28 September, 2020

Cleaning up my stuff

 As we begin the long process of sorting through my in-laws' house, I once again sit back and wonder about our end of life. I'm not worried so much about who will want my stuff. I don't expect anyone will want it - and I'm okay with that. But who will clean up after us, in the way we are cleaning up after my in-laws? I look around our messiest room - the one I'm in at the moment - and think how awful it would be for someone to go through! I'

There's a thing called Swedish Death Cleaning. I can't remember where I first read about it, but it effectively means people in their retirement cleaning out their houses, getting rid of all their junk, and only keeping the relevant papers, and things that they need to live their lives. My mother did it. She didn't know she was doing Swedish Death Cleaning. But she sorted through all her closets and threw out clothes she no longer wore. She sorted through her papers, and (sometimes before I could stop her) was ruthless about what she kept and what she didn't. It made life easier for my sisters and I when she died - her small house still had plenty of stuff in it. But it was much easier to sort through. There was relatively little that needed to be thrown away.

I'm barely retired (I prefer unemployed, as it implies I am still employable!), but I need to do this. Seriously. Let's face it - if I had kids, I would still need to do it. We live in a four bedroom house that is full of our stuff. When there is space, it seems we spread out to fill it up. There are hundreds of books and papers that need to go. And clothes that I keep "just in case." Yes, maybe I need to do a Kondo number on my house. Or maybe I just need a spring clean - clean it up AND clear it out. This has always been the case, and so it isn't really Swedish Death Cleaning. But with cleaning out the in-laws' house it has become more obvious now that this is a job that will need to be done at some stage, and preferably (for my own peace of mind) sooner than later. I need to do as I say. Because this office is a bit of a dump!

22 September, 2020

Moving Forwards

I wanted to write a lot more about World Childless Week than I have been able to, due to some other events around me (FIL faded rapidly and died last week).  

The final topic of the week was Moving Forwards. I feel as if that is the topic of this entire blog – showing that it is possible to move forward, to embrace our lives, find new things we love, or find that what we have is enough. There’s no need for a big change if that’s not your style. But if it is, then embracing your No Kidding life might give you the opportunity to do so. We all know that life and obligations (yes, the childless still have obligations!) can get in the way of our ambitions. But finding what is right for us, and learning to enjoy it, is the key to happiness. That’s true for everyone. To live your life, and know that it is enough. You are enough. We are enough.

When I lost my first two pregnancies I was in the process of moving from a career that had been first in government and then a large company. Being self-employed was a dream. I set up a business, which ran for a while then was sadly neglected. Ectopic pregnancies and infertility and other opportunities got in the way. My business was to develop travel itineraries for people who want to travel, but are too busy to plan their travel. I got some clients, and did some free jobs for others, but in the midst of infertility treatments and ectopic pregnancies, found it harder to have confidence in myself, and when other opportunities came along, they took precedence. I still have the business, but it hasn’t been active for years, although I have talked about reviving it – but COVID is really the last straw!

Contract work in my former field of international consulting with developing countries and developing agencies took more of my time. I also gained a couple of directorships in this field, and – right at the time I was feeling most vulnerable around pregnancy loss and infertility – I took on a leadership role on a Board of Directors. I didn’t feel confident at all, but was encouraged by friends into the role. I’m glad I took it. And as I had healed, I changed from being a user of an Ectopic Pregnancy charity website in the UK, to being a moderator/advisor/mentor. As the years went on, I came to love and appreciate this mix of activities and interests, and for one of the first times in my life became familiar with a feeling of contentment!

It wasn’t my ideal plan B. If you can find an ideal plan B and pursue it, then you’re lucky! My life-long dream to again live and work overseas, and the opportunities to do so, could not be pursued because we felt obligated to remain in this city caring for my aged in-laws. Then job redundancy, ageism in the workplace, health issues, parental health issues and deaths and further deterioration all kept us here too. But we adapted. We travelled when we could, and how we could – a highlight was a three-month period (as part of a longer trip) in Italy when my in-laws were still capable of looking after themselves day-to-day, and we took shorter trips when a brother or a cousin and others could step in and help out if necessary. The stereotype of the childless couple that lives a free and easy life travelling the world isn’t actually that common. Because … life steps in. It doesn’t mean that we are not moving forwards. We are. Because we are designing the life we want, as much as we can do so. And to me, that is what moving forwards means.

So we take pleasure in the little things in life. I took up photography, and we appreciated the little things in life – walks around the harbour or through our native bush, short holidays, drinks and dinner with friends, blogging and writing, gardens, golf, etc etc. It has been especially helpful in the times of COVID, when travel isn’t an option anyway. We’ve learnt to adapt, and continue on with our lives, embracing what we have. I see my fellow No Kidding friends doing the same, all over the world, and I am so incredibly proud of all of us. Living our lives, with awareness and gratitude. That’s the very definition of Moving Forwards.


19 September, 2020

We are Worthy - Repost

 I wrote this for World Childless Week two years ago. It still stands. You can find the original here:

Why me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I not worthy too?

The single thought that erodes our confidence is this one. Am I still worthy if I don’t have children? Because I didn’t have children, does that mean I’m not worthy?

And perhaps the single thought that helped me change my thinking was acknowledging the inherent flaw in that earlier thought.

I looked at women who have children easily, who don't have losses, who have never lost their innocence in pregnancy. They have not been judged to be worthy, just as I have not been judged to be unworthy. I look at women who get pregnant when they don't want to. Why does this happen?  Well, just because it does. It doesn't mean that they are better than me. It doesn't mean they are luckier than me. They don't feel luckier, if the pregnancy wasn’t wanted. Those who struggle to cope physically, or financially, or emotionally, with a(nother) baby don't see the baby as a gift, even if that is how we would have seen one. I look at women with children who neglect them, abuse them, or abandon them, who expose them to violent or abusive partners, who pay more attention to their own needs than those of their child. Clearly, the biological act of having a baby is not evidence of their good character, or their good behaviour. These women are no better than me, or you. A child is never a reward for good behaviour, however much some of us might have wished that were so. Not having a baby is not a punishment, however much it might feel like that at times.

This whole idea that only the deserving get what they want is really dangerous. I could discuss its implications in wider society and even geopolitics, but I won’t. I’ll just say that it is wrong, and accepting this makes us see things differently, and see others differently.

It can though, take a while to reach acceptance. Women are very good at blaming ourselves. We search for answers. We expect answers. These days, when so much can be cured, solved, calculated or discovered, we can't understand why some of us can have babies and some of us can't. We get angry, and often, because there is no-one else we can blame, we blame ourselves. Pointlessly. Painfully. Sometimes destructively.

I've lived and travelled around the world. I have seen wonderful people in difficult circumstances. I have seen awful people with family they don't value, with riches they don't appreciate or do anything good with. I have seen beloved, kind, good friends die young, I've seen those who have been tortured and I've seen the torturers, and I've seen the selfish and even the downright evil live till they are very old. None of this is justified or right. None of this happens for a reason. None of this is because one person was judged to be worthy or not. None of this is because they were or were not being rewarded. It just is.

No Kidding women and men are worthy. They are valued members of society. Their contributions to the world are different to those of parents, but are not lesser. Their very being shows that not everyone is the same, and that this is okay. Being different does not mean less worthy. In this world we need to understand that.

Finally, I’ll leave my system of banishing negative thoughts (below) that always reminds me that I’m a decent person, deserving, worthy. We are worthy. Don't forget that.

16 September, 2020

Ageing without Children: A Summary

The World Childless Week theme for today is Ageing without Children. More specifically, it is about planning for old age. I'm looking forward to watching/listening to the webinar here too.

I've written quite a bit about planning for old age. I'm working on another post for my Separate Life blog too, because I find people with children forget to plan too. They just have fewer repercussions for not planning.

Due to elderly in-law issues today, I'm not writing anything new here right now, except for this summary of the basic tenets of my thinking about this issue. I've added links to my previous writing on the topic.

Ageing without Children Photo Text:

  1. Find joy in my old age
  2. Make decisions before it is too late
  3. Wishful thinking is not a plan
  4. Build a community
  5. Maintain kindness and a positive attitude

Links to most of my previous posts on Ageing without Children:

Ageing without Children

Ageing without Children: The Plan

Ageing without Children (#3)

Who will Advocate for the Childless?

Ageing without Children: Kindness and Attitude


Recipes as a Legacy 

Building a community 

Being alone - or not - in our old age

End of life wishes

14 September, 2020

My Story: Repost and an Update

"I didn't always want children.  I know that’s not a typical confession to hear from someone who has dealt with infertility, but I married young, and resisted and resented the almost immediate pressure I felt to have children.  I was in a new exciting world where women had a choice, and I was insulted by the inference that my biology would decide my place in the world, not my own thoughts, decisions, and talents.  My husband was a little more traditional, but he also knew who he had married, and knew I could only have children when I was ready.  So I spent many years brushing off the unwanted questions about when we were going to have children, building up the persona of the career woman who wasn’t interested in having children.  

It wasn't just about the career though.  I thought it was important to have children when I was ready, and not before.  I wanted to be a mother that was fully present for her children, not resentful of her stolen youth.  I also wanted to feel the maternal urge, and so I waited.  At times I wasn’t sure if it was going to arrive, but it ambled up to me in my mid-30s.  By the time I first conceived, I was in its full grip.  Whether it was simply biology (hormones and that ticking clock), my own natural wishes at the right time, or peer pressure, I don’t know and will never know.  But I know I genuinely wanted to be a mother. 

Of course, as is obvious now, it is not that easy.  A long story short is that two ectopic pregnancies and two failed IVFs later, I knew I would never have children.  I got the news on my 41st birthday.  I've had better birthdays.

Coming to terms with the news was not easy.  In retrospect, the persona I’d built up in the early years of my marriage – that I didn’t want children – protected me as I dealt with the realisation that I would never be a mother.  But still, it was hard.  At first, the truth of my situation hit more and more deeply.  Each time I thought “when I have a baby” or “my children will ...” the pain hit anew.  I wouldn't be having a baby.  My children would never ...  And this got worse before it got better, like punching a bruise that is already tender.

But it did get better.  Gradually I realised that punching the bruise was pointless, and so my brain trained itself not to think about the babies I didn't have, would never have.  My brain stopped me thinking of myself as a mother.  This took time.  But the good minutes, then hours, then days, then weeks, came more frequently.  At times I fought against it, feeling guilty that – on the good days - I was not grieving enough.  I wondered, if I didn't continue to grieve and mourn the life I thought I would have, then maybe that meant I didn't really ever want it, or if it meant I was upset simply because I didn't get what I thought I wanted.  So I wondered if my pain was fake, wondering if I didn't really have permission to feel pain, if it meant I in fact deserved what had happened.  Of course, now I look back and know my grief and pain was legitimate.  But still, the process of recovery itself made me feel guilty. 

But healing is a gradual process, and so gradually I realised that this endless sadness would not serve me well.  Back in the early days, immediately after my ectopic losses, I had felt the power of joy, even with something as simple as a joke on a sit-com, or the warmth of the sun on my back, a favourite song, or sitting looking out at the sea and a blue sky.  Grasping joy as it came, even when it was fleeting, was what healed me.

I realised too that feeling happy was not a betrayal, either of my lost babies, or of mine and my husband’s dreams.  Feeling happy with my life did not mean I didn't want children enough, or that I didn't grieve enough.  In fact, I felt strongly that I needed to be happy, to live well, in order to honour my losses, my pain.  I still do.  And so I guess I made the choice to be happy. 

I didn't come to this insight overnight.  It took time.  I read books written by those who had gone before me, and – on an internet forum I frequented and that had saved my soul in my darkest days of loss – I in turn shared my experiences with those who came after me.  Helping them, responding to their raw grief, even whilst I was still healing myself, showed me how far I had come, and gave me insight into my own healing.  Learning to find happiness, and value, out of what I had been through seemed to make sense of my loss.  And so, over several years, I was able to let go of the guilt. 

And letting go of that guilt opened up the world to me.  I was able to take joy in the aspects of my life that wouldn't be possible if I had children. I was able to read, and believe, research that promised that those of us without children would be able to have a happy life, and a happier old age.  I realised that I may not have got what I wanted, but that’s not always a bad thing.  I learned the secret of happiness is not to have what you want, but to want what you have.

I am happy.  I have a good life.  No, a great life!  I’m currently still basking in the memories of six weeks in Turkey and Europe – I couldn't have done that with kids. I'm so much more in touch with myself now, my emotions, my talents and yes, even my flaws. Maybe especially my flaws. I suspect age has something to do with that.  But I also think that my infertility and loss has tempered me, forged me into who I am today, someone who is wiser, kinder, more compassionate, more realistic, and yet more optimistic too; someone who is contented, happy.  Someone I like."

That was my story nine years ago almost exactly. Fbk keeps reminding me that this time in 2011, I was staying in a cave hotel in Cappadoccia/Kapadokya. It was a fabulous trip, with a lot of firsts - four new countries, ballooning, a cruise. We were gloriously childfree on that trip, and since then I've been fortunate to take a few more wonderful trips, both internationally and in New Zealand, that I wouldn't have taken with children. Life has indeed been good.

Looking back at when I was first learning to accept I would live my life without children, I had this fantasy that I would buy a bright red convertible, the opposite of the big child-ferrying buses some of my friends drove, just because I could. But work and travel and reality took over. Plus a number of factors, including a) I like to be anonymous, b) I live in a city that is not known for its large number of "top-down" days, and c) I have a family history of skin cancer and like to limit my sun exposure, meant that I was never really going to get a convertible! Actually, I'm fine with that, because the idea of the red convertible symbolised the freedom that I felt at the time, the travelling I was able to do, the choices I was able to make.

But life doesn't always allow us to make the most of that freedom. Life changes. It intervenes in plans and dreams - lost jobs and a tough job market and major house maintenance expenses, a hysterectomy and broken ankle and trigeminal neuralgia, care of elderly relatives and the death of my mother and my mother-in-law, and this week, probably my father-in-law. Even a pandemic! None of these troubles are unique to me, or - mostly - to my childless situation. They're just life. Sure, life without kids has its issues. But I'm aware of those. After so many years, I'm used to them. I don't like them all, but I'm used to them. They're part of me, and make me who I am. They've taught me so much about myself. They've taught me that I'll get through the tough parts of life, and they've taught me to appreciate life's joys. A lot of people never learn that.

If this is an honest update, I have to say that I'm probably less contented and happy than I was seven years ago. As I've mentioned, life hasn't always been easy the last nine years. And this year is 2020! So all things considered, I'm doing fine. After all, the whole world is struggling. But being childless? I'm not struggling with that. It's part of me - the good and the bad. And you know? That's okay too. 


World Childless Week

Today World Childless Week begins. You can find more about it here, including the events being held around it. For weeks I've been planning to write posts on the daily themes for this year, because I'm always looking for new topics to write about. They are:

Monday 14th - Our Stories
Tuesday 15th - Diversity
Wednesday 16th - Ageing without Children
Thursday 17th - Men Matter Too
Friday 18th - Comments that Hurt
Saturday 19th - We are Worthy
Sunday 20th - Moving Forwards

However, as the Childless Week dawned this morning, I acknowledge that the truth is that I've already written about many of these topics, many times. They're all important topics. Topics that are real, that are ongoing issues for us all living our No Kidding lives.

When I started writing this this morning, I was planning a few days away with my husband, something we've been meaning to do for almost a year, but caring for my father-in-law and then COVID-19 means it has been put off on a regular basis. We're now able to move around the country, and we were looking forward to a short road trip to a sunny wine region. So I was planning just reposting on these topics. However, since then, we've had to cancel our plans, so I might have more time to write something new.  Today (in a separate post) I have updated My Story.

I applaud Stephanie Phillips, Founder of World Childless Week, for bringing the issues and joys of our minority to the world. And I applaud everyone who is writing this week, or speaking out on social media or via interviews, podcasts or videos, or who are joining the webinars. There's going to be a lot to read and absorb, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure you'll all find someone's words at #worldchildlessweek that you can relate to, that provide comfort or inspiration, or simply help you feel less alone. Because you're not alone. We're all here with you.



07 September, 2020

Silver Linings

I’ve been blogging for a long time now. It’s part of my life. I’ve been blogging for 14 years now, and here at No Kidding in NZ, I will soon have my 10 year anniversary. When I began writing here, I had already been through infertility, and those early, painful years of adapting to my No Kidding life. I have readers here who are at a similar stage (and age), and I have readers who are more recently navigating their No Kidding lives without children. Sometimes, when I am writing, I have to balance the dangers of repeating myself with the dangers of assuming that others know what I have written before. This was at no time more obvious than my post a few days ago, and a comment that was left there. I didn’t want to make the post long-winded, and so I edited in and out and in and finally out again, a particular phrase acknowledging that my words might be painful to others. Perhaps I should have left it in, because a commenter clearly struggled with my suggestion that we can feel good about our lower environmental impact. I understand this. I’ve also heard this before, in much blunter language! I wrote about it here.

It is really hard to move from the idea of a life that we wanted, that we had hoped would bring us joy, to the life that we had actively not wanted. In those early days, weeks, months, and even years, after ending our journey, any suggestion that life will not be so bad can feel like a betrayal - a betrayal of our pain, a betrayal of the life we had wanted. Feeling any joy in our new No Kidding lives can also feel like a betrayal. I get that. I felt it. Even when I knew it wasn’t true.  And so, when those of us who are much further on make comments that there are advantages, or silver linings, to our lives without children, it can really hurt. Not in the same way, I think, as when people with children tell us how lucky we are to <fill in the blank> because we don’t have children. But it can hurt nonetheless, because it feels like we are diminishing or denying their pain, betraying our own history of pain.

If I have done this, I apologise. I don’t want to make anyone feel that I am not fully recognising their pain. I don’t. I’ve been through it. I remember it. I’ve written about it frequently. But I no longer feel it in the same way. And I write this blog, not to complain about the many things we have lost (although I feel free to do so when I’ve felt isolated, ignored, dismissed or forgotten), but to talk about my life and No Kidding lives as honestly as I can, the bad and the good, what helped me to heal, and hopefully, to a small extent, shining the way for those who follow.

When I talk about the good things about my life now, many of them are because I don’t have children. I wrote a whole series on the Gifts of Infertility pointing out the positive things that came from that, and came from my subsequent childlessness. I can feel much better about my environmental impact now than if I had children. That’s a fact. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t want children enough. It doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten the pain I felt. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel sad yesterday when it was Father’s Day in NZ and Australia, and my husband’s brothers’ wives were sending photos of their celebrations for their husbands, without a word to my husband. Ouch. It doesn’t mean in any way that I deny the tremendous pain that I know many people are enduring, as they begin to navigate their way down that road less travelled or decide to walk through that forgotten door in the Infertility Waiting Room.

But denying ourselves experiences of joy, of gratitude, and of appreciation for our new lives is just as sad. We’ve already lost the life we thought we would have. Let’s not lose the life that we do have now, or the one that we can build when we have begun to heal. That would be tragic, such an unnecessary loss upon so many other losses. I would hate to see any of my readers do this.

But it takes time, to heal. It takes time to lose the feelings of guilt and betrayal. It takes time to say good-bye to our losses, and embrace our new lives. Many people struggle with the very idea that this might be possible. They might even get angry at the suggestion that they will heal. That’s completely normal. I get it. But when they give themselves time, when WE give ourselves time, it is also completely normal to move through the grief, to appreciate our new lives, and to see and cherish the silver linings.

A selection of my posts that address this from various angles:

Infertility’s Waiting Room

Gifts of Infertility and 2020 No Kidding Healing Project

Childlessness, pain and healing

Feeling left behind

A message to those who are hurting

The process of acceptance

It gets easier

You won’t always be sad




04 September, 2020

Childlessness and the environment

When I wrote my post Ten Ways the Childless Limit their Environmental Impact I forgot to list the biggest way our environmental impact is reduced. I was reminded of it by a comment on a social media group for those who are ageing without children, just after I had written my post. "Of course!" I said, embarrassed that I hadn't included it, although I kind of touched on it when I talked about housing.

Our environmental impact ends with us. We don't have children who go on to place stress on this already stressed planet, by doing all the things we all do (or did) - require food, clothing, housing, heating and/or cooling, transportation, technology, etc. We don't have children who have more children who go on to place stress on this planet. 

Feeling good? Good, you should.  This is one of the silver linings of infertility. And one of the best ways we can contribute to the future of other people's children.

Did I miss any other points?



01 September, 2020

Feminism and childlessness

 I was prompted to write* this by a BBC article on a UN Gender Study which “found that 90% of people hold some sort of bias against women.”

 “How depressing,” I thought. “How depressing that it is so unsurprising.”

 I think I’ve been a feminist since I was a little girl. I was certainly a feminist before I was officially “No Kidding” or childless, before I entered the workforce, and before puberty. It’s how I see the world. How the world has seen me. And so of course, reading these articles, my mind immediately went to how frustrating it is in our lives when we are pigeon-holed by society, in business, politics and government, healthcare, sport, the arts, domestic arrangements, etc. You name it! We are further constrained by our parental status – whether as a mother, or as a childless, No Kidding woman. I took it a bit further, seeing that discrimination against us, as women without children or as mothers, is a form of misogyny. It does not see us as individuals, but as objects, and judges us by our biology, rather than by our personalities, our characteristics, our flaws and our talents.

Motherhood, as great as it may be, has been a way of keeping women in control and at home. It is seen as “women’s work” and isn’t paid. It is belittled, generally by men, who seem to – in general – escape the really hard work that mothers do. How often do we hear praise for a man doing – for maybe an afternoon, or a couple of days – what their partners/wives have been doing for years? Even now, even in 2020? In pandemic lockdowns, who has been doing the childcare and home-schooling, even whilst trying to hold down their jobs when working from home?

 I’ve often wondered why, in the last twenty years or so, there has been such a rise in the cult of motherhood, even at the same time that there has been a rise in expectations of what women need to do to be considered “a good mother.” It seems as if we can’t win. You can’t win if you are not a mother. You can’t win if you are. You can’t win if you are anything less than “perfect.” And who decides what is “perfect?”

People, even women who have achieved things no other woman has achieved before them, struggle with change. I wrote some time ago about working with New Zealand’s first woman trade commissioner. Like so many women who achieved in the 1970s and earlier, Frances never married. There was no legitimate reason for her to stay at home. There was no legitimate reason for them to discriminate against her at work – they couldn’t argue that sending her to an overseas posting was going to mean that her husband’s career (like husband’s 20 years later) would suffer. She was so accustomed to the system and the times that she was surprised when she discovered I hadn’t changed my name when I married. I wasn’t the only woman in my department who had done that – many of my best friends were there, and didn’t change their names, or never married their partners – but maybe I was the first she asked about it. “Is that legal?” she said. Then, still struggling with the concept that my “maiden,” unmarried, name was simply my name just like her name was also the name she was born with, she asked what name my passport was in.

She struggled with change. Many women struggle with change, and struggle to see women in positions of authority, or women expecting help at home with the kids. “I didn’t have that, and survived okay,” they may think. Sometimes I wonder if it is jealousy. Or disappointment that they didn’t have the options. Women who have not had careers (either by choice or forced by society’s strictures) or those who have always worked for men, may struggle with the idea that one woman can be above them, when they are accustomed to seeing men making the decisions, getting all the power. They still use the old misogynistic standards of success and power because they’ve been brain-washed. They cannot imagine that women could be just as powerful. (And I haven’t even touched on the whole sexual objectification of women. That would keep me here all week!) Men, of course, struggle with the idea that they may lose their place and privilege. However powerless they might be, they like to feel that someone is beneath them. Power systems are taught, on both sides of the power gap. Discrimination is taught. Ultimately, misogyny is taught. 

And I think that’s why some women with children often look down on those of us without. So they infantalise us, pity us, put us in a box that is lower than them. They want to feel a little superior to someone else, when they may feel constrained or judged. I’ve written about that elsewhere. I think it’s why some of the vehemently childfree object to those of us who are No Kidding but don’t want to be called childLESS, usingthe label childfree. They don’t think we deserved it.  

But my point of all this is that we women** have so much in common. None of us wants to be judged because of our biology and what it can or cannot do, or to be restricted because of who society perceives us to be. We should remember that. We’re all women. We don’t need to turn on each other. We’re in this together.


 * Apologies to any No Kidding writers who covered these articles already. Let me know in the comments if you did.

** Further apologies to any male readers of my blog. This one was just for the women. I’m sure you can relate to a lot of it though.