That’s what I told my brother. And that’s what I told a very good friend of mine. It was a few days after Mother’s Day here in the US. I had been afraid to verbalize it to anyone because I wasn’t sure what reaction I would get.
How could I possibly be two years into building a platform created to help women who are childless not by choice feel better about themselves? Feel better about their lives? Many of you know, my byline: ‘Living a joyful and relevant life although childless not by choice.’
It all started a few days before Mother’s Day. It always does. I thought I had gotten over the feelings of loss enough to make it through Mother’s Day without feeling like a second-class citizen when the pastor asked all the mothers to stand, as I remained seated. It’s a feeling only childless not by choice women could understand. At least the ones who are not over the pain. Because I hear tell there are childless not by choice women who are ‘over it’.
My brother said, ‘maybe one day you will realize how many people you have helped.’ He just could not understand how I could feel this way after telling him how the platform was finally taking a hold and growing.
My good friend said ‘you are not a fraud. Your primary audience is the women who feel the way you do. How could you talk to them if you did not understand how they feel?’ Then she recounted the multiple organizations and platforms that were created out of someone’s grief. I understood what she was saying. I understood what they both were saying. But will there ever come a Mother’s Day when my heart will be OK with remaining seated while all around me mothers stand up and accept their due recognition?
How could I possibly encourage childless not by choice people when my heart still breaks on Mother’s Day. It’s not too bad the other 364 days of the year. And I do not want to dim the light of recognition for mothers. After all, I have a mother. And every day I am thankful for her. But the fact is, the way God answered my prayers, my begging, my deal-making, was to not answer. Healing did not come. The adoption did not come. Honestly, I would have been more than OK with never marrying if I had had the child. But to hit a brick wall every turn I took was hard.
How am I supposed to convince other women that we can live relevant and joyful lives when I still have questions? How could I not be a fraud?
It can sometimes be difficult to watch others so easily get what you have begged, prayed, even bargained with God for. Negative thoughts and feelings can start to creep in, and start to overstay their welcome. And before you know it, the wrong comment at the wrong time could create an unwanted firestorm!
Allowing negative thoughts and feelings such as jealousy, envy, bitterness, and even hate; can create an emptiness inside. Life is too short to allow this negativity to live inside you.
Good news! You have all the control within you to fight those thoughts and feelings. You must fight them! But please know it boils down to choice. To live your best, most relevant and joyful life, you have to choose to deal with and manage your emotions and feelings.
These feelings are real. Every emotion and feeling is real. There have been many moments in my life when I had to fight back the tears. But I did not get envious or jealous. I never wanted what the other person had, I just wanted what I thought I deserved. What I did do was to question God a lot. ‘Why not me?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this childlessness?’ ‘What is so wrong with wanting a child?’ ‘Why was it so difficult for my prayers to be answered?’
I finally decided that entertaining negative emotions and feelings would not help in the long run. I realized that having children is something that is typically taken for granted. But I could not allow how easily children came to others, to affect my heart and my mind. I had to choose.
Choose instead, to entertain good, positive, self-affirming thoughts instead of the negative ones. Choose instead to manage your thoughts and feelings. Choose instead, to think about the good in your life although you did not get the children you wanted. Life did not work out the way you expected, but there is some amount of good happening for you. If there isn’t, create it! You have the power to do so!
Creating and living your best, most joyful life is your role. No one else can do that for you. Observing or envying the life of another woman is not healthy or good. And you do not need to live a negative, subpar life. Fight the negativity. Choose life.
As I podcast about the childless not by choice demographic, I have set up news and article alerts on stories about childlessness.
But as I get older, I’ve been thinking about how my elder years will look. Sometimes it is at the forefront of my thoughts, sometimes it is in the back of my mind. Either way, it’s on my mind constantly. Not in a negative, over powering, or dreaded way; but more like a low, just audible hum. I wonder if I will be properly taken care of by strangers if I must enter a long-term care or elder care facility. What if my mind goes and I am at the will and whim of strangers?
Those are valid thoughts and fears, aren’t they? I interviewed Reshell Smith, a financial services advisor to discuss finances for the childless not by choice woman around the world. Click here to listen to our interview: Global Finance for Women
I am constantly thinking about the childless not by choice woman, at all ages and stages of her life. I am regularly asked what age group I have in mind when dealing with the childless not by choice demographic. It’s all ages. From the time a woman finds out she cannot have children, into her elder years. I don’t believe a woman ever heals from the hurt of childlessness. In fact, I am noticing more (affluent) women in their 40’s and 50’s, adopting or surrogating babies. Hoda Kotb, Janet Jackson, and Tyra Banks; to name a few.
But those of us who were just not able to have children or to adopt, must have a plan. The plan can and should range from having a solid financial plan which includes but is not limited to the following: a life insurance policy or enough saved to bury yourself and pay off your debts. Purchase a long-term care insurance plan. Having an idea of where you would like to live as you age. There are assisted living facilities where you still have some autonomy, but there is staff on hand if you need assistance. Then as you get older, a full-fledged nursing home. You cannot wait until you are so advanced in age to purchase insurance, that insurance would be unaffordable or unattainable. Human nature tends to make us ignore the fact that if we live long enough, we will become elderly. The plans we need should have been obtained when they were affordable because we were young, so that we could implement them when we became elderly people.
But you remember when you were young don’t you? You thought you would be young forever. You probably even thought you were invincible. I know I did! And now I look ahead, reminding my Podcast listeners and my blog readers, to plan; hoping we make it to our end with our dignity intact. All while not having even one child to at least in part rely upon.
And what of women and men in countries where there is not even the minimal governmental plan, i.e. social security? If you live in a country where at least social security exists, you have the opportunity for some semblance of a plan. Remember the elderly who live in countries where elder assistance does not exist, when you think you are too broke to have a plan.
And yes, even those with children, have no guarantee that any one of them would spare, create, or have the time to help them. Children are not a retirement plan, at least not in the Western world. Have a plan.
Childlessness around the world
Creating awareness for the childless not by choice demographic on a global level includes bringing knowledge, understanding, and empathy. I naively thought if a woman is simply a woman, she would clearly understand the plight of the childless not by choice woman. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Yes, many women are empathetic to the pain, and that is wonderful. But many more are being brought to the realization that there is more to the story of a woman’s childlessness, than what is seen or assumed. To create an open and continual conversation and to educate, I have made the decision not to hear or respond from a place of offense or defense. Doing so might only end a conversation without real resolution.
At the risk of offending, my personal jury is still out on many of the women who say they chose or opted not to have children. They are childless BY choice. I recognize there are millions of women around the globe who truly came to the realization that bearing, raising, and pouring into a child was just not for them. I get that, and I respect that decision. Alas, I cannot help but feel there are many childless by choice women who made that decision out of fear of past experiences. And some may argue that is a valid factor. At any rate, a decision is a decision regardless of how it is arrived. And I believe every child that makes it through the birth canal should have a chance at dignity, love, and respect.
I did not realize the journey to bringing awareness would be so difficult; at times filled with nuances of understanding, misunderstanding, and new-found empathy. We are all truly on a journey to understanding, and I cannot wait to see how society is changed for the better.
My mission will not be easy, and it will not be simple. I must carefully wade through differing cultural norms. I must ask men to take part in the conversation. I must ask women who are childless not by choice to come out and talk. All while providing solutions, de-stigmatizing the issues surrounding childlessness, and educating. Globally.
I also feel that another part of my life’s mission is to bring two groups of people together: the childless not by choice, and the abandoned/disadvantaged child. I mean it only makes sense, right? Yes, I know, nuances. But that’s where my reliance on my naïveté comes in. I have built a healthy respect for naïveté over the past couple of years. And I now use two words in the same sentence I never thought any intelligent human would: naïveté and common sense. Why not? Stranger things have happened.
Join me, won’t you? Show up however you can. Join the conversation. Help me spread the word. Don’t be offended. Look at the big picture with me. One day, the topic of childless not by choice will be a part of regular every day conversation. There will be no more stigma and shame, just conversation and empathy.