Oct 032009
 

A reader just asked about living without children in a world that is focused on families. If you can’t have kids and it hurts you to see babies and pregnancy ads and fertility tips, then she may be echoing your own questions!

Here’s what Jen said on my How to Live With the Fact That You’ll Never Have Children article:

“If learning to live without becoming a parent is so lovely, why are all of the ads on this page geared toward helping one have children? How does one escape our mammocentric society?”

The short answer is: we can’t escape our “mammocentric society.” We need to learn to live without children in a world that’s all about families, babies, and children. And, we women need to learn about the possibilities for self-identity outside of having kids!

That’s what Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance is all about.





Living Without Children in a World of Families

Realize that the world is full of impossible contradictions

One major example of this – not related to infertility – is that we want our girls to grow up with a strong body image and love for who they are. Yet, we surround them with gorgeous thin models on magazine covers and images of physical beauty that are impossible to live up to (movie stars!). To be healthy and happy, girls and women have to learn to live with these contradictory messages — there is no escape.

It’s the same with couples coping with infertility: we live in a world that focuses on babies and families. We have to accept that we can’t get pregnant, that we may not ever have our own children – and we can’t expect to live in a world that doesn’t include families or pregnancy advertisements! And, part of this world includes articles for women who are learning to live a happy childfree life — articles that have ads for fertility.

We can’t isolate ourselves from reality. And, I think pregnancy ads are reality, even on childfree living articles. And here’s why:

A happy life is a balanced, accepting one

On my Accepting a Childfree Life article, Jen said “Perhaps your advice might be better received if it were not accompanied by…21 ads for fertility help.” This is similar to her first comment, but not quite the same.

Here’s my response in the comments section of that article:

“Thanks for your thoughts, Jen! I really appreciate the feedback. Maybe this blog needs to go in one direction or the other: how to get pregnant, or how to accept a childfree life. Maybe I’m trying to cover too many bases by including both types of lifestyles.

Though, I’m trying to get pregnant AND I’m accepting childfree life at the same time. Does it have to be one or the other?

Anyway, thanks for the food for thought!

Laurie”

Trying to get pregnant AND accepting a childfree life

I am trying to get pregnant, and I am learning to live without children in a world of families. To be healthy and happy, I need to accept the possibility of both lives – and not just focus on one or the other.

I can’t wear blinders and surround myself with things that only support my lifestyle, wishes, or point of view.

Jen, if you’re reading this, I’m very glad that you commented! As I said, I appreciate your feedback and I’ve loved thinking about what you said. If you have further comments, I’d love to hear them below.

If you’re worried about your relationship, you may find Can Your Marriage Survive Infertility? helpful.

What do you think? If you’re living without children, would you be happier if you never saw any pregnancy advertisements or infertility products ever again — especially on articles about childfree living?

laurie pawlik kienlenI'm Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen - Christian, bookworm, travel bug, flute player, writer, blogger, warrior princess. :-) My husband and I live in Vancouver, Canada with our cat and dogs.

What's happening in your life? I welcome your big and little comments below! I can't give you advice, but writing might bring you clarity and insight.

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." - Romans 15:13

In peace and passion...Laurie

  16 Responses to “Living Without Children in a World of Families”

  1. Dear Loz, thank you for your comments!

    I really appreciate your positive, helpful spirit. It sounds like you and I have alot in common. I would’ve loved kids, too, but…what can you do? Keep moving forward, and enjoy what you do have.

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  2. I am 43 years old, underwent fertility treatment for 2 years and had 1 miscarriage……nobody could ever tell us what the problem was…but enough was enough.
    I am a strong woman but this broke my heart. Today, 3 years on, I have my moments but am, for the most part, feeling good about life.
    I married my husband because I fell in love with him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. Children would have been a bonus.
    Now, we are living the dream, have a wonderful life and I am in the privileged position with my job of being able to help students with disabilities, including a trip to Africa this year.
    I agree ladies, childless couples are not represented anywhere ….but that does not make us any less worthy!!
    Stand tall and proud, do all the stuff you ever wanted to do (budget pending!!) and say ‘I am not a mum, but I am a fantastic woman.’
    Life is what we make it and only we can do it ladies!!
    I do not say this light-heartedly s I have encountered my own black cloud…….but life is still out there. I promise xxxx

  3. Dear Jen,

    Thanks for your lovely comments, and the book suggestion. I’ll look for it – it sounds like just what we need!

    Living without children in a world of families isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be painful, right?

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  4. Dear Madonna,

    It’s great to hear from you again! Thanks for sharing your thoughts; I know how you feel when people talk about how great their children and families are, how they’re so happy they have kids.

    It hurts.

    For me, the pain and hopelessness comes and goes. Sometimes it’s really bad; other times I just say, “There are lots of pros and cons to living without children – and I focus on the pros!” I have extra money, a lovely home, freedom to spend my time and energy the way I want, and freedom to travel!

    So while I do wish I had kids, wish my life was full of people and little ones, I’m not full of despair and loneliness. It helps to have a husband I adore and a job I love :-)

    My best advice for women who can’t have kids is to try and fill their lives with other things that make them happy. I know that not having kids is a ruined dream…but EVERYONE has unfulfilled dreams and painful parts of their lives.

    It just seems like having kids is a worse pain than not fulfilling other dreams, such as writing a book or traveling to Thailand.

    I think the best way to cope is to spend time with women (and couples) who never had kids and are happy. Surround yourself with women who are strong, successful, and happy, who help you feel good about your life. Go on an African safari or an Indian trek with women you respect and admire!

    I hope this helps, and that I meet up with you again in cyberspace :-)

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  5. In reading all of your posts I feel like you are all my sisters. You know, understand, and care without judgement. You are all strong and wonderful and I thank you.

    I recently read an excellent book, “I’m Taking my Eggs and Going Home.” the author, Lisa Manterfield, tells her version of our stories with humor and grace. She has also started a website and blog … sans the obligatory you horrible childless person advertisements! Catch her and many of us at LifeWithouBaby.com

  6. Hi: I posted before, when I was 49, however, I am only now receiving input from other individuals who feel the same as I do. Yes, I am now 51 and I am still feeling the pain of not having children. I also hate FB wherein mothers continue to say, my reason for living is my child/children. Every time I see a commercial regarding smoking or insurance, it’s the same thing, “my reason for quitting is my children/grandchildren, and for life insurance, I want to make sure that there is some money left for my children/grandchildren.” I have my own siblings with children continously saying that they want to give their children what they never had – forgetting all about how not to be selfish, since giving them money, and more money each time they turn around, and then left to wonder why their children are so selfish and uncaring. I have one brother and sister-in-law who actually sold their house and bought a house for their daughter and future son-in-law so that they could live in the downstairs. From time to time they drop sentences such as, “I feel sorry for people who don’t have children, and then adding insult to injury by saying, “they must live a lonely life.” How can you even respond to such harsh words? I just hope that for everything there is a reason. Does one ever get over this feeling of hopelessness?

  7. Bertanyc,

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! I know many women whose kids are their lives — and they’re ashamed or embarrassed to say that they want to or can find fulfillment elsewhere. I think they have this sense that kids are their biggest sacrifice, so everything needs to revolve around the kids.

    Where does this come from? Our mothers, I think. To older generations, having kids — the bigger your family, the better — was just the way life was. That mentality, fulfillment through children, has been passed down to younger generations.

    Regarding selfishness…one of the benefits of living without children is the freedom to be as selfish as you want :-)

    Thanks for being here, Bertanyc!

    Laurie

  8. I am in a different category(and am 50 now).. never diagnosed as infertile but never have gotten pregnant. I never feel out of place because I don’t place a higher value on having children. I made the decision years ago to not have children because I didn’t want to live through my children. I watched as a very young child, intelligent women all around me with enormous abilities and desires slip away in to a life as a mother onlyI couldn’t help but feel that many were not really happy and complete as a full person. Mother yes, but not in any other aspects, not even as a wife/partner. But what I saw as children aged out of constant parental care was even sadder. Many of these women were lost. They didn’t really know what to do with their lives, were overly invested in their adult child’s lives and often, not very happy with their spouses at that point. I see this with the women I grew up with now who have adult kids. So when I see friends on FB posting comments like “My reason for living” when putting up a photo of their child.. I can’t help but think that is somehow sad. My reason for living and making my life as interesting and meaningful as possible is ME.. Is that selfish.. Ok yes.. but so what. Can’t you love your child and also want to live for yourself, or are you judged for that too? I realize that I am never going to experience one of the most powerful biological bonds that a woman can have and I have come to terms with that, because that is NOT a reason for having a child. So, I say, figure out who you are today.. what makes you tick and gives you pleasure? invest in that and make it a fulfilling and wonderful journey either by yourself with great friends and enjoy their families or with a partner.. Heck volunteer for big sister organizations or in orphanages(do they exist still?). You can have a chance to mother children who need mothering desperately and stop focusing on your own biology..Just a different point of view that I thought was worth sharing..

  9. Hi Ladies, I have been searching for months, reading books and trying to get my head…now my heart around the fact I am not going to have my own children..I have three older step children, who are on their way. I am 43 years old and have suffered with endometeriosis for years. As a result of this condition I am infertile. I find I am having a difficult time reinventing my life, finding new meaning other than being a Mom. I know its there deep down but somehow the loss I feel its hard to uncover what is next. Thanks for putting out there your struggles! I can so relate

  10. Hello Caroline,

    I so hear you. Your sentence: I don’t belong anywhere and I have no purpose’ hit home. I’m 45 and I feel the same way. My nieces are now starting their own families and I feel like an outsider – never anything to contribute or anything to say.
    Years ago I felt assured that even without children of my own that I would have my nieces and nephews close as I aged. Now I see that they’re going on with their lives, I never see them, they never call, and I know that I will be left alone when I’m old.
    My hubby (52) offered me one last opportnity by using an egg donor and a surrogate.
    I’d love to take it but now I’m scared if it doesn’t work or even if it does work. I’m going on 46 – I’m too old!
    Over the years I’ve surrounded myself with people in my condition and those friends with children are involved in their own lives. I bring a child in the world now – how will she feel about having old parents? Will we have the health? Won’t she be lonely?
    I have a decision to make but now it’s not for me – it’s for the child.

  11. Hello,
    I don’t know if I am/or was infertile or not but I just never felt safe and secure enough to even try to bring up a child in this difficult world but it was always a ‘dream’ in the back of my mind. Now I find myself at 42 and it is all I can think about! Everywhere I look! Everywhere I go! I cannot bear the thought of growing old without a family – I feel such a failure and I know that that is what everyone else thinks of me too. Being surrounded by people with big families I feel like a freak to be pitied. I don’t want to grow old and be pitied. I’m now having trouble accepting that my partner has two grown up daughters with two separate mothers (whom he didn’t have a relationship with). I stupidly thought that we would have a child or two – even though time was running out when we got together! Now it’s clear it’s not going to happen I don’t know if I want to have anything to do with his family. I know it sounds awful. I don’t belong anywhere and I have no purpose!
    Being sensible and waiting for the right moment and the right partner and the right bank balance has left me with absolutely nothing to look forward to and no reason to go on!
    Maybe a move to London where lots of ‘abnormal’ people live (as opposed to ‘normal 2.4 children’ people) would be a good idea – if I could afford it!

  12. I still feel that the point is missed. Perhaps it is just me. I don’t expect the entire world to shield me. A friend is happily pregnant and I am overjoyed for her. My life is what it is.

    However, it does seem that there should be a place for me as well. A place where I can discuss my issues or read about others in similar circumstances without being bombarded by how utterly and undeniably wrong I am for making the choice to get off the merry-go-round. Modern medicine benefits greatly from infertility. They only make money if I buy into the concept that I will forever be an outcast unless I get with the program, spend tens of thousands of dollars and continue to struggle against impossible odds.

    There are plenty of sights for women who have made the choice to continue trying and I applaud their courage and tenacity. There are O sites for those like me who seek who seek a safe haven. I suppose that only goes to illustrate my point.

  13. thanks so much…

    wishtobeamommy.com

  14. It’s taken me several years of significant effort *not* to get worked up about pregnancy and fertility related ads. In many ways being a blogger writing on the challenges of coming to terms with infertility (hence, the blog name, Coming2Terms) and seeing about 50% of my readership end up pregnant acted as an inoculation of sorts. Now I measure my mellowness response to pregnancy related announcements, ads, etc., to see how far I’ve come. You’ll get there, too. I used to hate the old adage, time heals all wounds, when I was in the early stages but now with the passage of time I see it’s true.

  15. Jen and Laurie,

    I can’t have children and i don’t feel inadequate because it’s like getting any disease: cancer, MLS, heart disease. Infertility is something I cope with just like I’d deal with getting diagnosed with a heart or brain condition.

    Infertility doesn’t make me less of a woman. It’s just something I have, and I’ve learned to accept my life the way it is.

    But sometimes I like to read articles about living a childfree life and other women coping with not having children because it does help to know I’m not alone :-)

    Ellie

  16. I appreciate your well-considered response. I will look at the book you mentioned. The problem I often face is the idea that without children I am not a real person. This is not my feeling, but that of those I encounter. A scene from a movie I watched last night is a perfect illustration. Bridesmaids at a wedding were noticing an attractive man. One said, “Forget, he’s married.” Another asked, “Do they have children?” The response was no. She then replied, “Then it doesn’t count. If they don’t have children, it is not a real marriage.” And no I don’t agree with this, however there it is.

    How does one move on in spite of constant in your face reminders, chastisements, diminishments etc. I would agree that going in separate directions with two blogs might be helpful. It would be nice to have a place where I am not blindsided and bombarded with how inadequate I am as a human being, because I do not have a child. One for those who are still considering and one for those like me (my spouse is infertile, no appeal) who will never have children despite deep felt desire and long time struggles in the face of adversity.

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