25 July, 2022

My Childless Relationship with the School Term

I have little to say this week. It is winter in New Zealand, and apart from the occasional beautiful, calm but cold day, the last week or two has been quite miserable. Of course, it coincided with the two-week winter school holidays, when families travel around the country, keen for a break in the middle of the winter, and those of us without kids possibly do as we do. That is, we hibernate. The habit might have started when we first found it painful to see happy families out and about, but now we do it because it fits our lifestyle. We’ve hardly gone out, postponing movies or shopping expeditions for when the kids are safely back at school, and have largely enjoyed staying inside, being cosy, and curling up with a good book. It’s a good combination. We don’t get in the way of families who are out and about and visiting our city, we get to avoid the possibility/likelihood of colds, flu and covid, save money on travel costs, and don’t resent it because the weather is nasty anyway. 

We are always most active when school is in term, and least active during the school holidays. We plan international travel according to holidays here, and holidays in our intended destination. (Our big exception some years ago was going to Rome in July, which was not a great decision because it was a) very hot and b) very crowded, full of families travelling in their northern school break.) Having the flexibility to travel out of season is one of the great benefits of being a No Kidding traveller. And even when we stay at home, we do everything the opposite of those with kids.

School went back today. We can go out again. See some movies. Eat out for lunch. Shop for those new walking shoes I need. But you know what? It’s just started raining again, and is cold today. Maybe I’ll put off venturing out until tomorrow!

From my post "The Childless Women's Guide ..."





19 July, 2022

Ageing without Children (Again)

Last weekend, the 2022 Childless Collective Summit was held. I looked at the topics, and there was only one talk that I really wanted to see. One out of forty! A lot of it focused on infertility, grief, and learning to cope with and embrace your childless life. As that's what I've been writing about for over a decade here, and reading about for longer, I didn't feel the need to watch all the talks, though I am very glad that they were there for others who need them. I don't know if they're still available - though I think you can still sign up for the longer term membership that gives you access to all of the discussions.

The talk I did want to see was - surprise surprise! - Jody Day's discussion about Embracing Childless Elderhood. As any of my readers know, it is a subject I have paid some attention to over the years. In case you can't access it online, I will pull out a few of the key issues (for me) from the talk.

Jody is increasingly focus on ageing without children, and the issues around it, as she (like me) approaches the birthday with a zero with a big six in the front! I of course was hooked when she started talking about language, and in particular the language around older women, noting that the only positive word for such women is grandmother. All other words have negative connotations - I referenced just last week my dislike of the word crone. Hence her use of "elderwomen," which I am coming to like. 

She talked about the wisdom that starts coming with age. Though sometimes I wonder if it is solely with age, and if perhaps the wisdom we notice is because we have been through traumatic events or experiences, and having to readjust to the idea of a life that was not the one we expected encourages us to think more deeply, to reflect on our lives past and future, and to rethink our priorities. That wisdom, if I may be so bold, is invaluable, and sometimes puts us ahead of others who haven't been through these things. And she mentioned the fact that without children, we don't have any obvious recipients for sharing that wisdom. And that might be another loss. I think that's why I blog. I can put it all out here, and hope that someone gets something from it. As I've said many times before, I do not think we have to have children to leave a legacy, but do it in many other ways. 

Jody talked about the five myths she has identified about growing older without children. I didn't manage to take note of them all, though I doubt that any of my readers will be surprised by any of them. Issues like legacy (which I have covered several times here), like support networks, like loneliness, or the "Golden Girls" myth, which made me laugh, because I have single, parent friends who talk about doing this with their other single parent friends. (My husband and I were not included, even though I jokingly suggested he could be our "handyman" if we joined their group. Sigh.) In relation to this, Jody asked, "what happens if your friend gets dementia?" This is an excellent point, but one which most people don't think about. It reminded me of talking with a woman whose friends had built "their last house" in a nearby country town. "Does it have steps or stairs?" I asked. "Because if not, it's probably not their last house." She had never even thought about this.

Much of the discussion talked about support networks and socialising with other generations. I found this part of it quite depressing. I know I've talked about support networks before, and I know I need to extend my friend/acquaintance network. But I found myself a bit depressed by this discussion, for two reasons. The first was the reminder that society largely relies on the unpaid labour of women in caring for the elderly. My elder sister and I did most things for my mother, as her dementia deteriorated. Even though the state provided daily "check" visits, some cleaning, and weekly supermarket shopping trips, once my mother was no longer able to drive. It was similar with my father-in-law. We saw both the wonderful value of this help, but also the shortfalls of it. Still, dealing with the "system" on top of their physical and mental needs was where we were best able to help. Knowing there will be no-one who can do that for us has motivated us to think about ways around this. I've covered some of that here.

The second reason I was depressed was the pressure it put on me to have a multi-generational support network. I am lucky. I have two nieces still in this country, and one great-nephew. But that's it. I'm not naturally easy with younger generations, though I can make good connections when I have the opportunity. But I don't have activities that expose me to them, and I can't quite imagine what I could do that would do that. Building contacts amongst the younger generations is easier said than done. Parents are busy, sometimes possessive, and don't always invite others to be part of their circle, to get to know their kids. I've talked of this elsewhere too, noting that it would help both parents and the No Kidding if this happened more. So I felt as if I was being blamed for my lack of contacts. In general, I'm pretty good at making myself do things I'm not comfortable with. I'm shy, but I have forced myself to meet strangers, make cold calls, walk into rooms where I know nobody, etc. But I'm tired of that, and don't t want to have to force myself out into the world, doing things I don't want to do, with people I don't want to do it with, just to expand my social network. It sounds too much like my old work days! <much stamping of feet> Now, I feel a bit better this morning when I think about it. I know it is necessary. I've certainly acknowledged that in part, and I'm glad Jody raised it. But I know too that it is so much harder for some people than it is for others. And that's hard, when we know our parent friends probably don't have to do it quite as much as we do, and that society doesn't really care, or make any provisions for this to happen.

My final point is that I felt the different stages of ageing were largely ignored. (I touched on this in my post Ageing without Children: The Plan.) Now, that's probably because Jody only had a limited time in which to make her many, excellent points! Ageing on its own is a huge subject, let alone dealing with being childless at the same time. But when we talk about older women being wise, having a lot of skills to impart, being active and activist, we're really talking about what I think of as early "old age." It's the vibrant, exciting, free time when most of us are still relatively healthy, active, and alert, and have so much to offer the community, the world. That part of ageing doesn't worry me, but it is the stage of ageing that gets a lot of advocacy, primarily because the people doing the advocacy are that age. I'm enthusiastic about it, and ready to get started (once that birthday is over of course). It is the end stage of old old age that is really most concerning, when health goes, dementia may set in, etc. And the answers of how to deal with that are still few and far between. I think that is what Jody is going to be working on. I hope so, and I'm keen to contribute to her work on it, if she'll have me. Regardless, it is what I will continue to think about and talk about here too, as we all get older, as we enter the planning stages for that stage of our lives.

Finally, Jody recommended a number of books about ageing that I am keen to read. I'll review them here if/when I do.

And I leave you with these five points from my post that summarised a series on Ageing without Children back in 2020.

12 July, 2022

Pronatalism and Menopause

The other day, I was thinking about pronatalism (prompted by a blogging friend), and got rereading some posts about pronatalism* in action. Just as I believe that feminism helps men as well as women, I believe pronatalism hurts all women in some ways, especially overly active and hostile pronatalism. It both denigrates those of us who don’t procreate or raise children as being of less value in society, and creates a division between parents and non-parents (and in particular, mothers and non-mothers) that hurts, rather than benefits, all our communities.

But pronatalism hurts all women in other ways. Society’s attitudes towards menopause and women post-menopause is a classic example of pronatalism in action. When biologically there is no chance of having women, "society" decides that women have no worth. Sure, there are some esteemed outliers who have led countries during and after menopause (in recent years, Helen Clark, Julia Gillard, and most notably, Angela Merkel), and other high-achieving women who are the exceptions to this rule (despite the pronatalism they have to battle to be accepted and recognised equally in their roles). But in general, women post-menopause often say that they feel invisible. (I had originally written that they are “described as being invisible” but that would be untrue, as they/we are frequently ignored from the conversation entirely.) They are rarely considered to be desirable. (I’ve written before about my discomfort of the word crone which is often used to describe post-menopausal women.) Whereas older men might be valued for their wisdom and experience, or described as “distinguished,” women tend to be ignored in this way, treated more as if their knowledge and experience is no longer relevant (in any field - parenting/politics/business/science/sport/arts etc), and considered to be in aged decrepitude rather than the ”crowning wisdom” of their age. It’s such an incredible waste of millions of lifetimes of experience and hard-won understanding, compassion, and wisdom. And I blame pronatalism for that.

We need to consider that the world is diverse, and that women (and men) do not fit into one pattern of life, behaviour, or role. It hurts** all of us when we do that.


* pronatalism = the promotion of childbearing and parenthood as desirable for society, meaning parents are deemed to have more value than non-parents

**This reminds me that there’s a recent podcast discussing Why Does Dismantling Pronatalism Even Matter?, featuring Jody Day, and although I have yet to listen to it, I suspect it might support my views. I think I need to go listen to it now!

Note: My series of posts on a No Kidding menopause can be found here.

04 July, 2022

Monday Miscellany: No Kidding version

I'm having real problems commenting on blogger (blogspot) blogs at the moment, when I'm logged into my google profile. I even can't comment on my own blog! I don't know what's going on, but I'm trying to keep commenting either under a different login, or my Separate Life profile. Maybe I just need to upgrade my browser? I always use Firefox for No Kidding and ALI blogs, and Chrome for my other blog (so I can be logged in under the two different profiles at the same time). I wonder if anyone is having trouble commenting here? (I guess if you are, you can't tell me about it - doh! - or maybe you could do it as Anonymous.)

(Edit: I've rebooted and run a cache cleaner etc and refreshed my browser, and seem to be able to comment again. Yay!)

I just had some physiotherapy on an arm issue I've had for about 8 months, and aside from appreciating the neck and arm massage, I had a lovely chat with my physiotherapist, who was talking about becoming a women's health physiotherapist. She has fertility issues, and her mother had unexplained fertility issues, and we talked about the need for women's health to be top of mind, both in terms of treatment, politics, and education. It was great to find a kindred spirit. And I hope she gets to overcome her issues. As she said, she wants to have the choice. 

The Aust/NZ Childless/Childfree Fbk group I have joined keeps me amused with interesting articles and commentary, and funny memes. It's much more upbeat than the other generic (UK based) group I belong to, and helps us feel both understood, and good about our no kidding situations. That's invaluable. The discussion is real, honest, and often points out the benefits of not having kids, as well as the pitfalls. The humour is a little irreverent in an ANZAC way, and I really like that. And of course it reminds childLESS and childFREE of the commonalities of our lifestyle, and of society's views of us. If you're an Aussie or a Kiwi, check it out.

The aforementioned social media group let me know that there's a new book coming out from a Wellington author. I'm going to get her book (if it means a trip to the wonderful Unity Books, I'll go there personally, because their website isn't helping me order it at the moment!), but if you can't get it, this article is excellent. I love the title, "No Miracle Baby to See Here." Isn't that perfect? Because so many of us complain about articles about infertility that end in the miracle baby! She debunks a lot of myths (adoption, etc), and I loved her section where she talked about people assuming she has kids.  She said, 

"...if I like them, I rescue them. I’ll say something like Maybe you’ve seen me with my niece and nephew. But most of the time I just let them flounder. They’ve assumed I’ve got kids because they do, because most people do. Or maybe they assume I’ve got kids because I seem like someone who understands the true meaning of love, and they’re flustered to discover I don’t. Hey, I think I’ve earned the right to make that joke."

I saw another article, Who Does Better Aging Alone? It talks about the various networks older people living alone might have (family/kin based, child-based, limited, friend-based, or diverse), and who suffers from depression, satisfaction with their lives, etc. It's worth a read, and shows me that just because people might live with others, they are no more satisfied with their lives, and sometimes less, than those living on their own with a good network of friends. A key point was having people you could talk to about your lives, which I find interesting. Another reminder to build my friend network - mine is too narrow!