Monday, 20 May 2019

Blogging on the road

As you read this, I’m in my second city in a new country today, and I'm probably out sightseeing. Though I have read that there is a saying from this town, which goes something along the lines of ... “you can forget your lunchbox, but never forget your umbrella!” Hopefully I’m not getting too wet! (If you follow my Instagram “at travellingMali” you’ll be able to see where I am.)

This month is definitely going to be one of those times I can be appreciative of all I can do because I don’t have children. It isn’t neutral (see my last post), it is very definitely a positive in my life this month and next. You see, my sister-in-law and family came to this country during the April school holidays. They missed the cherry blossoms (there’s a hint) because they were tied to school holidays, and my brother-in-law was frustrated that there were theme parks and comic museums to visit, when he wanted some culture. My sister-in-law was complaining that the kids didn’t like experimenting with food, so I’m not sure how much she was able to do so. We aren’t getting the cherry blossoms either, but we’re happily avoiding the theme parks and comic museums, and we’re also able to avoid some of the crowds, because we’ve avoided most countries’ school holidays. And I’m looking forward to the food, as I write this in advance. I am very grateful about that.

Blogging when travelling is not always easy. Over the next few weeks, I’ve written some posts in advance, and I’m going to repost a couple too. Some of the big hitters, which have had a big audience, might be worth revisiting. I’ll be in and out of No Kidding regularly, and will try to keep up with comments, and with your blogs too.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Removing the No Kidding childless filter

Infertile Phoenix wrote a great post the other day, about doing an activity purely for the joy of doing the activity. She wasn’t affected by the perhaps bittersweet thought that she was only doing it because she didn’t have children. She was just taking pleasure in what she was doing.

I really loved that sense of peace, and mindfulness, that she found. I love that she found that she didn’t need to relate it to whether she had children or not. Sure, I’ve written my share of posts about what I can do because we don’t have children. As time passes, that it becomes easier to do this. And it got me thinking about the stages of this process.

At first, it was bittersweet, bringing sadness. I’d find I might think along these lines – “Yes, I can do this, but I’d rather have the children and be doing things with them.” 

Then it became "I wouldn't get to do this if I had children" that was tinged with guilt. "How can I enjoy my new life without children?" I'd ask myself guiltily, not realising that it was a healing process, and that joy in the future didn't mean I deserved the loss that had brought me here.

Finally, it became “yippee, look at all the fabulous things I’m doing because I don’t have children.”  

So for some years, I realise that I have related a lot of my life to the fact I didn’t have children – disadvantages and losses, as well as the freedoms and positives of not having them.

Now though, it’s not an either/or. Whilst I can relate some issues of my life to my No Kidding childless state, both positive and negative, I cannot and do not relate all of it to that. I think it becomes easier to do as we age. Many of my friends are now almost as free as I am – their children have left home, and are independent or becoming independent. They can make the same choices I can. So the No Kidding filter has become less necessary, less relevant, to me.

Now, my life is my life. I don’t have to see it all through that childless filter. I just see it as it is. And that is a freedom in itself. From pain, from regret. The sting has gone. And it allows me to just be me. And “just being me” is pretty darn good. 

Saturday, 11 May 2019

"That Day" Again

This Sunday, on The Day That Shall Not Be Named, will be the first time when both my husband and I are motherless. Whilst I am conscious he may have some emotions about that (though I've asked him, and he says he doesn't!), I also feel a degree of freedom. We also don’t celebrate the day in any form – not as a rebellion, or in an effort to reclaim it. I know some people do it successfully, but I have no wish to do so. It wouldn’t work for me. So perhaps for the first time, the day has no meaning for me.

Instead of baking a cake and visiting the in-laws, or just hibernating away from the world, this year I feel a liberation. The day now means nothing to me. I’ve seen ads (commercials) for it everywhere. A jeweller even tried to encourage people to buy gifts for “work mums” which has provoked a lot of conversation, and made me cringe. Even though I’ve played that role myself, I prefer to be called a “mentor” which is more respectful, and less sexist. After all, have you ever heard anyone talk about a “work dad.” Shudder! It gives out very creepy vibes. Anyway, I digress.

As I’ve said before about various holidays, it is only one day. Though I’ve actually disproved that myself here, where I’ve noted that if you have international friends, it lasts two days, and then throw in the UK’s day in March, and so we have three days to tolerate! And then there’s the day after when people brag about what their children did for them, so add on another day. Okay, so it is potentially four days!

But what I mean by this is that it passes, and we all forget about it. If we can stay away from social media on the day and the day after, then it can pass largely without notice. And by the Tuesday afterwards, everyone has forgotten it even happened.

So often, it is the anticipation that is hardest. I know that feeling of dread – worrying about how I will cope with the day, or what people will say to me – that this day can invoke. What I also know now though is that, after all these years, that feeling of dread fades. And I hope that gives those of you who are struggling some comfort.

It has power if we give it power. Sure, in the first few years it is hard not to succumb to the power of the day. But as time passes, it is easier to stand up straight and say, “nope, I’m not giving this day power over me.” It is easier to make our own plans to either avoid difficult situations, or to treat ourselves before or afterwards. It is easier to dismiss it as irrelevant to our lives. The guilt for not caring goes too. And you know what rushes in? A sense of relief, and freedom.

So I hope you have a freedom-filled weekend. I know I for one will be focused on other things. Packing, for one. But I will be thinking of you all too. And wrapping you up in a big hug, full of love.

Monday, 6 May 2019

What prompts personal growth?

A blogger* recently said that in not having children, she had lost the chance to do things better, or differently, or the way that might have worked with us way back when. I can understand that. We all want to take lessons from what happened to us, and make things better. But there’s a danger in this. I’ve seen someone raise their by deliberately doing the opposite of that which her mother did. They didn’t seem to realise that they weren’t actually choosing to do this freely, but were taking a kneejerk reaction out of resentment. But in trying to rectify the “wrongs” done to them, the best interests of the children were sometimes lost.

The aforementioned blogger also said that she felt she was missing out on the mental thought and maturation involved in this process of assessing her upbringing and then raising children. I can definitely see her point. It seems that, when parenting, it might happen organically, as and when specific childhood stages were reached. But it could also occur at times of crisis, with many competing demands for time and energy, or when we found it least convenient. We just never know. So I don't think it would inherently be an easy or natural process to go through when parenting.

Of course, I don’t think you need to be a parent to be able to think about and deal with the issues of our childhood. Because, in my experience at least, I see a lot of people who don't grow, who never deal with their past or their issues, and who even hide from it. Perhaps without even realising that. And I know (from discussions in the comments) that the original blogger knows this too.

Personally, the fact that I couldn’t have children, and the need to process the grief of that, meant I had to really think about my own values, then to reevaluate my life, and find meaning in other ways. It has meant that I've thought about a whole raft of issues and ideas about myself (including how I would have parented) that my friends who are parents just haven't (or hadn’t at the time) necessarily had to do. They might have had a life that has worked seamlessly for them so they don’t question it, they might not have had the time or energy to search their hearts and minds, they might have been too afraid to confront feelings of emptiness or confusion, or they simply lacked self-awareness, never really knowing why they were bitter or angry or sad, or knowing in fact that they were actually bitter or angry or sad.

The thing about a situation that changes our lives, or changes the way we expected to live our lives, is that we can’t avoid confronting it. But still, the extent to which we do will depend on many of the issues above – self-awareness, inclination, time or energy, and courage. It doesn’t happen automatically to parents, and it doesn’t happen automatically to those of us who can’t be parents. We all have catalysts - whether it is having children, or NOT having children. The key is not to denigrate our own catalyst. Absence can be a catalyst to growth, just as presence can be.

Ultimately, I think if we're going to grow, we're likely to find a way to do that regardless of whether or not we have children. And I suspect, simply by posing these thoughts, the original blogger is way ahead of many in this regard.

This is by no means a criticism of the blogger's thoughts - I completely understand where they are coming from. It's more an extension of her thoughts, into my situation.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Rebuilding relationships

I recently read a post from another blogger that reminded me again that there are always two perspectives. A relatively new mother after infertility had got together with two friends. She had to leave early, but later realised that she hadn’t been asked about her kids and her life (or not as much as she wanted) by her two friends. She felt abandoned, ignored, and was personally offended.

I am sure we can all point to times when we felt that we had been abandoned and ignored offended because we didn’t have children. However, what the aforementioned blogger made me realise was that we are not the only ones who might feel like that. They may have withdrawn from us because they were busy, or because it was easier to associate with others who had children and shared so much, or even because they didn't want to hurt us by having their children around us. Misunderstandings, though, still lead to hurt. It may not all be one-sided, and it may not be equally shared. We may withdraw to protect ourselves, feeling alone and abandoned, and that in turn can hurt the person we need protection from. But they won't necessarily understand that.Then they are hurt too. Being able to step back - perhaps after time has passed, or if an olive branch has been extended - and think about how the change in friendship affected us both can really help us with forgiveness. Forgiveness for their actions, and for our own.

This then can provide an opening for conversation, for healing wounds, and for rebuilding friendships. Or maybe, at the very least, it can just make us more content with the relationship as it has evolved. We can learn to appreciate each other anew, ignoring the hurts of the past. That's what I'm trying to do now. It's not easy, as I am finding. You probably know that too. But I hope it will bring us both some pleasure, and some peace.