The Lives of Childless Women
I often struggle in celebrating the lives of growing families around me. Counting myself among childless women I feel like an anomaly. Although maybe more in feeling than by statistical measurement, as many reports show as much as one out of every five women ages 40 – 44 in the US is childless.1
Many people make assumptions, especially once you’ve been married for a few years. They often conclude you’re either selfish and have no desire to be a mother or that there’s something medically wrong with one of you.
As people get married later in life the window of opportunity shrinks, even as medical advancements offer a few more years of possibility but simultaneously label mature-aged expectant moms (usually age 35+ in the US) as “high-risk” with geriatric pregnancies.
Following are a compilation of unsolicited advice I’ve heard to date as a 34-year-old woman, almost seven years into marriage and childless:
- You’re getting old.
- The clock is ticking. You don’t want to wait too long.
- Aw, doesn’t he want children?
- Don’t you want children? You don’t want to wake up one day when it’s too late and live with that regret.
- No kids yet? How long have you been married?
- Don’t try so hard. Stress will keep you from getting pregnant.
- You’re still young but don’t wait too long. You don’t want to be too tired to keep up with your kids.
- If he’s not willing/able why don’t you find someone else? You can start over with someone who can make you happy.
- Why don’t you adopt? There are lots of kids waiting to have loving parents. What about foster care?
- Have you tried IVF?
- There’s always the turkey baster method…
Do any of these words sound familiar? What zingers would you add to this list?
Good intentions or prying?
All these prying inquisitions about being childless are often masked by a concerned tone and can be summed up with the idea that motherhood is the end goal for a woman. Don’t miss out! You’ll always regret it if you don’t have children.
What if, instead, there was a culture that embraced and celebrated all women instead of shaming those who either have “too many” children or none at all?
Perhaps the shaming stems, in part, from a sense of pride among mothers that it’s one aspect of humanity that sets us apart from men. We are able to do what they cannot. We are the carriers, bringers and sustainers of life from conception to birth and beyond.
Mothers so fiercely hold onto this unique identity that the male population and the childless woman cannot comprehend.
Children are not the Solution
Having children doesn’t solve our problems. While beautiful, motherhood forever complicates our lives to have our hearts walking around outside our bodies. Every milestone reached brings with it new challenges to replace our previous insecurities. Any post authored by a tired toddler mom or weary mother of wayward teens proves the perpetuity of our longing for another season and the hope that a new chapter will bring relief.
If you care to know our hearts you can learn to appreciate that we carry a similar sentiment of wishing things were different. Childlessness, as with so many struggles in this life, leads us lust for arrival at the next milestone. We are never fully content where we are. Whether we anticipate the transition to an empty nest or it’s never been full, we are left wanting.
Those who want children long for bodies and biology to align – the miracle of life to grow and deliver joy. And for others who simply don’t desire motherhood, that they would not be made to feel as though they’re missing out.
The crux for me is that it’s terrifying to hope that the outcome of biological motherhood might be possible. I’ve not been blessed to walk that desired path and the window of opportunity keeps shrinking with each birthday. It’s less painful to sit in my rut of impossibility or distract myself with other pursuits than hope for a change in status that might never come.
Childless but not Without Hope
So what can you say to a married, circumstantially infertile woman? Instead of telling a childless woman how to resolve her issue or pummeling her with shaming questions why not ask how she’s doing? But only ask if you come from a place of curious desire to support. Understand that (M)otherhood is a tender topic.
You can ask us what gets us out of bed in the morning? What’s our favorite part of the week or what’s the best book we’ve read recently? What kind of community do we have?
What’s going right in our lives?
I love to travel, to write and engage in good conversation with someone who doesn’t mind digging deep. Talking about the hard things doesn’t always resolve them but conversation helps the way forward become a little brighter.
Practical advice for Thriving Throughout Otherhood
What can you do practically to celebrate your status of Otherhood through the whole array of emotions?:
- Create a vision board to look forward and set goals: for practical tips on creating yours read this: Vision Boards Express Your Desires For Your Future.
- Curate a playlist to share and sing along with music that helps you capture the root of your emotions and shift your perspective to the good things in this season of life.
- Enjoy the mutual love from and given to pets.
- Practice self-care on your own timeline. No kids means no need to budget for a babysitter.
- Consider mentoring someone to support them through your strengths.
- Avoid throwing too many pity parties but instead come up with a list of wins and celebrate what’s working well. Recognize that your success rate for making it through bad days is 100%.
- Periodically schedule something fun (i.e., a massage, monthly subscription to something that gives you life).
- Write out your feelings in a pretty journal.
- Pray and ask God for the perspective to trust that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be in life.
Leave a Legacy
As women, whether childless or in the throes of motherhood, we each want to be fulfilled in the direction our lives are moving. To simply be content and accepted as we are. And to pour our passion into something that will endure beyond our lifetime. To create a legacy that will make a way for those who rise up after us.
This article defines and creates space for Otherhood with some helpful considerations to encourage the childless to live fulfilled: