Some months ago, I heard an interview discussing failure and resilience. I forgot who it involved, but I think it was about Linda Graham, and her book Resilience. She talked about dealing with disappointments and failure, about bouncing back, and a number of things I thought were relevant for those of us who haven’t had children.
The most important topic was that of failure. It's not a word* I like, for a lot of reasons. But for those of
us who are childless not by choice, failure is – to be blunt – how we got here.
Or should I say, that is too often what we think and fear when we enter our No
Kidding lives. It is common – dare I suggest, universal? – to feel as if we
have failed, whether we have not been able to conceive or carry to term, have
not been able to adopt, have not found the person we want to have children
with, or who wants to have children with us. We berate ourselves – should we
have done more, done it earlier, done it differently? We aren’t kind to
ourselves. We aren’t always rational. We are often distraught in our failure. I
think that is why we so often feel shame. The shame of failure. I know I did.
And that’s because we personalise it. It failed – the medical technology, or the adoption process, or broader society failed. It doesn’t mean that I am a failure. It might be my body that technology couldn't help, but I personally am NOT a failure. And neither are you. Realisation that it was the process that din't work, not us, comes sooner to some than others. It helps us recognise that there is no shame involved. It helps us understand the situation we find ourselves in, rather than fear it. It helps us accept that so much of life is really just luck. It is random. There’s no blame involved. That’s critical to me. My favourite quote, as so many of you know, is that of Gertrude Stein, saying “there is no answer, there never was an answer, that is the answer.” It was a huge help to me, and enabled me to grieve without blame, and without shame.
That acceptance of the situation we are in allows us to stop turning inwardly on ourselves. We can then start showing self-compassion, and start thinking about the future –about how we can navigate the future in our new No Kidding lives.
The interviewee pointed out that when don’t personalise failure, we leave ourselves free to try again, or to try something new. That is so important. That freedom to turn our efforts and hope to something new – to our No Kidding lives without children – opens us up to successful lives, lives where we can be happy, kind, and generous. Lives where we can look outwardly. Lives we can embrace fully. And that is what resilience looks like to me. As I've written before, I often think that we are real success stories. And we should be proud of that.