The latest relationship-with-potential had ended, and I was again lamenting the fact that I was nowhere near realizing my dreams of love, marriage, and having a child. “Maybe you’re supposed to birth a book instead,” my friend suggested.
I should what?! Like that was supposed to fill the aching hole in my heart?
A decade later, and I still can’t come up with a witty response.
As I breezed through my 30s and early 40s, other friends (and their mothers, and my mother’s friends, and women I’d just met at mutual friends’ baby showers) offered up alternate ways I might satisfy my desire to have a child of my own: Become a preschool/Sunday school teacher. Open a day care center. Volunteer to hold sick babies in a NICU. Become the world’s best aunt ever.
I embraced the last suggestion while I built a successful business, nurtured friendships, traveled, and eventually entered into a loving, built-to-last relationship with a wonderful man. In time, I made my peace with the childless role Mother Nature had planned for me.
Still… I wonder. What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life? I spent the first half of it longing to be pregnant, to experience my body operating at its highest function, to create the miracle of life. I had daydreamed about soccer games, Girl Scout meetings, and family game nights. I had looked forward to raising good humans and sharing them with the world. While I consider my life today “full” and blessed and very happy, I wonder if there’s anything out there for me to do that will be as fulfilling as being a mother.
And so, sister-mentors, I ask for your wisdom and guidance. What other paths have you explored or chosen? What gives your life-without-children meaning? Have you found fulfillment by creating works of art, expanding your definition of “family,” doing volunteer work, or embracing your many freedoms? And what do you say to friends or strangers who unintentionally hurt you with their suggestions for how to make the most of a childfree life?
Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in AAA’s Westways, GRIT, Real Simple, and 805 Living magazines. Read “How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever” on eHow.com.