I don’t have the love of children or given my beliefs, won’t be relying on the longevity of a partner relationship to nourish me so, for survival, I need to seek this from elsewhere. Actually the absence of children and a partner to love and love me back means I don’t have the ties and responsibility that go with it, what I have is freedom. I can’t emphasis it enough but this is where my ‘lifeblood’ now comes from – from utilisation of that freedom, and from the fact that I don’t have that responsibility/that stress. Because people with a family work but are rewarded everyday (hopefully) from the love they receive. People with children will get to know depths of happiness and joy (and worry and pain most likely) that I never will. I don’t have that and I won’t.
Can you see that because of this, I have to – I absolutely must – make the way my life is count, and make it work for me? This is what I have, in the absence of the life I was led to believe I would have, and it feels like a matter of life or death that I manage to get joy from it, construct joy where a child or husband would have been, construct my own joy from the building blocks available to me.
I’m afraid in this situation, as it’s so imperative for my survival, I need to prioritise things that I know will make me happy, even to the cost of others requests and demands of me. Because this is all I have. I really hope people reading this can understand this situation. Also for my survival I can’t engage too much love as I used to, with other people’s kids – my nieces and nephews for example. Don’t get me wrong of course I love them, but I can’t get too attached to them as I have to protect myself from the pain of realising that actually other people have this immense fountain of joy that is not something that will ever be accessible to me. I have to – for my survival – keep it at arm’s length. I really hope people reading this can understand it. I would really struggle to articulate this and feel understood in a conversation, especially with some of the people who know me best. Maybe because this is a part of me they don’t know; and why would they? It’s a part I’m only just discovering myself.
And because I would find it so hard to feel confident articulating this to many of the people around me, I must look to some of them like I’m becoming more and more selfish, and I would imagine (some of them) may think this is because I don’t have children. But what they don’t understand is that it’s the other way round. I am protecting myself, finding a way to adapt to enjoy my life, and be happy in the absence of giving and receiving love from children (what I was told and brought up to believe would be my life’s ultimate joy and fulfilment) – to find life satisfaction, happiness and joy from elsewhere.
I realise this post may be confusing. Mainly in my blog I talk about the joy of the freedom and excitement a single, child free life offers (see About). And I talk about probably not wanting kids anymore. I absolutely stand by these, but it doesn’t mean I don’t experience associated grief also – grief I suppose that will last a lifetime. Grief that sits alongside this excitement; the ‘Staircase in my throat‘ which becomes a staple part of me. And accessing the joy and excitement which is what I do have – which is the genuine antidote to this grief and makes me happier than I could have imagined, depends on being able to;
a) get out there and experience said joy and excitement, and
b) to a degree, protect myself from being too convinced that I am missing out on the best thing in the world in not having children, and the grief of not finding (and understanding now that this doesn’t exist) the partner or husband I was always led up to believe I would.
So when I am asked by my mum if I would get on a 5.5 hour flight and go and babysit my brothers 4 children (all under the age of 5) with her for a few days so they can go on holiday, my answer is No. I doubted myself and felt guilty, like I was being selfish, but then became upset and surprised almost at the complete lack of understanding of my situation that it took for her to ask. How could she ask this as though it was a reasonable thing to ask given my situation? I realised she doesn’t have understanding of my situation. She would certainly listen if I tried to explain it to her, but it made me feel angry – I saw her in that moment as a product of a society that defaults those married and with kids as the common denominator – the dominant – as opposed to me in my single childless status at 37 as very much the ‘other’.
It would not occur to her* (my angry thoughts continued…) to request someone fly 5.5 hours across the world to come and help me for a weekend e.g. when I need to move my stuff down from my ex-boyfriends house next week. And I know I don’t work as hard as them as I don’t have 4 kids – but they chose it, they chose to live that far away, and like I say – they get all the love, joy and reward, and crucially, the validation of being parents whereas all of that is not available to me; I have to create my own joy. And because I have to create it for myself and not in the context of a family I care for – it looks selfish.
*I realise I single her out with this example (I’m really sorry mum…!) but it’s just an example that illustrates the broadly held assumptions, priorities, expectations & implicit prejudices which people in society as a whole engage in on a daily basis, and which as a single, child-free person I will no doubt have to contend with for a long time to come. I also do not want to overstate this small example in the context of our wider relationship. My mum has been so supportive to me (incredibly so) in so many ways, especially recently after my break up, and I am lucky; we get on very well and she is an inspiration to me in the strength she shows at the things she has had to deal with. Maybe more on that another time…Follow @singlefemaleblg