24 December, 2015

Childless at Christmas

It is late afternoon on a sunny Christmas Eve, my meringues (not the best I've made, but adequate) are cooling on the rack, and the last batch of mini mince pies (having eaten/given away most of the first batch) is ready to go in the oven. So I'm able to take some time, and think of my blogging friends and readers.

This season is not always easy for those of us without children. I've had two pregnancy losses on successive Christmases, and the next year was the first Christmas after learning, only two months earlier, that we would never have children. That first Christmas, we had a very quiet Christmas with my parents and in-laws, but no siblings and no children. The year after, we escaped to Europe, and so it didn't feel like Christmas, even though we celebrated with my BIL, SIL and niece and nephew. It was an excellent thing to do, because by the next year, two years on, the pain had receded a little, and I could handle a big family Christmas. The fact my father had died that year meant that I was more concerned about my mother being alone, than I was about myself.

These days, I love the big family Christmases. We alternate between my family and my husband's family. Some years we go south and celebrate  Christmas with my sister and her grown-up daughters, and even my cheeky great-nephew (who loves to call me "Great Aunty <Mali>"), and sometimes my other sister and her husband and my niece, Charlie. I love that. Other years we stay here at home, sometimes just with my in-laws and perhaps my husband's childless aunt and uncle, sometimes with one or more of his brothers and their families as well. I love that too, as we don't get to see them very often. This year, it will be quiet, and when I have thought about that, I've been a bit melancholy.

But when I think about it, I'm more melancholy about other things that are happening (or not happening) in my life and family, than I am about not having children at Christmas. Most years it doesn't bother me much any more. But I admit, I do have to make that qualifier, I can't say it never bothers me. It does. For example, I feel sad that I don't have a child who loves my Christmas tree decorations as much as I do. But then, I might have had a child who didn't care! Or who had completely different taste. I visited a friend this morning, dropping off a card and some of my mince pies. She's also childless, and also loves travelling. I looked at her tree, and told her that, after mine, I love her tree the best. We looked at some of her new decorations, some bought on recent travels, all with significance to her and her partner. And it made both of us happy.

This afternoon, as I cooked in the kitchen, I listened to our national radio (as I do almost every afternoon). They were having a Christmas Eve round-up of the year with all the panel guests from the year, and one man noted that this was the first year all his children were living overseas. He had no idea when or if they would ever return to New Zealand to live. My in-laws only have us, and the childless aunt and uncle rely on nieces and nephews. It reminded me that those of us without children are not the only ones who might feel lonely at Christmas. I listened to a carol being sung, that insisted on everyone showing "good cheer." And I felt angry, that this is seen to be compulsory, when so many might not feel this way. (Ironic, given that my Christmas card this year exhorts us all to "Be Merry.")

By Saturday, in just over 24 hours (for me), it will all be over for another year. As I wrote some time ago, on Mel's annual Christmas Survival list, it is really just one day. It doesn't have any power over us. We can enjoy it or not, and move on. That's what I intend to do.

Now though, as I've taken the final mince pies out of the oven, and as I sip a glass of cool white chardonnay, I can contemplate instead the next week or two we have of catching up with friends (first, at the beach, and then, in a vineyard), relaxing and reading books (I have two books to complete to meet my Goodreads challenge for this year), maybe some picnics, and hopefully some nice summer weather. My spirit rises.

Rather than insisting that we all feel "good cheer," instead my wish for you all, for us all, is that we find peace in our hearts, love with partners, friends or family, and renewed hope for the future.


  1. dear Mali,
    I wish you a Merry Christmas!

  2. I raise my glass of Merlot to you and send you gentle greetings from across the ditch.
    Your plans for the coming week sound fabulous – hard to better the beach or a vineyard at this time of year.

    I smirked at myself as I read your thoughts on the carols. The hubby has been playing them all day (who knew we had THAT many Christmas CDs). They helped to pass the time while we were cleaning and readying the table for tomorrow but after that I locked myself in the study and binge watched the last few episodes of Blindspot that I had to catch up on. Got to find that balance.

    Such tender wishes – thank you for your wonderful postings. - Kathryn

  3. I clink glasses over the much nicer Christmas wish, one that meets the recipient wherever they are in their heart. Maybe they can't be merry, maybe they can't have good cheer. And that's okay. You can still wish them peace of heart -- something found more than forced. Have a good holiday, Mali.

  4. Raising my own glass and echoing the same wish.

  5. What a wonderful wish for us all!

    Raising my glass of Shiraz to you (and everyone) this Christmas Eve!

  6. Merry Christmas to you! I love the idea of wishing everyone peace, love, and renewed hope. The very same to you.

  7. It's not always possible to have a "merry" Christmas... sometimes my goal was simply to have the best Christmas possible under the circumstances. And that usually turned out to be OK. ;) Hope it was OK for you too! <3