28 August, 2023

No Kidding absences

 A friend was telling me about a colleague's wife she goes walking with. The colleague and his wife are much older, and starting to think about where they will spend their final years. They have children, but they all live in other countries, at least one long haul flight away, so the parents know they need to sort things out themselves. 

As my friend (also Not Kidding) said to me, "so much for having kids to look after you in your old age." And yes, we laughed. 

I've just heard a man on the "Proud Parents" section on a radio show I listen to regularly. I roll my eyes a little at the name of the section, and the existence for it, but although I've only heard it twice, each time it has been a proud father talking about daughters, daughters who live on the other side of the world. You can hear that they miss having their children near them. 

Still, if those parents needed their children, you can be pretty sure they would be on the first flight home. And the elderly couple can delay making a decision about where to live, because they have the back up of their children, even though they are far flung. They want to leave the decision until they "have to," but don't realise that that will be too late. When you "have to" move, it means you're not capable of staying in your existing accommodation. Which means that you also may not be capable of organising or making the move itself. They have people who can help. We don't.

I'm not sure even parents with children who live far away ever understand quite how isolated and alone many of us feel. Sure, they feel the absence of the children in their lives, and that must be very hard. But do they understand the finality of the absences we feel? I wonder. 

Well ... that took a gloomy detour from what I had originally intended to write. Which was simply that we may have more in common with some parents than we realise. Except, of course, that too often, we don't.

22 August, 2023

Acceptance in fiction

I recently read Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. Huge thanks to Jess for reviewing and recommending it. It looks at five women – each dealing with different issues around motherhood, including being single, assisted reproduction, wanting to complete your family when a spouse doesn’t, an unwanted pregnancy, abortion, adoption, and more. I loved it. I loved the presentation of the different perspectives, each of them valid, each of them real. (I also love the title.)

One character in particular, who is trying to conceive but trying also to accept that she may not, explores the thinking processes with which we are probably all familiar.

“Acceptance, thinks the biographer, is the ability to see what is. But also to see what is possible.”

That really sums it up. We don’t have to have liked “what is.” But we have no choice, and therefore looking forward to see what is possible makes our life meaningful. And not to see what is possible, but only to mourn what is not possible, is a tragedy. A loss of two lives.

The same character later:

“How can she tell her students to reject the myth that their happiness depends on having a mate if she believes the same myth about having a child?”


“There are millions of things the biographer will never do that she doesn’t pity herself for missing. (Climbing a mountain, cracking a code, attending her own wedding.) So why this thing?”

I’ve listed the things I’ll never do a number of times. The things I’ll never do because I won’t be a mother (here and here), but also those other things I’ll never do in an old blog here. Like learn to ski, sing confidently, be fluent in a language other than English (which is not to say I haven’t tried), not be afraid of heights, and a myriad other activities that I can’t do. I mourn some of them from time to time (I’d love to be able to ski), but just accept others, and even embrace others I am glad I never did.

At the end of the book, the same character recognises that she “wants more than one thing.”

“She wants to stretch her mind wider than “to have one.”
Wider than “not to have one.”
To quit shrinking life to a checked box, a calendar square. ...
To see what is. And to see what is possible."
I like the fact that this character asks questions of herself, even if for much of the book she isn’t quite ready to give herself the answers she knows are there. Because the character is still very much in the yearning stage, but starting to see what might be beyond that. If there were more chapters, or a follow-up book, then the character could and should develop further. That she could come to embrace “what is possible” and accept the “I will nevers” as dreams that were lost, in order to make way for dreams to come. I’ve seen it happen in myself, and I’ve seen it time and time again with women online, first in my support group, then online with blogs and other communities. We do move on. We do accept, and we live and love the life which is possible.


14 August, 2023

People who hurt us: World Childless Week

I’m starting to think about World Childless Week 2023, and the topics that are up for discussion this year. There are the usual Moving Forwards, We are Worthy, and #Iamme categories. I've contributed to them a couple of times, and might do the #Iamme again this year too. I love these topics because different people comment every year, can remember that they are more than just being childless, and we can all be reminded that yes, we ARE worthy, and that we do move forwards regardless.

There is a category this year that I think is really interesting. It is a “Letter to the Person who Hurt Me the Most.” Writers are encouraged to release their anger, disbelief, confusion and rage. I’ve been living a No Kidding life for almost twenty years now, so my memories might have faded a little. But I realise that I’ve also been lucky. There is no one person who “ripped my childless heart apart.” Yes, I heard some unkind thoughtless comments over the years, and they have stayed with me, at times inspiring blogs. You may recognise some of these:

  •  “You never had anything so you never lost anything.”
  •  “Childless people don’t know what they’re missing. So my pregnancy loss is more painful than theirs.”
  •  “Childless people’s lives don’t change.
  • Childless people are superfluous.
  • “What’s wrong with you?”
  • “As a mother I …”
  • “You need to hold someone else’s baby. The Chinese believe that will help you conceive.”
  • “I don’t care if I have a miscarriage. I know I can always get pregnant again.”
  • “No-one cares about travel photos, only family photos.”
  • “You don’t care about the future because you don’t have kids?”
  • “My wife never had any problems.”
  • “Tough, that’s life!”

Actually, several of the above comments came from one person, ironically someone I will see in the next few weeks. I’m shrugging. I don’t expect that particular person to ever be more thoughtful. The one time I called them out (in an extremely mild way) resulted in an attack on me, and one of the comments above. So I don’t need to write a letter to them.

Also, actions speak louder than words. The parent friends who never/rarely invited me to babysit or to the kids’ birthday parties. The family member who said they would never acknowledge a theoretical adopted child as a member of the family, and acted accordingly. The family members who ignored our wishes and efforts and circumstances, but always made excuses for the bad behaviour of those who were parents in the family. The genealogists who marginalised us, and the older family members who implied we were irrelevant. The bloggers who wanted us silenced when we wanted to have our realities acknowledged and considered.

And then there were the things that were not said. Never being asked about how we felt. Never having the realities of our life acknowledged. Never being told they were sorry.

But I’ve gone over and over these comments, actions, and silences over twenty years, and don’t want to re-enter that world of anger and hurt. It’s not going to help me. But it might help you, or others who are not as distanced from the grieving periods. But there will be a lot of women and men who have been tremendously hurt, but have hidden that. They may have hidden their anger too. Maybe they’ve even suppressed it out of misperceived guilt. Maybe it has destroyed their confidence, silencing them. This could be a way to reclaim that. This could be a wonderful opportunity to get some things off your chest. You can do it anonymously too. I admit I’m looking forward to the writings in this category, as it could be cathartic. But I’m dreading it a little, too.

Have a look at the other topics in this year’s World Childless Week. Think about making a submission. I’m keen to see what people might come up with. I’m going to think some more on these issues - hopefully before the deadline of 27 August!


08 August, 2023

Quotes and Memes: Learning from others

I don’t always agree with memes and quotes I see around social media. In fact, I often disagree with them. Or despair at the way they have been misappropriated. And I often shake my head when someone uses them to imply that they are correct on a particular issue, but I feel that the meme actually points out the reasons why the exact opposite is true. But don’t get me started on that! Occasionally though, I will screenshot one that I think applies to our No Kidding lives. Here are a couple:

One I saw recently (unattributed) asked us to,

“Think about how much you’ve grown since the event you thought would end you.”

I loved that. Most of us have grown an enormous amount since we realised – slowly or abruptly – that we were never going to have children. Some people get stuck, forever grieving, unable to accept or move forwards. But most don’t. I for one have learned resilience, gratitude, self-compassion and compassion for others, courage, acceptance, and much more. Even in the midst of my grief, I learned to find joy in small things, to appreciate what I have, and to accept that which could not be changed. I see this every day in other bloggers too. We grow, even when we’re in pain, even if we didn’t want to grow this way. And after a while, that growth brings joy and confidence and freedom. We can appreciate the growth, even if we do not appreciate the circumstances that led to that growth.

Another meme quoting a poet, Camille Dungy, gave us good advice – whether you are a writer or not.

“Beware of being so certain of what you want to say that you stop yourself from learning what you need to discover.”

I have found this time and time again as I have written this blog, and read other blogs. Often I will start a blog on a specific topic, and by the time I have ended I discover I’ve said something quite different to what I had expected. Indeed, sometimes my conclusions are the exact opposite of what I set out to say! Writing gives me time to think, and helps me figure out what I really want to say, what I mean, and what I actually think and believe. I am thankful that here in the welcoming and compassionate and wise No Kidding community, I have been given the space to explore my thoughts and feelings, and to expand my understanding and knowledge of the world and myself. Too often, elsewhere, we are unable to work things through like that, for fear of what other people might think, say, or how they might judge. I am forever grateful that blogging-land has given me the chance to learn who I am, and what values are important to me.