In my recent talk for the Childless Collective Summit, I asked the question
‘What if being childless were an opportunity?’
And before you recoil in horror, let me explain…
This idea originated from my interview with Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos for my book Finding Joy. To quote her …
‘I was talking to a woman in New York, who said women who have children easily, who move through the typical day-to-day existence of being a parent, don’t always understand how they fit into the world because they don’t always have the time to sit and contemplate it. She said for many people life is quite ordinary: they pack a lunch, they send the child off, they help them with homework, and they get up the next day and do it all over again.
Society’s norm is people who pair off and have children. They can pretty well anticipate a road map of what’s ahead. For those of us women who did not have the familiar or conventional routine, we are forced to create our own routine, our own road map. In that sense we are in many ways living a rather extraordinary life, because the world is not suited to our patterns. We have to create our own ‘normal’, and then adapt it to society’s normal.
Many people don’t realise until they retire or become an empty nester, how they want to invest their time or evolve themselves, or the way they go about their day to day. We are thrust into that position unwillingly. And as a result, we are given a chance to shape our lives younger than most people. There is flexibility that presents itself, and we have to decide is that luxury – an opportunity – or a constrictor? I see it as an opportunity.’
And, as someone commented in my talk; if we take this opportunity, we therefore get to live longer as ourselves.
Yay to that!
I’m not saying that it’s easy (it certainly isn’t), but it is absolutely possible. I’ve done it & so have many others (including the speakers at the Summit).
And maybe this time is a unique opportunity
I think we can all agree that this last year has been different! We’ve stopped doing things we loved (or thought we did) & started doing new things, some of which we enjoy & some we don’t. So perhaps, the next few months of heading cautiously back to a new normal could also be also an opportunity. An opportunity to shape your life in a way you’d like it to be (of course within the constraints of your commitments).
If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while, you might recall that instead of goals, I prefer to consider what seeds I’ve planted, & of those which I want to nurture & which I’m happy to allow to die.
So I’ve been asking myself,
of those things I did this year, which do I wish to continue?
which elements of my life ‘before’ do I want back?
Or, to put it another way,
‘what makes me happy (do more) & what doesn’t’ (do less)?’
For example, some friendships have deepened this year & I have some new friends, all of which I’d like to develop. There are others I haven’t been in contact with &, perhaps it’s time to let some of them go.
Creativity has been hugely important in keeping me (more or less 😊) sane & I wish to continue exploring it. The same with Yin Yoga & Qigong so I’ll be ensuring that I make time for all of these in my life. There are another couple of hobbies I realised aren’t that important to me, they were those things which I always said ‘when I have time I’ll do that’ & I now I realise lack of time wasn’t what was holding me back.
I realise just how much I need to get out into the green of the British countryside so I’ll be making time to get out (once we can).
I’m lucky not to work, however I have friends who wish to continue to work from home full or part time & others are desperate to get back into an office environment.
What I’m saying is that it’s a good time to use the above questions to do an audit of your life, & then make appropriate adjustments.
And now back to the big question
Maybe you’re thinking that I’ve glossed over the big (what if being childless were an opportunity) question. And to some extent you’re right but I’ve done so deliberately.
- Ask the question in different ways & encourage you to keep asking yourself until the answer comes,
- Share with you some of the tools I use & the questions I ask myself,
- Assure you that others have walked this path before you & have grasped with open arms the opportunities that childlessness has brought them. And if you’re not sure here’s a few words from Finding Joy.
My Story: Grasping life with both hands
‘…. to paraphrase Pamela above, we are given the chance to shape our lives. It can either be a luxury or a constrictor. I, my friends, and the women here all saw it as an opportunity, and I hope you do too.
I am an only child, with no children and no parents, these are facts that I cannot change. I’ve learned to live without all that I’ve lost. I will always miss my parents, and not being able to be a mother caused a deep wound. This used to hurt a lot and make me feel as though I was bobbing around in the sea at the mercy of the waves and currents.
Now I’ve done this work it no longer hurts and the scar tissue is thick and strong. The story I tell now is of finding happiness and joy, and making the most of the gifts that this life brings me. I know who I am and my place in the world, and I feel so much more anchored.
I intend to life my life to the fullest. What about you?’
- And if you’d like more encouragement, here are some wise words from Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver, The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.
Whatever you do, please harness all the determination you can muster & save yourself.
And if you’re not sure where to start
These days there are many, many resources available & none more than the talks from the Childless Collective Summit. If you missed it; you can watch all the talks & lots of extras when you purchase an extended access pass.
You might also find my book, Finding Joy helpful, the second part of the title is ‘Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life’ & in it you can read 19 stories of other women who have accepted the opportunities that being childless offers. There are over 40 stories here
And if neither of these are for you, that’s fine, but I encourage you to believe that being childless could be an opportunity which you can grab with both hands.
Iif you’d like to share any thoughts please do so below (you don’t have to use your real name).
You can download Chapter One of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness when you sign up to my email list.