It is World Childless Week.
Today we are talking about the comment parents make, “you’re so lucky to not have kids” and the question, “Do you consider yourself lucky?”
If I’d been told 20 years ago that I was lucky to not have kids I would have been angry. Such a comment ignores what I have lost, minimises it, dismisses it. I’ve long known that most people don’t see our losses, ever since a friend said, “but you never had anything, so you haven’t lost anything,” as I was recovering from my second ectopic pregnancy. That feeling of being misunderstood is not new to me. But twenty years on, I know now that the comment “you are lucky” tells me more about the mindset of the questioner than it does about my own life.
Yes, I would still be annoyed today that someone could be so thoughtless. But I also see that for many, the grass is always greener on the other side. Being a parent is difficult. Being childless is difficult. And if all we can do is envy the other side, then we are stuck in a mindset of envy, of dissatisfaction, and unable to see the realities of life. No one lifestyle is perfect, without trouble or hardship, without heartache. A parent who looks at our lives and thinks we are free and easy with no responsibilities is being shallow and thoughtless. And if those of us without children envy parents, then we are ignoring the realities of their lives, the stress, the difficulties, and the worry that come along with the joy and love for which we have yearned. Ignoring the complexities of life is superficial thinking. Sadly, we are all guilty of it from time to time.
Yes, there are many times I feel lucky not to have children, just as there are many times when I do not feel lucky. There is a long list of things I will never do because I don’t have children, but equally there is a long list of things I can do as well, because I don’t have children. I have written on my blog about the 25 gifts that I feel infertility and childlessness have given me. Some of those would come with parenthood. Some might not. Some were lessons painfully learned. Some were freedoms and friendship and travel. I have learned not to feel guilty about that. It took some time.
However, I think I feel lucky for other, much more important reasons too. I have learned to adapt and be resilient, even if my life has turned out differently than I had intended. I am lucky that I can embrace my life without children. I do so joyously, without the guilt that comes so easily at first. I am lucky that I can see and feel the benefits of this life without children, and feel happy and content living this life. I am lucky that I have accepted what is, and I am not stuck, not forever grieving, nor am I yearning for something that can never be. I am lucky that I am not living in regret. This is not to say that regret and sadness and loneliness and other losses never raise their heads. They do. But they are not constant companions, as they might have been in the early days of navigating this No Kidding life. I can appreciate what I have now.
How tragic it would be to have this life I have been given, and not to live it to its fullest. What a waste of the years of grief and loss to refuse to appreciate the wonderful parts of my life, to refuse to breathe deeply and yes, to feel lucky. If we practice self-compassion and care, we can nurture the grass on this side of the fence until it is lush and green and welcoming. Life is not always greener on the other side.