Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

You’re Not Alone: Seeking A Meaningful Life December 6, 2012

This is the first guest post in the new “You’re Not Alone” series of reader’ stories. If you’d like to see your story here, you’ll find details in our Writers’ Guidelines.

By SparklingRain

It took exactly two tests, and our result was clear: the possibility of having our own biological child was smaller than the chance of my being able to speak Klingon fluently.

At first I thought I had a plan: even without children I swore I would lead this “fulfilled life”.  Friends happily suggest that dear husband and I could really have fun: we could go jet-setting across the globe at will, having nobody waiting at home. “Or, or!” they would suggest excitedly, “You can always have a weekend project of..see..renovating your house? Growing a great rose garden?  You see, you have to make your life more exciting, more meaningful!”

A much older colleague chimed in: “Those not blessed with children ought to find their true purpose in life. You, I don’t see you doing any charity work. What do you do on weekends anyway?”

Unfortunately though, if meaningful life consisted of either having children or the combination of endless vacations and charity work and a beautiful house with a rose garden, then I’d be doomed. We do have decent income, but vacationing is limited to a neighboring city once a year. On weekends, I am afraid we mostly stay home or wander around in galleries or museums, and then get home and sleep or read a book.  I am startled to realize I don’t have the inclination to do volunteer work, let alone gardening.

I was so close to Googling what a “really meaningful life” looked like. Being lazy however, I simply looked around one evening as we were watching TV and glimpsed on my very own fingers, tangled with dear husband’s.  We were laughing at some local politicians being interviewed on TV, trashing their less-than-smart tired jargons. One politician remarked about how the country needed to start paying attention to the welfare of teachers nationwide, because “poor financial condition make lousy teachers”. We both teach, I am a lecturer of Electrical Engineering, he is a Visual Arts teacher, and we both strongly feel good teachers are good teachers, whether they ride a limousine or a bicycle to school.

And it hit me: I am lucky to have this man to watch bad TV shows together, to laugh at them with our fingers tangled into each others’, and to share a view important to us. (Come to think of it, we share many views, such as one should not bother whether cereal can only be eaten in the mornings and steak in the evenings.) We both have jobs we love, which we secretly think we are good at. Working with young adults and teenagers however have its own perks. They simply either listen to you or yell (well almost) at you, they will make sure you know whether you’re a good teacher or you speak mumbo-jumbo in class, never caring whether you have 0 or 14 kids. Dear husband has seen his students successfully enroll in good arts departments of universities in the country and abroad; I have seen my students grow from quivering masses of confusion to confident engineers – and I would like to claim that our lives are meaningful because of that.

For the longest time I thought I just needed to add a routine of diaper-changing or breastfeeding to my daily life and voila: meaningful life. It has been two years since I decided not to pursue fertility treatments, and I can say it’s all good.  Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s actually time for my dose of fiction books. Some people’s meaningful lives may consist of hauling children to a pediatrician or promoting world peace, and I respect them for that – if only they would respect my time to curl up on the sofa with my book.

SparklingRain lives with her husband and several outdoor cats in Indonesia. She blogs at http://tembusmatahari.blogspot.com

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10 Responses to “You’re Not Alone: Seeking A Meaningful Life”

  1. Way *way* up in the barely visible infertile upper balcony are a few people like myself-always single-found out in my early teens I’d never have children no matter what treatments/wishes/insert miracle here happened. That (and other stuff) affected how I felt about myself and relationships, imagine that. I just have to every once in awhile mention that people like me *are* out there and infertility doesn’t only happen to couples. My heart goes out to all of us.
    -ChildlessDueToBornWithInconceivableFemaleParts (back to deep lurk)

  2. Meg Says:

    Thanks so much for this. Really. It’s good to be reminded that my life already has meaning. Yes, yes, I KNEW this, but it’s good to be reminded.

  3. IrisD Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I taught high school and middle school for about 10 years, and I now lecture at the University (part time… hopefully full time soon). I think teaching is a form of nurturing and I find it to be quite meaningful. Like you, I really love to curl up to a nice fiction book (and dream about writing one one day), and like you and your dh, the hubs and I do get quite animated when it comes to politics/politicians. I haven’t read the book, and so the conclusion might well be, “have a kid”, but Alan Alda, who is a parent, wrote on “the meaning of life”. So, while I think many parents look at their kids as their life accomplishment (I think they get a lot of reinforcement in society for this, and so I find a good dose of George Carlin joking on child worship a good counterpoint), it doesn’t make all parents immune to the question of meaning.

  4. Klara Says:

    dear SparklingRain,
    thank you for your Guest Post.
    I love it!

  5. Elena Says:

    great post!
    One thing struck me about what the co-worker said. Not only is it simply not possible for most people to go on endless vacations and spend the time in-between with charity work for financial reasons. But isn’t it also pretty sexist and/or old fashioned to think that a woman who doesn’t have children, should work FOR FREE for the good of society? I mean: What about professional careers? Hello? I don’t mean to say that the author or each one of us “has to” pursue their professional career but it struck me that this option wasn’t even mentioned by the author’s colleague.

  6. Charlotte Says:

    Thank you for this reminder about meaning in life without kids. I am still in the early days of accepting a life without children and I have put a lot of pressure on myself to have this amazing, fantastic life with meaning plus plus to go some way to fill the void. I have to say that also when I talk to people and some health professionals about my grief they too go down the road of what a great life you can have with holidays, nice clothes, eating out, gardening, sex etc but I have to give them a reality check that it probably will not be quite that exciting. More time for those things yes but not a complete party or a lifetime of servitude and “giving ” to the community. Mostly I will live a quite homebody life with annual holidays and yes some shows, nice dinners etc but really just living a quiet life with meaning in the simple things. I am trying hard to find gratitude for what I do have, which I think creates meaning. Thanks for the boost.

    Also, North2the future I have seen your posts on a few sites and I hear you that your loss is often ignored my mainstream media and infertility media. I can hear how your diagnosis has made life take a different path for you and you have disenfranchised grief. I am sorry for your losses and know that we in this community are always open to hearing you and giving you support.

  7. SparklingRain Says:

    Thank you so much Lisa for publishing my writing, and for everybody for taking the time to read and leave a comment *group hug*

    North, thank you for sharing and giving me a new perspective – I admire your attitude and strength.
    Meg, Iris, Klara, Elena, Charlotte: some days people around me almost hint that I am “selfish” for not having children. Your words resonate with me.

    Wishing all of us peaceful, meaningful, happy days always.

  8. loribeth Says:

    Love this post!! I too have felt the pressure to somehow “compensate” for my lack of children by living a spectacularly exciting life or becoming the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation, or saving the world or something along those lines. When really, most days, I am quite content going home from work at night with dh & curling up on the couch with a good book or my laptop. 😉 Thank you for giving voice to what so many of us feel.

  9. Helena Dc Says:

    Meaningful life, what a lovely concept. Although I never considered kids be the meaning of my life, I certainly wanted one of my own. We have had enough miscarriages to know we need to go through fertility evaluation, I had a partial one some time ago and everything was fine. From what I have read, we might never know what is wrong, specially because where we live, a lot of the genetic stuff is not available. And I am not willing to put my marriage on the line to pursue something so wildly, that did not come on its own. Having children is a strain of its own, to consider crippling fertility treatments.

    We are going to work with an specialist, and see what we are comfortable with. In the mean time I been having dreams of redoing the garden or renovating the house, interestingly enough I am too a lazy person. No volunteer work in the future, except for what I do in my company’s outreach programs. Adoption, could happen.

    One has to find what makes their life worth as a couple, beyond children. If not what is the purpose of being together other than procreation?

    I will considered gardening and house renovation, at least on my mind even if I don’t do anything in real life.


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