30 May, 2013

Our No Kidding Lives

Loribeth had a great post here referencing this article.   I liked the fact that it talked about the truths parents believe, and countered these, just as we all have done ... but usually silently, in our heads, as we heard once again how easy or shallow our lives are.  I urge you to read it.

The key thing I think is that many non-parents think that they know what our lives are like.  After all, most parents have lived as adults without kids.  So they assume our lives without kids are exactly like that. And I think this assumption - that our lives haven't changed since we were in our early-mid 20s  - is behind so many of the the negative stereotypes out there about non-parents. 

"Our lives have less meaning without children"
"Our lives are frivolous"
"We can do what we want when we want"
"We have much more disposable income"
"We aren't real women until we've had a baby"
"We haven't grown up till we've become a parent"
"We don't understand commitment"

Some of these things may be true in our early 20s.  Of course, many are not true even then.  But in general, in our early-mid 20s, we are probably all much more carefree, frivolous, spendthrifts, and yes, maybe we're even more shallow.  Simply because in our 20s, that's what most people are doing - they're having fun, starting careers, finding their way in the world, experimenting with relationships (and substances and lifestyles etc). 

But my no-kids life in my 20s was very different to my no-kids life in my 40s and 50s.  In my 20s, my parents and in-laws were all alive and well and having a great time in their 50s and 60s.  Now, my father has gone, my mother is aging badly, my in-laws are beset with illnesses, and we have real responsibilities looking after them.  By now our careers have been established, or maybe we've had one career and changed to another, we know what it is to work hard, commit to something and follow through, manage people, face great achievements and great disappointments.  We've been through relationships, lost partners, or celebrated 25th anniversaries.  We understand and have faced our mortality, something that for most of us is very hard to do in our 20s - we've seen friends fall ill and other friends die, we've seen elderly parents and perhaps silblings die, we've cared for ill relatives, or we've been ill ourselves.  And we've lost pregnancies or our own babies, or we've never had the joy of getting pregnant in the first place.  We've feared for our old age, faced the need to be independent or develop networks rather than rely on ones that have come to us through children and their families.  And we've learned  that we can not achieve whatever we put our minds to, and that dreams are lost and new dreams must be found.  And through all this, we've developed wisdom and compassion and strength.

And we've also known joy, and love.  Joy is not exclusive to parents either.  We've met joy when we've taken time to smell the roses, when we've helped someone through a difficult time, or noticed progress in ourselves, joy when we've been able to embrace our lives with no kids, when we've been able to appreciate the depths of what we can achieve with no kids (making a difference in others' lives for example), joy with friends and family, joy in the wider world, perhaps because we don't have to focus on getting the laundry done for school tomorrow.  We are not joyless, or loveless.  We love, and love deeply.  Perhaps because we are not (of necessity) endlessly focused on our nuclear family and their needs, we are able to love deeply, differently, compassionately, and freely.

All this life experience is what makes us "grow up."  And it would have made most people grow up,whether or not they had children.  That's what I wish they'd understand.  And that's what Schmutzie and Loribeth  were saying.  That's what is worth repeating.


  1. Wonderfully, reflective and powerful post! Thank you. Your words are validating, inspiring and comforting.

  2. This beautiful post reminds me of "I am woman, hear me roar!" :-D

  3. A brilliant explanation of the vibrant and multi-faceted lives we lead.

  4. Glad you liked it -- and you have expanded on the themes of that post brilliantly here. I know my life is certainly very different now than it was in my 20s (both for better & for worse)!

  5. Thank you for posting and writing this!

  6. Wow! This is something which resonates with me as I try to figure out my no-kid life. Thanks!!!

  7. Hi, I wanted to introduce myself, I am also a Kiwi Gal, but unlike yourself I am at the very early stages of facing the fact I most likely will be childless, after years of fertility treatment, followed by recurrent miscarriage. Its so wonderful to read your post and now there is sunshine after all this pain and to know I am not alone. Thankyou so much for sharing your story :)

  8. This is a beautiful post.

    I would not wish infertility on anyone. But however they got to that point, many of the most beautiful, giving, generous people I have known are those without children. Did the time they took to mentor me and others have anything to do with not having their own children? I don't know, and it wouldn't be appropriate to ask. But if the baby thing doesn't work out for us, they show me that any life can have meaning.