Resolve, a US organisation, is promoting National Infertility Awareness Week by suggesting we blog about myths surrounding infertility. Whilst I don't belong to Resolve, I did find its website very useful when I was going through infertility and coming to terms with living life without children, and so I want to raise awareness and help them if I can. I've already blogged about the People without kids are Selfish Myth here. So I chose another topic for this week:
Myth: People who live childfree have carefree lives.
I wish this were true. Sure, we're not getting up five times during the night to sick children, or any of the other cares that parents have. But those without children are often the ones who end up volunteering, or the ones who work longer hours when the parents are off on school holidays (twice this week already). And of course, those without children are often the ones who end up caring for aged parents and relatives.
My husband and I are childfree and we should be the members of the family who are travelling the world, living in exotic places without worrying about what schools the children will go to. But we’re not – after a three year sojourn overseas in the early 90s, we are now the members of the family who are left to care for my elderly in-laws. All the other offspring are living overseas, following their careers, with no intentions of returning. They visit infrequently. After all, it’s so expensive to travel with children, the in-laws remind us - the dense childless couple who obviously don’t understand. And as they remind us of this, their children pocket their huge foreign currency salaries, build their mansions, drive their Porsches, and send their children to the world’s most expensive universities, but rarely visit their parents. They show their concern for their parents by emailing or skyping or phoning occasionally. We show our concern by being here. If we leave, who do they (the in-laws) have? How will they cope? We think about this, a lot.
Do I resent it? Yes. (The point of this blog is brutal honesty – even if I don’t come off very well!). They’re not my parents. They don’t recognise what we’re doing (ie that we’re living here, making career and financial choices to our detriment to stay here, for them), and so we don’t get a lot of gratitude. I’m not really looking for that, because I don’t want them to feel guilty for holding us back at a time in their lives when they are frail and vulnerable. We’ve never told them why we’re still here. And we won’t. It’s not fair to them. But it's not fair to us either/
And I admit, sometimes it would be nice to feel appreciated. So yes, increasingly I resent that we are giving up so much at a time of life when we could be doing so much. We’re doing the right thing. Even when there might be no-one around to do it for us. Perhaps that’s why we’re doing it? Because we think about our old age, we recognise the vulnerabilities and the challenges, and we have compassion. Perhaps it’s easier not to think about these things when you can breezily joke about your children looking after you in your own old age, because you can’t imagine a future being alone. We can. And so, we help, and we sacrifice. So much for being carefree.