without children, but I don’t think that hole in my gut will ever close up. It’s a part of who I am now, like the scar on my knee that I don’t think about most of the time, but is always there and makes one knee different from the other. My experience has changed me and, no matter how well I move on with my life, I’ll always be a little bit sadder and my sense of humor will always be a little less sharp because of it.
You’re such a mom August 9, 2011
Tags: childfree, childless, friend, hurtful comments, mom
Last week I was grumbling to a friend about how much time I spend looking for my glasses. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. I can never find them and without them, I can’t see clearly enough to find them. I have a list of places I look first – desk, nightstand, purse, bathroom – but it’s not uncommon for me to find them on the stove, on top of the trashcan, on the floor, or in the bed.
“You need to have a place you always put them,” suggested my friend.
I’ve heard the exact thing from my mother for decades, but clearly it hasn’t done me a bit of good. I take my glasses off when I don’t need them and I put them wherever I am at the time.
I rolled my eyes at my friend. “You’re such a mom,” I told her.
Driving home later that day, I reran the conversation in my head and I cringed at the emphasis I’d put on the word mom. I’d used a disparaging tone, suggesting that my friend’s tendency to want to help was something negative.
I thought about the discussions we’ve had here about offhand comments people have made to us that have been so hurtful, and I realized I’d just done the same thing. What if my friend, with a daughter just graduated from high school and preparing to move out into the world, was feeling the pangs of her future empty nest and having a crisis of confidence now that her motherhood services were no longer needed? What if her daughter had said the same thing recently and she’d been stung? What if my offhand comment had really hurt?
We can’t censor everything we say on the off-chance we inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, or there would be no room for humor in the world, but this incident reminded me that everyone brings their own filters to a conversation and what might be an offhand remark for one person could be hurtful to another.
The same rules apply to us, the other way round. Because of our filters regarding childlessness, infertility, or our choice to be childfree, what feels like a hurtful barb could just be intended as a meaningless throwaway comment. If we can’t censor the world, then maybe we just need to adjust our filters.