It may seem that way, as I am using the possessive adjective to describe the fact that I am childless. That my life did not turn out the way I expected it would. But the more important issue is that human beings tend to blame each other for things we cannot control. My childlessness is not my fault.
If you are a Bible reader, you may recall the story of the man with the shriveled or withered hand. The Disciples asked Jesus if it was his parent’s fault or his, why his hand was withered. Jesus’ answer was ‘it’s nobody’s fault.’
Be honest, have you never wondered to yourself ‘what in the world did he/she do to deserve that?’ when you see something bad, horrible, or horrific happen to someone. You may have even heard someone verbalize it as ‘karma’, or ‘what goes around comes around’. As human beings, we figure it’s just payback.
But isn’t it possible that stuff just happens? Don’t we live in a world where stuff really just happens? I believe we do. Yes, I believe to an extent that what goes around comes around. That we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. But we all know that it rains on the just and the unjust. The difference though is how we manage the cards we have been dealt. In fact, having or obtaining the tools for managing the cards we have been dealt.
I believe one of those tools for any problem or issue you or I have, is community. I strongly believe that when we belong to a community of strong, positive, people who want to get better and not wallow in the self-pity of what happened to us or what did not happen for us. Community protects us from those who secretly or passive-aggressively nicely tell us that we did not pray hard enough for a child. Some of us are told not to give up even though we no longer have a uterus. Indeed, some are told so even when they were born without one. I especially like the ‘well, it was not meant to be’. It is one of my favorites. Right up there with ‘you should be happy you don’t have kids, they are a lot of work’. These are the same people who tell you that ‘you don’t have kids, so you would not understand.’
And sometimes these remarks come from the lips of the same person. ‘Be glad you don’t have kids, they are a lot of work’, and ‘you wouldn’t understand, you don’t have kids.’ Which one of us seems unhinged? Because unhinged, among other things, is what many childless women are called. And God forbid if we are also single. Then we are weird, overzealous with our nieces and nephews, lonely, clingy, needy, or mean.
Society says that’s why we did not get married or have children: We chose the career over the kid, or as a friend of my mom once told her, I was too picky. Mind you, this woman couldn’t pick me out in a crowd. She knew nothing about me, but she knew I was being too picky and that is why I never married.
Well, regardless of the cards we have been dealt, I believe we can all be weird, overzealous with the children in our lives, clingy, needy, picky, or mean! After all, we are all human beings first, and none of us are what has happened to us or what did not happen for us, however.
So the next time your initial response is to blame someone for their ‘condition’, do a quick self-check and remind yourself ‘it’s not my fault it’s not your fault. Stuff happens.’ How we deal our cards is what sets us apart.
As I get older, I’ve been thinking about what it might be like to be elderly and childless. Sometimes it is at the forefront of my thoughts, sometimes it is in the back of my mind. Either way, getting old and having no children is on my mind constantly. Not in a negative, overpowering, or dreaded way; but more like a low, just audible hum. I wonder as an elderly woman 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 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 and on 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. 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
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. Purchasing 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 too advanced in age to purchase insurance. At that point, insurance would be unaffordable or unattainable.
Our human nature tends to make us ignore the fact that if we live long enough, we will become elderly. The plans we need when we are elderly should have been obtained when they were affordable, during our younger years. There is a saying, ‘Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’–Benjamin Franklin.
You remember when you were young don’t you and 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.
We don’t have children to take care of us in our elder years but because we want them. We want to love and nurture them into wonderful adults. At least that is the general idea.
What of elderly and childless, women and men, in countries where there is not even the minimal governmental plan, i.e. social security, Medicare, Medicaid? 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. No matter where in the world you live, have a plan.
21st Century Hannah is a radio show, a series of books, my platform. In 21st Century Hannah, I talk to women like myself, who wanted but could not have children.
I believe the topic of childlessness not by choice is a subject that is typically avoided in society. I believe God has prompted me to start the conversation.
I have written a 31-day devotional, and I am working on a 365-day devotional. If you have a similar story, or you know someone who does, this show is for you!
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