30 October, 2023

Social Interactions when Childless

I write about No Kidding issues every week, and have been doing this for years. Does that mean I am over-sensitised to the issue, as some might claim? Maybe. But it also means that I am very aware of being a minority in this pronatalist world. Others might shrug. But I notice. Comments, attitudes, the choice of a simple word, or descriptor, that I wouldn't use, or that isolates me and my community. And often, in that instant, I am torn. Do I make a point? Just ignore comments? Or try and educate? I don't have a strict policy. It always depends on the person, the circumstances, and how I’m feeling.

A social event this weekend was in many ways remarkable in that there were so many topics to talk about, and so many people with interest in the wider world, that the issue of kids hardly came up. The party was hosted by a friend. She and her partner don’t have children either, and nor do several of her friends I’ve previously met. Anyway, we were all of an age where any children would have left home, so it wasn’t part of the lively conversations that we had. (Well, except for her niece and nephew, but I’ve met their kids, so could talk about them easily and comfortably.) So there I was, happily chatting away with new people, people we’d heard about from our friends for years, and some people I hadn’t seen for 30 years.

I got chatting to someone I haven’t known socially, but worked with for a very short time way back in the late 80s. I mentioned a very happy time in my life, when I had a variety of work (boards, consulting) and also volunteered. She asked about the volunteering. Oh, I said, it was for an overseas medical charity, thinking that the “medical” information might have been enough of a hint. She asked for more details. “Okay,” I thought, “you asked for it!” I explained that I’d volunteered for six years for an ectopic pregnancy charity, the only one in the world that we knew of, that provided online support and advice. She nodded, and noted that she had had an ectopic pregnancy too. You never know, you know? We chatted about it, and about the health system. I then realised that I’ve heard her name (and her husband’s, who I also knew from way back then) a lot from our mutual friend, but never with any discussion of children. I didn’t ask her, and she didn’t ask me. It was refreshing. A little bonding experience, that neither of us felt the need to take any further at the time. (Though now I need to check with my friend to see if they did in fact have children.)

I then got chatting to another woman. We had worked together at our first job post-university, but needed to be introduced to recognise each other (her hair was now short, and mine was now long and grey)! I’d also heard her news from our mutual friend over the decades, and vice versa. We were joking about Swedish Death Cleaning, and she made a comment about the kids being gone, and so we are all ready to leave our big family homes and downsize. I don’t know if I winced, but I must have reacted. I think I stammered a bit. Not because it hurt, but more because I don’t like people to assume that everyone has a “big family home” and so was trying to think how to respond without making a big deal of it. (Even though I still live in what might have been our "big family home.") So of course, she asked if we had children. “No,” was the only answer I needed to give. And then we just continued with our conversation. It’s so nice when people pick up on cues, and don’t pry!

When I was first going through the pain of lost pregnancies and new childlessness, I didn’t want to have to talk about my circumstances to anyone except those closest to me. I didn’t want to risk getting upset, or angry. I don't have that concern now. Then I worried about being seen as other, as being judged. These days, I'm more likely to judge them if they judge me, so that's less of an issue too! And sometimes I wonder if I should be educating everyone, with proselytising zeal. And then when I don’t, I feel guilty.

But you know, these days, I have a choice. I’m not concerned about upsetting anyone by talking about my reality. They talk about theirs, I talk about mine. Fair is fair. And my reality is being childless in a pronatal world. I’ve commented a few times recently on social media posts, for example, gently reminding some mothers that you don’t have to be a mother to care for X or Y. Equally, I feel I do enough here, and elsewhere, that I don’t have to educate every person I meet. I no longer feel guilty if I don't take the opportunity to educate people, even if I am in fact more likely now to take those opportunities. 

So each time, I assess the circumstances of the conversation – who I am with, where we are, how well I know them. In this case, I was surrounded by people happily celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday. It was not a time to talk about the realities or stereotypes or assumptions about those of us without children. And I'm very comfortable with that. It's a sense of freedom that I’ve given myself. I hope you feel that way too.



29 October, 2023

Holiday Companion Giveaway

I posted ten days ago about the giveaway of Life Without Baby's Holiday Companion ebook. Lisa and Kathleen's intention was to give themselves—and their childless-not-by-choice readers—inspiration and encouragement to get through the tender holiday season.

For its 10th Anniversary, they’re celebrating the healing this book has provided by giving away FREE EBOOKS to anyone who wants one. From today through Tuesday, October 31 (US time zone), you can download yours, if you follow this link here.


24 October, 2023

Language and assumptions

I'm a fan of words. I love the nuances of language, and languages. Language tells us so much about cultures and individuals and history and colonialism and oppression and dominance and, thankfully, change. And language too is so much part of pronatalism, and oppresses and disadvantages those of us who are not parents. How "as a mother" is supposed to convey a degree of sanctity and superiority. How childLESS focuses on the LESS part of our lives, and not on the full part of our lives that we live when we find we can't have children. Etc.

So as a fan of words, I am a fan of those who make words accessible. I bought a great book years ago called The Meaning of Tingo, which shares words in different cultures and languages that have no equivalent translations. And I am a fan of Susie Dent, an English exicographer and etymologist. She has a Word of the Day on social media, and I love these. She introduced me to a favourite word - "scurryfunge" - which means the frenetic cleaning you do in anticipation of a visitor arriving. I'm an expert scurryfunger! In fact, scurryfunging is how my house remains clean. There aren't too many other motivations to do so!

Anyway, one of her words of the day was "ultracrepidarian." It's a 19th century word that means one who loves to give their opinion on matters they know nothing about. It's perfect for the world today. But equally, it is perfect to describe those people who think they know what it is like to be a person living a No Kidding life. Especially parents. 

So now you know. If someone starts assuming that your life is free, with no responsibilities, no regrets, no "what-ifs"  you can stop them in their tracks, and say, "oh, you're an ultracrepidarian!" If they start telling you that you're sad, or that you don't know love, that your life is gloom and doom, or that your life is unfulfilled just because you don't have children, you can respond with, "oh, you're another ultracrepidarian!" 

Then explain what it means. And see if they get it! 


1) I have not tried this, but I'd love to have the opportunity. 

2) I thought it was time to have a fun post!

19 October, 2023

A giveaway!

In the (northern) autumn/fall of 2013, Lisa Manterfield and Kathleen Guthrie Woods (the inspiring duo who blogged at Lisa's Life Without Baby) pulled together their most helpful holiday-related blog posts from their blog and compiled them in one book, HOLIDAY COMPANION. Their intention was to give themselves—and their CNBC readers—inspiration and encouragement to get through the tender holiday season.
This month, they're celebrating the good healing this book has provided by giving away FREE EBOOKS to anyone who wants one. They asked me (and others) to share this with our followers. Feel free to share with your own.
The giveaway will run from Friday, October 27, through Tuesday, October 31. They'll be posting announcements on Facebook and Instagram on both those days.  And I'll see if I can share their posts here. Mark it in your diaries, and pop back here to find how to get the books.
Here's to making the holidays a little merrier this year.

17 October, 2023

Being kind to others and yourself

Being kind to others as well as yourself is something I've seen the No Kidding community struggle with for years and years. (I've listed previous posts on this issue at the bottom of this post, just before an admin note.) There's the feeling we can't reply to people the way we want to or stand up for ourselves in case we're considered to be rude. The idea that saying "no" to a question and not explaining ourselves might be rude. The idea that others can trample all over us and we would be rude to point that out, or that by putting a different point of view we are confrontational. The idea that by protecting ourselves we might not be a good friend. I've been quite disturbed by this at times. So I was really pleased to see a meme posted on social media the other day that pointed out all the things you can do and say and still be a kind person.

I've tried to find a credit for it, but can't. So I'm going to write my own No Kidding version. 

You can be a kind person and still:

  • Refuse to answer invasive questions
  • Set boundaries, protect your heart, and say "no"
  • Refuse to be ignored or sidelined simply because you don't have children
  • Point out incorrect stereotypes or assumptions
  • Be honest about your life
  • Forgive yourself and, in time, others
  • Defend yourself and your tribe
  • Realise that putting yourself and your needs last helps no-one


A few relevant previous posts include:

Lastly, some admin: I've been having trouble commenting on any blogger sites - including my own - for some reason. Sometimes I can't comment even though I'm logged into blogger myself. Sometimes I can't comment even with my name and URL.  It comes and goes, and is frustrating. I'm still reading though. Apologies if I've been silent on your blogs, or if - like me - you are having difficulties commenting here.



09 October, 2023

Children and the Childless

I’ve had a number of post topic in my drafts file (which is ridiculously large, so I’m trying to whittle it down) for years. I do this regularly – note a post that has made me think, or one that urges me to put my perspective on it. Occasionally, I pick up on it – sometimes within days or weeks of the original post, sometimes years later!

Five years ago, Mel wrote a post talking about feeling that because she was infertile, she felt the need to prove that she was good at interacting with children. Wow, I can relate to that feeling!

But I’ve never felt that I was good at interacting with kids. I didn’t grow up with a lot of younger siblings or cousins. Most of them were around my age or my sister’s age, just three years younger. I had little to do with the ones that were much younger, and never really knew how to relate to them.  This never bothered me when I was contemplating becoming a parent. After all, parents “grow up” with their children, and their children’s friends. I was confident that would happen with me.

As an adult, I’ve had good relationships with nieces and nephews and friends’ kids when I’ve had the opportunity to get to know them, and often when we’ve been chatting or playing alone. But I have been self-conscious when I do it in the presence of other adults. I’m shy (though some friends would laugh at the idea) and self-conscious by nature – that might explain my feelings of awkwardness. I think that is because I’ve often felt people judging me.

Long before we tried to conceive, there have been the occasional “clucky” comments, simply because I was being a decent person and talking to or playing with little children. That infuriated me at the time. It infuriated me because I resented the gender stereotyping behind the comments. It also infuriated me because the people making these comments didn’t know if we had been trying or not trying, but clearly didn’t even bother to think about it. I remember my sister-in-law telling me once that she had raged at my husband’s brothers who had been making such comments (to me, and to my husband), telling them they didn’t know if we had fertility issues or not, and how would they feel if we had. (She was prescient – we hadn’t been trying at the time.)

Likewise, there are the “judgey” comments. A rather outspoken family member once harshly critiqued something I had said to our niece, taking something out of context when I was simply trying to find something that we might have in common. So, I’ve felt wounded by such judgement, and if anything, it encourages me to withdraw when certain people are around. That is sad for me, and sad for the kids too.

On a more casual basis, I will interact with children if I see them in a queue, or on a plane or public transport, for example, and they show interest. Kids can be curious and funny, and it can be enjoyable to chat or play with them. So when it feels natural, I do it. But equally, if I’m in a café enjoying a quiet coffee and a book, and a child is running riot, I’ll ignore them too. Just because I’m a woman, I don’t buy into the idea that it’s my job to entertain children. I reject it, in fact. I also reject the idea that childless women (or infertile women) need to take a role with children that women who are parents don’t do. In one extended family, I have close relationships with a couple of the children – much more so than the women who are parents. It’s as if they either don’t care – they have their own children to focus on – or they don’t see it as their role. They have nothing to prove. Grrr.

So do I feel that I need to prove that I’m good with kids? I have certainly felt that at times. When I was going through infertility, I genuinely enjoyed interacting with them, anticipating the time when I might have had my own. I liked proving to myself as much as to anyone else that I was good with kids. When I was grieving, it was painful, and so I generally didn’t put myself in the position to have much to do with little children. After all, I was questioning myself so much, I knew I couldn’t bear the judgement from others if I was to come up wanting.

Now, though, I don’t really care what people think! (I hope Mel feels that way now too.) I’ve seen plenty of parents who are both good with kids, or completely ignore kids that are not their own. Why should I be judged when they are not? Why should I feel that I need to prove anything, simply because I've suffered infertiity, or because I don't have children? I don’t. Realising this today is liberating. I have nothing to prove.

02 October, 2023

When stress and self-compassion become strength

I was dredging through some of my old drafts, and found something I’d written, but never posted. Now, it seems a little anachronistic. It was effectively about those playing the Pain Olympics game, and the lack of compassion sometimes shown between the different branches of the former ALI community. I’d found myself caught in the middle of something, and so I’m not going to revisit that.

But in my post, I found this memory that I’m not sure I’ve shared before. I was talking to my Fertility Guy about IVF, and he emphasised that it would be very stressful. I countered that I wasn’t too bothered, as I’d just been through a second ectopic pregnancy that took six-seven months to fully resolve, and that had stressed me to the limit. “After that, I can cope with IVF,“ I said blithely! He chuckled, then said very kindly, “well, okay, but just remember that your losses took a lot out of you, and so you might be starting at an already high level of stress.”

It's a good reminder that all the little filaments of our lives affect our resources and our ability and willingness to take on more stress. That’s important to remember in our No Kidding lives, as we live with different stresses from others around us. It helps us to know ourselves, forgive ourselves, and be kind to ourselves. Discovering self-compassion and self-knowledge helped make me much more resilient. It turns stress into strength.