Since late last year I’ve been blogging at Zoomer Singles – Zoomer Media‘s online dating site, about my crazy mid-life attempt at finding love. Readers familiar with my writing over the years know that I try to represent the rare view point of us over-50, never-married, childless women. Life looks a bit different for us renegades! You can access my blog here.
Late last night I emailed my friend S to wish her a happy 1st Mother’s Day. Knowing it’s a sad day for me, both because my mother is dead and because I’m still working out not having had a child, her message back to me was sweet and appreciated. She said,”They should really change it to Women’s Day… since it takes a village to raise a child, so happy day to you too.”
She’s right. I, and many other non-moms, find so many ways to nurture others. Though it’s not celebrated and barely recognized. The world still doesn’t understand that just because you’re not rearing children doesn’t mean you misspend your mothering instincts. We find ways.
Mother’s Day has been difficult for 15 years since my dear mother left this planet. I’d mute TV commercials, or change stations; I’d try to ignore the Mother’s Day sales flyers and ads in newspapers. I stopped buying May issues of magazines, and knowing that even glancing at a greeting card that said “to the greatest Mom,” would send me over the edge I didn’t go near the aisle in any store that sold them. But with the advent of social media, it’s more difficult to ignore the build up. For at least a week before the day I have to all but avoid the F and T logos on my computer and phone. (sorry if I missed any birthdays in the process)
I don’t need Mother’s Day and its hype to remind me of my mom – I think about her just about every day. In the last few years of her life, I was so caught up in my career that Mother’s Day, her birthday (Aug) and my birthday (Dec) were just about the only few occasions I was able to spend real time with her. So, these three days have become ever more significant. They’ve also become days around which I have to build armour to get through them.
Add that to the ongoing process of making peace with not having had children and you have a recipe for a very sad day. I prepare for it, I usually make a plan to honour it in my own private way and avoiding too many mentions of moms is part of the preparation. Anyone who has lost someone significant understands this practice. Grief is unpredictable, even years later. It’s been pointed out to me that grief is also the word for my feelings about being childless. And I think that’s right.
This morning I woke up in a panic because I think I’ve actually forgotten the sound of my mother’s voice. That voice had the ability to instantly sooth and calm me, no matter my age, independence or accomplishments. I miss that. Lacking any adequate replacement or surrogate, I still need it. You know, someone who is for me no matter what, who knows me inside and out and still loves me. Someone who so openly adores and loves me. The one person who happily accepts, without reservation, all the love and attention I have to give. A place where so few words of explanation are ever needed because of a deep and ongoing knowing. I have to wonder how I get by without that. I think the lack of it can sometimes make me a harder person than I am. An unwanted outcome.
How many of us have suffered through this day, while putting on a sweet smile and wishing others a happy one. It’s the polite thing to do. And I’m not the type of person who isn’t happy for people who have what I lack. I’m happy for my friend S, the new mom, and my friend J, the new dad. I’m happy my siblings have children in their lives so the sense of continuity is still alive for them. I hope they all enjoyed a wonderful day of pampering and celebration.
Still, I cannot tell you how much I cherished the words of my friend S, because it meant she took a moment to let me know she knows it’s not the same for me.
Awhile ago, I met the write Molly Peacock and began, by chance, to talk to her about a piece I was trying to work out about being childless and how hard it was to a) reconcile that fact, in a world where motherhood is revered, and b) how silent the process is because there’s so little written on it, and it’s rarely discussed. What I didn’t know was that she had written an entire book on her choice to be child-free and how it had defined her life.
I devoured Paradise Piece by Piece and, though my childlessness has happened more from circumstance than choice – it would never be my choice – I still related to a great deal of what she wrote. That’s because to be a “non-mom” is still fairly undefined and misunderstood.
Here are two essays I wrote on the topic for TVO The Agenda. They both struck quite a nerve and I heard from many childless women, and men, who felt relieved that someone was speaking up. I also heard from family members, who told me that they had no idea I had been feeling so distressed about not being a mother. But, all they really ever had to do was ask me.
So I have to wonder, why is the subject of childlessness so taboo?
The Murky Truth About Fertility, TVO The Agenda Insight
The Invisibility of Non-Moms, TVO The Agenda Insight
Posted in Childlessness, Family, Home life, Modern Spinster, Relationships, Solitary life | Tagged childless, fertility, loneliness, Molly Peacock, no children, non-moms, solitary life, TVO The Agenda | 2 Comments »
During the course of my journalism career I’ve had occasion to interview a few fertility doctors and have known for a long time that there’s a disconnect between what is true about fertility and what we allow ourselves to believe. It doesn’t help that a number of media stories misconstrue the information. So, I’m always on the look out for the truth and ready to call BS on anything that leads women to believe they have a high percentage of success getting pregnant past the ages of 35 -40.
So, I was happy to see this recent NPR piece. It will be enlightening for those who still think that technology gives them more time.
A new Australian study – of 50 women, mind you- has resulted in the headline claiming childless women are less healthy than women with children. The study did not distinguish between physical and mental health. The researchers are apparently now looking deeper into the reasons women are childless and to her credit, Dr. Melissa Graham, the spokesperson for the study, conducted at Deakin University, had this to say about childlessness:
“Our previous research, along with that by others, with women who did not have children suggested that childlessness is perceived predominantly negatively and this may have consequences for the health of childless women.
“If childlessness was reframed as a natural and familiar way of being the apparent negative health consequences of being a childless woman may be addressed.
“Childlessness should be accepted as an appropriate outcome of adult life for women and motherhood should not be the only valued position.”
More information and context is needed. It’s not enough to lay down sparse facts resulting from miniscule studies. There is already so much non- and misunderstanding about childlessness in our culture, despite the fact that it is on the rise world-wide. Childless women go through a great deal of rationalizing, both internally and externally and it really is not fair. With all the everyday challenges life has to offer, this is a needless added one.
After all, there’s not only one way to live.
Us “never-marrieds” are often at risk of being thought of as uncompromising or “picky,” but a recent Atlantic article explores one person’s thoughts on how she has finally (at 39) come to the conclusion that through not choosing to marry any of her boyfriends, she has actually chosen to be single. The article touches on how the recent recession has furthered the changing dynamic between the sexes and explores what life might be like in an all-female community.
In her subsequent interviews on the article, she has tended to back off a bit from her stance and has admitted to ambivalence about being childless. Of course. There is always a shadow of protesting too much cast upon these types of public statements – lest a “modern spinster”/independent woman looks like she is actually choosing to be alone and lonely.
Loneliness is a byproduct of, well… life… but also single-dom, so I don’t know why there’s so much tabu around talking about it / admitting to it.
While I applaud people putting these topics up for discussion so we can, hopefully, get to a new understanding that (as I’ve said for years) there is not only one way to live, I do think that the author of this article might think a bit differently about her independent, childless life in years to come.
As well, I wish that the infertility industry would stop promising miracles. They are few and far between. Biology, after all, is biology and doesn’t change. Unless you have a good deal of money to burn, a fantastic physical and emotional constitution, and a direct link to the heaven’s above, no amount of technology can help a woman over 40 or esp. 45. That’s a fact.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on the article.