30 July, 2015

Not feeling left behind

I see so many people – those still “in the trenches” and those newly exploring the rest of their No Kidding lives – who feel left behind. This is my third post on this issue (links to previous posts below), and it won’t be my last, but each time I’m probably not saying anything new.

It’s important to note that this feeling doesn’t last, and that we are not in fact left behind. It’s important to say this, not only for those who – in their No Kidding lives - might be feeling this way, or for those who are still enduring infertility and see friends and even other IVFers have children before them – but also for those who have “crossed over” to parenting. Because we know (we read their blogs, between the lines or sometimes explicitly) that sometimes they look at us as if we are left behind, left “on the other side,” and are cases to be pitied. Perhaps simply because they can’t imagine being in our shoes, they can’t imagine that we don’t feel left behind – they just can’t imagine the alternative.

I think we should note this applies throughout our lives, for all of us, and isn’t just related to infertility. As I wrote here, I think it is natural to feel left behind sometimes in our lives. I’ve also noticed, for example, that friends/colleagues of mine think that, just because I’m no longer a diplomat, and for 12 years haven’t worked in full-time employment, I haven’t been left behind. Just as I have to look at them, and remind myself that just because I have been working in different companies, learning new things, learning independence and governance as well as management, that they’re not left behind. Just because they’ve stayed in the same organisation, it would be unfair to assume that they haven’t changed since I left. That’s the key, isn’t it? We’re not in suspended animation. Being childless before infertility is different to being childless after it. Just because someone takes a different route than us, it doesn’t mean they’re left behind. They’re not. We’re not.

I truly don’t feel left behind. I’ve written before about walking a different road. I feel that deeply. But in walking that different road, I know I have had to overcome difficulties that are different from those on the parenthood path. They may not be as obvious as those of a parent, dealing with work and sick children, etc etc. But I might not have sleepless nights because of a child waking me, but I might have (had) many consecutive sleepless nights because of grief and fear of my childless future. Just like a parent who sleeps well once their children sleep through the night, I too sleep well now. I might not have financial concerns about offering certain advantages to my children, but I have financial concerns about my old age, knowing there is no one to fall back on. I might not have the problem that I never get any time to myself, but I might feel that the house is too quiet at times. I might not feel the pressure of competition with other mothers – “am I a good parent?” “Is my child as clever/pretty/athletic/musical/artistic/scientific as the others?” etc – but I might feel the judgement of all those collective mothers for not being one of them.

So we’re walking different paths, encountering different obstacles and overcoming them. And you know, in some respects, I feel way ahead of some of my parent friends/family and acquaintances. I feel ahead because I’ve had the time to be able to come to terms with a lot of my issues, to grow emotionally, to grow in awareness, and compassion.

Mentally, emotionally, in terms of strength and resilience, I have had to develop reserves I didn’t know I had. I have had to face my flaws as well as my abilities, to embrace them and accept them. Yes, parents have to do this. Parents of children with illnesses or special needs have to do this even more so. Doing this is what moves us all, moves any of us, forward. I know I still have lots of work to do. I guess if I felt I was a complete, enlightened person, well … I’d be Buddha! I’m not. But I certainly don’t feel lesser, and I don’t feel left behind.

I look at the other No Kidding bloggers I follow, and I see what they have been through, and I see the people they are now. I see the hard work they’ve done coming to terms with their situation, and I want to praise them enormously. I see the kindness and wisdom they display to others, and I know they’re not left behind. I hope they/you don’t feel that way. Mostly, I don’t think so.

And if you’re struggling right now, know that I don’t see you that way - even if that’s exactly how you feel. It won’t last. You won’t feel like this forever.


  1. dear Mali,
    I am so grateful for your writing. It is good to know that feeling left behind will not be there for good.
    I have come to terms with a lot of my issues too. I grew emotionally. But there is still a path to be walked before I will be healed.

  2. It's funny, because I feel left behind a lot, by my friends without kids who are out doing amazing things with their professional lives and in their free time, and I feel so stuck here, in life-with-two-small-kids land, which I know is finite, but feels like it will stretch forever. I'm not trying to say it's harder, just to point out that you're right, everyone can feel left behind, even the people we think have arrived.

  3. Beautiful post. The feeling of being left behind comes from not achieving what we had planned for or what others tell us we should be doing. I've struggled with this a lot professionally as of late. But you're absolutely right: it's not being left behind but traveling along a different path. And pity need not be applied.

  4. I can't help but to think of the Robert Frost poem when reading this post.

    I know you feel like you aren't saying anything new, and you really aren't, but this is something that needs to be shouted from the rooftops over and over again. I can't speak for others, but I'm still at a place where I need to hear that feeling left behind doesn't last. So I appreciate this message, no matter how many times you say it!