30 October, 2017

Knowing what is important

When people say that they “know what is important,” I know that they always mean family and to them family clearly means children, and what they really mean is that if you don’t have any, then you don't have anything truly important. I know that that’s what they mean, because it was recently said to me.

In a conversation about old age, I mentioned my hope that we can continue to travel, and so the follow-up statement to their “knowing what is important” pearl of wisdom – from a parent who had just admitted that she didn’t particularly enjoy travel – was very pointedly directed at me. 
“But it’s not something that is important; no-one old ever says that they regret not travelling more.” 
 “Well, obviously, if I had to stop now, I would say that,” I responded, somewhat self-consciously because she’d just said pointedly that my life was indeed meaningless if I thought travelling was important.

What I didn’t say is that I know several people who would agree with me, and one 90+ year old (with whom this particular self-righteous parent was actually staying at the time) who repeatedly, and very sadly, says those exact words to me, wishing she'd seen the things that my husband and I see, and that she had had the adventures we have, and she has never once consoled herself (to me) with the fact that she has children (and grandchildren), perhaps because she hardly ever sees them (except one).

I get so tired of the judgement that people without children have nothing, when in reality we all have different things that are important to us, whether it is enjoying nature, doting on children/grandchildren/nieces/friends or pets, gardening or writing or travel or our work. Whilst sometimes these things are enjoyed with family and friends, and sometimes they might fill the place left without family or friends, whatever it is that fills our lives and brings us joy is undeniably important to us.

Note: I have a full post, the last of my Gifts of Infertility series, planned to expand on this particular topic, but decided to throw this anecdote in now.


  1. Dear Mali,
    I am also getting tired of the judgement that people without children have nothing.

    There are so many things that are important to me and travelling is among them!

    I am looking forward to the full post!



  2. I wonder how anyone can say that there is no gain in travelling??? Or may be it is that the person has never travelled at all!!!
    Whether one has children or not, enjoyment or finding joys mean so many different things to different people. There just can not be judgement of a person based on another person's idea of finding joy!

    Anagha recently published... “Paralysed Humanity”

  3. How rude!! This woman owes you an apology. In a moment where she felt inferior due to her life decisions, she attacked you. That speaks volumes about how miserable she is. Your life is full because you make it full. And travel is a part of that.

    I hope to travel someday. I know due to my life choices it’s not a possibility at the moment (career is the main thing holding me back), but I love hearing about others adventures and applaud those who get out to see the world. Because it is important.

  4. This person is actually wrong (in addition to being rude AF): https://www.google.com/amp/www.marketwatch.com/amp/story/guid/C6A87C76-E6D9-11E5-A127-E7253F3F9A06

    1. Thanks for the link! I'm tempted to send it to her ...

  5. This woman has her own issues. People who are content with their own lives don't disparage others' lives.

    I'll confess that more than once I've been envious of your life, traveling or no.

  6. Remember the saying 'hurt people hurt (other) people'? Maybe this lady is hurting - perhaps her ego is hurting because she is filled with envy hearing about your travels when she has the daily grind to look forward to and doesn't feel satisfied with her lot.

    People are presumptuous to think their kids will stick around to care for them when they're elderly - I live in an area with predominantly older people and most of their offspring live far away, often in other countries/continents.

    Having kids is not a get out clause for making rude remarks and denigrating anyone else who doesn't 'conform' by not having children. I'm sorry you had to run the gauntlet of her disparaging comments!

    1. Yeah, I'm not convinced that she's that hurt. I do know she doesn't like to be the one who's not the most important/richest/best-dressed etc in the room, so when it comes to travel she always feels inadequate I think. Hence, the attacks.

  7. I don't even know where to begin.. It is quite a broad statement, to know 'what is important'. Important to whom?
    All I know is I'm looking forward to my next trip, and I should email you about it.
    hugs from Amsterdam

    1. I keep getting more upset about this. What IS important? clean air? safe drinking water? Happiness? climate change? (I should look up that pyramid model again, Maslow? yes, here: https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html
      but it might not help, as it does not mention children nor travel. Easy enough to fill in though.

      Is this the same as people with children saying that without them you do not know 'real' love? (oh, if people would just speak for themselves)

      The whole reason for traveling with my mother to South Africa last year was because she was still healthy enough to go. And with old age you never know how long that will be.
      I hope we will all be travelling for a long and healthy time to come!

    2. Yes, I agree, it's very much an issue of privilege!

      So glad you got to travel with your mother. I always wished I could have taken my father to South Africa. He would have adored it.

  8. Well said, Mali! :) (And great article, Jjiraffe!)

  9. Wow that was so rude! There are plenty of people who regret not travelling and seeing more of the world! Knowing what's important to me implies spending time with your loved ones whether that is husband/siblings/friends or whoever!