Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family.
I don’t often repeat quotes from Homer Simpson, but this one, I use at least once a week. It’s usually directed at my husband or one of my 3 fur-babies. And it always brings a smile to the face of anyone who hears it. Probably because that’s how we all feel about our families at different times, but for me, it has a deeper meaning.
My family consists of myself and my husband, two dogs, and one cat. To a lot of people that’s not a family, that’s a couple with pets. I can understand that, it’s what I thought until I reached the age of 48 and finally accepted that I was never going to have children.
As much as I resent my childlessness, it has taught me a lot over the years and I have now reached a point where I am grateful for the unexpected life I have now.
In an attempt to help other women to get to that same place of acceptance, I’m going to share what I’ve learnt about families.
Families are what you make them
As any Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan will tell you, the family you create doesn’t have to be the one you were born into, and it doesn’t have to look like the neighbor’s family does. When I was growing up, Mum, Dad and the 2 kids was the ideal family unit that every young woman should want.
I called BS then and I do again now. A family is any group of living beings that love each other, whether they like each other or not. It’s about the love people, not the demographics. Oh, and family members don’t need to be living, we still love the deceased, after all. The point is, nobody has the right to dictate to you what your family should look like.
Don’t make assumptions about anyone else’s family
Assumptions can be dangerous and often lead to all kinds of ridiculous situations and farce-like behavior.
You may envy the pregnant 14-year-old who lives down the street, and wonder why it can happen for her, but not for you. Doesn’t matter. You don’t know her story and you don’t know what life has in store for her or her baby. Maybe’s she’s decided to give the child up for adoption and some lucky couple are going to have the child they couldn’t create themselves. You wouldn’t begrudge that couple their escape from grief. Would you?
Finally, the most important thing I’ve learnt is that while I’m pining for the family I haven’t been able to create:
I’ve often under-valued the family I was born into
Realizing that, helped me to decide to move on with my life and not allow myself to be swallowed up by the grief.
It’s not my mother’s fault that she doesn’t understand how it feels to be childless not by choice. How could she understand? It’s not her experience, and I’ve never even tried to explain my feelings to her. In the same way, I’ll never understand her grief at never being a Grandmother.
Yes. It genuinely isn’t fair that my brother, who has zero child-rearing skills, has kids and I don’t. But that’s the way it is, and he does love them. Those children are my niece and nephew and that gives me a place in their lives as well.
The lessons I’ve learnt through my involuntary childlessness may not be earth-shattering or mind-blowing but they are life-changing. For me, and if you’ve read this far, maybe for you too.