29 January, 2018

Another (#3 this month) ageing without children

So a few weeks ago I wrote about ageing without children, and some of the comments prompted me to write a much longer post about ageing without children, in which I realised I do have some sort of plan. Then yesterday, we toured a retirement village nearby on their open day.

The person showing us around said, “you know we have an age limit, don’t you?” laughing, so just in case, we clarified that we were looking on behalf of my husband’s parents. We were given information and taken on a tour with a man who had lost his partner, and was thinking about moving in himself.

He commented that he didn’t have an Enduring Power of Attorney set up, because he didn’t know what to do when he had no family. He was doing everything right, moving in when he was able, joining clubs and keeping active, but it was obvious that he was feeling vulnerable. The staff member didn’t bat an eyelid, referred him to a forthcoming talk on setting up POAs if you don’t have family, and made him feel comfortable, that there was a solution, and that he wasn’t alone in dealing with it. In doing that, she made me feel more comfortable too, about our own future.

22 January, 2018

She was one of us ... but no longer

So, back in October, I noted that our new Prime Minister was one of us, a No Kidding woman. Turns out it wasn't by choice, as she's always said she would like children, and has said that she and her partner had been told they were going to need help to conceive, and that they had put that on hold when she became leader of the Labour Party in the middle of last year.

In case you haven't heard, as the news has gone around the world, she has announced that she is pregnant. Given her openness about their infertility (though I doubt she would use that word), and my desire to see women in all positions, regardless of their family arrangements, I am very pleased for her. I wince a bit that she's going to be used as an example of the "stop trying so hard/just relax and it will happen" brigade, though I doubt she was at all relaxed during the election campaign, which is when she must have conceived (although she found out only after the election).

I also am pleased that the initial public reaction - that I heard or read at least - was positive ... well, except for my SIL, who ranted at me on whatsapp that it was dishonest of her to take the position when she knew she was pregnant, that she'd never cope doing both jobs. I knew I couldn't respond with any of my normal responses, which would have been "if she says she can cope, and has plans for the event, then I believe her," or "you'd never say that about a man," because the inevitable response (either said bluntly, or implicit in a withering comeback) would have been "you've never had a baby, so what would you know?"

So I just said, "well, isn't it good that you're not a New Zealander!"

18 January, 2018

Ageing without Children: The Plan

I love it when the comments on one of my posts leads into more thoughts, and another post. I thought I’d clarify that I am thinking a lot about our retirement and old age at the moment, due to caring for ailing parents-in-law who didn't really plan in advance. But at the moment, our plans are just thoughts really, as we’re still in our 50s, still hoping to earn a little more money before we retire, and still hoping to travel, and spend some more prolonged time overseas. The important thing at this stage is, I think, our recognition that we need to plan ahead. We can't leave it to chance, and the goodwill of others. Besides, increasingly, I think that would be selfish.

In my observation, old age covers really three periods of life:

Youthful and Active Old Age
The first is when we first officially retire, when we don’t feel or look old (and indeed, many of our contemporaries may still be working), and when we are – hopefully – relatively youthful and active. That’s a time that I feel we can truly grasp the benefits of having no children, and go anywhere, and do anything (finances and health willing, of course), though to be fair lots of people travel now, because it’s the first time in their lives that they are not constrained by jobs or children either. Travel with friends who are parents could be a real bonus at this time of life, because we're all equally unencumbered.

This is when my parents first left New Zealand shores, and explored some of the world. They also explored their own country, travelling by car, camping very cheaply, and they had a wonderful time. They went out for meals more often, to movies and shows (that weren't options living on the farm), they got involved in new hobbies, making friends who would be important in later years.

I know a couple of different people now who spend NZ winters where it is warm, and return for the summer. They don’t spend much money doing this, but they’ve been able to organise their affairs to travel this way. I love the concept. I also would like to return to Thailand and live for a while, or at least spend six months or so there. It’s definitely an option for us, and spending NZ winters on a beach in Thailand (with air-conditioning in a house, because I actually am a wimp when it comes to heat) when we’re in our 60s is a nice idea.

It’s a good time to downsize too, in our case to be able to afford the lifestyle we hope to have.

I hate to think though, that I would spend this time, which should be liberating and exciting, sad and afraid, worrying about the future, and constraining my activities and location because I feel I need to be establish a support network so I can feel safer in ten years time. So Jess, maybe Bryce is right, and you can, in fact, retire anywhere you want!

Middle Old Age
To me this is around 70-75 – again, health willing – when it is important to establish a home base in an environment where we can enter old old age. Some people at this age move to be near their children, but we can’t do that. We will need to decide whether we want to settle down (finally!) where we live now, where we have good friends, but no family, or if we want to move near others in the family. Though the risk there is that they can always move too. So, where we will settle is still to be decided, but I'm confident we’ll get a better feel over the next 20 years!

I like to think that we can move into something like a retirement village, still with our own house or apartment, but with nearby facilities if we need them long term. Yes, we might be younger than those moving in, but I think it’s important to do it before we absolutely need to do so.

Middle Old Age is when we can maintain our existing friendships and networks, or make new ones from others in similar circumstances, or through clubs or volunteering.

We’re probably not going to be quite as adventurous in terms of travelling, but I hope we will still be able to go out and see the world. We might be doing escorted tours, rather than jumping in a car and finding our own way, and perhaps a few more cruises too. But we’ll be doing it from a home base.

It’s an age when health issues make themselves known, or when dementia can start hinting at its presence, and that’s absolutely when it is necessary to make changes to ensure that there is adequate care as the condition deteriorates. So it is a time to get those Powers of Attorney and Wills updated, and to consider living Wills/medical directives.

Old Old Age
These are the elderly years, the years when everything feels harder, even if you are still mentally alert. It’s a time when confidence falls, fear grows, and there is comfort having people around who can help if you fall. A lot of people wait until they’re this age before they look at moving, but by now the idea of moving is too daunting to be able to do it. And so they struggle, lonely and afraid. These are the years I think we worry about, and the years I want to plan for.

I think the key is having a different mindset. Whilst we can’t foresee all eventualities, and every good plan will have its flaws, we know we can’t just wait. Those who simply rely on their children to look after them in their old age are, I think, quite selfish. Being prepared, thinking in advance, and organising our affairs as much as possible, will make life easier and less uncertain for us. It will mean we will have friends around us, that we won’t be lonely, and that we’ll have support systems (whether paid, or family, or friends) in place when we need them.

The good thing too is that governments and agencies are recognising more and more that people are old and lonely. I also have no idea of the type of technology we’ll be relying on in 20-30 years, both in terms of helping us cope, but also in terms of connecting us with others. Maybe I’ll be filling my days chatting to my friends, and you all, and my overseas nieces and nephews and their children, on the Skype-equivalent of the 2030-40s, interacting with each other as if we’re having you over for lunch, or sitting down chatting over a coffee. Maybe I’ll be doing things I cannot imagine yet! My grandmother spent a lot of time phoning her friends when she was old and living alone, and felt connected that way. She could never have dreamt that I might have an online life connecting with friends all over the world, let alone how I might spend my old age.

So actually, when I think about it, the future could be quite exciting!

(And it appears I do have a plan, of sorts. Thanks for the chance to think it through here.)

15 January, 2018

Ageing without children (again)

The last few months have been busy caring for my rapidly ailing in-laws, and it is leaving little time for us to do much else, let alone look for work, travel beyond an overnight trip, work on our own garden and home maintenance projects, or – for me – no opportunity to even get out with my camera to complete some challenges in my photography course.

This last week, my in-laws Wills and POAs were updated and finalised; of course, my husband did everything, organised the lawyer, provided the drafts, talked it through with them, etc, based on his parents’ wishes.

With my MIL ailing over the last few months (she’s 94, and went through a course of chemotherapy!), we have been at least part-time carers, thinking of things they don’t think about (the chemotherapy affected MILs mental ability(, or don’t see (my FIL is going blind), and doing as much as we can without taking away their independence.

As a result, the issue of who will care for us in our old age hovers over me, although I try not to ask that question, as I’ve accepted that there will be no-one in particular we can rely on; though I hope one or two of my nieces might still be in the country.

Once again though, it is a reminder that we will need to get organised early, and live in an environment with plenty of support. We won’t have the luxury of leaving our decisions until we are in our 90s, when ultimately someone else has to make the hard calls. But in retrospect, watching my in-laws, I don’t think that is at all luxurious, or lucky.

Making positive decisions for our own personal care and welfare when we are younger and more lucid will mean that when we are elderly and vulnerable, we should already be somewhere we are comfortable (physically and emotionally) and don’t have to worry over decisions we are no longer capable of making. Maybe there are advantages to knowing that we have to do it all ourselves?

08 January, 2018

How to love well

I read a beautiful poem the other day. What struck me was the first 25% of this long, but compelling poem, Hymn by Sherman Alexie. The first three lines captured me:

Why do we measure people's capacity
To love by how well they love their progeny?
That kind of love is easy. Encoded.

They express a sentiment I’ve often thought, but could never articulate as beautifully as the poet has done. Read the rest, the author elaborates on this idea.

04 January, 2018

2017: Looking back on the blog

I know it is 2018 already, but I didn’t get around to doing a 2017 year in review. Thanks to Loribeth for reminding me by writing her own!

Travel, travel planning, and travel photography and editing got in the way of blogging in 2017, but I still managed 63 posts, so I'm pretty pleased with that. (Especially as I managed 65 posts on A Separate Life too.)

Once again, my plan to get in guest posters from my ectopic days foundered, but I haven’t given up on the idea yet. I was delighted to see one of these women, bamberlamb, start to blog at It’s Inconceivable. So every time she posts, I think I can take a bit of credit!

I added one more post to my “Gifts of Infertility” series has languished for over a year now, but there is one more to write. Finishing a series is hard, though, because what if I think of something else? lol.

I continue to find things to say, or find things I want to say again, with a slight update. My No Kidding life is the rest of my life, so I think I’ll always have things to say. The last two years I’ve spoken out in public too, and that was a big step for me.

To write this post, to be able to list my personal favourites of the year, I have spent the afternoon re-reading my words, and have actually found it quite useful. I’ve realised that I need to take my own advice more, and to apply what I have written here to broader areas of my life. Another of the gifts of infertility.

I wrote a few about how we see ourselves, and how our thinking changes:

There was the occasional rant too:

And thoughts about being an aunt:
Being a Childless Aunt

But my favourite is simply because it quotes my husband:

This is an annual nod too to Mel, who used to run the Crème de la Crème, where we would list our favourite post of the year. It always provided inspiring reading. So even though it doesn’t happen officially now, I hope that you too will list your favourite posts from your own blogs, on your blogs, for us to enjoy again (or for the first time). 

01 January, 2018

It's not all about me

When we think about the impact we might have on others' lives, it's never the things we think about. For example, one of my adult nieces recently posted on Fb about a favourite old movie, tagged her sisters, and remembered that it was a movie I had given them. One of her sisters has separately talked about some of the things we had brought them from our overseas travels, none of which I can remember.

One of my 17-year-old nieces commented that on her last trip to New Zealand, she remembered the most amazing (her words) dessert I'd made them, with chocolate trees (it was a chocolate mousse, with chocolate palm trees as decoration). To her it was important, yet until now, I have always remembered that mousse as an embarrassing failure, as it was the one time I couldn't get the egg whites properly mixed in, leaving little flecks of white through it.

We can't control how others will remember us, and they remember things we have often forgotten. So it just reminds me to be me, and not to try too hard. Because they'll remember the funny things, the small things, the things that mattered to them, not the things that mattered to me.