No kids? So what am I going to do with my life? I often read this sentiment in blogs of those who are either facing the prospect of living their life without children, or who have just entered their No Kidding life. I asked it myself, and was reminded of this by Lisa on Life Without Baby.
The previous few years had all been aimed at getting pregnant, and the lifestyle with children. And suddenly, that wasn't relevant any more. I felt as if there was a void that needed to be filled with something big, something amazing, something different. I know I wasn't alone in those feelings. But even though I felt that everything had changed for me, it hadn't really. I still had elderly parents that needed to be considered, a husband who liked his job (and wanted to be near his elderly parents), a house that needed maintenance (and still does), friends and interests. So a major lifestyle change was difficult.
When I look back though, my lifestyle now is different to what it was ten years ago. For a start, we have travelled much more. Partly because we have had more disposable income, but also partly I think because we thought "why not?" It wasn't as if we were waiting for children. I have a brother-in-law who puts many possible trips on hold because he wants to go with the his "whole family." So he rarely goes anywhere, as part of his "whole family" is now grown up and living in another country! He is putting his life on hold for a fantasy that has passed. We at least had recognised that our fantasy had passed - after all, the passing of our fantasy was dispatched like a brick to the head!
My working life had already changed, as I moved from a full-time job where I travelled internationally, to being self-employed. Early through that grieving period, I found myself thrust into a leadership role, and whilst it was scary, it was also challenging and interesting and rewarding too. At the same time, I got some significant contracts as a consultant, and so my working life was varied and interesting and fulfilling. I also expanded my wings in the volunteer sector, and began writing - something I had always loved and done when I was younger, but which had been overtaken by the business and diplomatic writing of my career. The differences between my personal and professional writing styles surprised me. Finding my voice was scary too, but liberating.
I found that I had changed. I was more confident in my own abilities, but I was also more content. I knew my own limitations, and for the first time in my life became able to accept them. I could push them when I needed, but stopped pointlessly beating myself up for these limitations. After all, I also found myself better able to understand the limitations of others, to see the insecurities or misunderstandings behind the bluster and bullying and verbosity that are so prevalent in board rooms. Part of this understanding came from the volunteer work I was doing - analysing motivations behind behaviour had always been an interest of mine, and my volunteer work addressed this intensely.
But part of this understanding too was simply from being in my 40s, with that combination of experience and wisdom that I think comes to us then, if we are prepared to think, to examine ourselves and our motivations and actions, as well as those of others. Still, I'm not sure I would have achieved this growth if I hadn't been through the losses I had been through. Sure, as a parent I may have grown in different ways. But as an adult without children, I had the luxury of time to contemplate the world, and how I wanted to be in it. And that has brought me a lot of peace.
I never did find though that one amazing thing that would fill my No Kidding life. We look for something to replace the children, but I think what happens is that life fills that void. You know, the life we're living when we're making plans. And it can fill the void in wonderful, inspiring, surprising ways. Tiny ways too. Like learning gratitude. That doesn't mean though that I'm not still looking at new opportunities. I suspect I'll still be looking when I'm 70. That doesn't scare me though. In fact, I quite like that idea, because in looking, I'm always learning, I'm always changing and growing and challenging.
It may look from the outside that everything is the same. I'm in the same city, same house, and yes, even drive the same car! (I'd love to move and go off on a grand adventure, but circumstances at the moment don't permit that.) I'm the same person, with the same values. But life didn't end when we said good-bye to children, and began a No Kidding life. And as a result, I have changed, and in ways that make me happier, more content, more confident. I know that I continue to change. And I embrace that change.