As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods
After a first marriage to a man who was “never stable enough for us to have kids,” Kay* met her current husband when she was almost 42. They got busy trying to create their family, but three pregnancies were lost early, and adoption didn’t work (they weren’t against it, but the reasons it didn’t work were “complicated”). Now 52, Kay still struggles with being childfree by chance and circumstance. After reading her story below, I hope you’ll take a moment to offer her some encouragement in the Comments.
LWB: Please briefly describe your dream of motherhood.
Kay: Oh, the Waltons. I wanted a big family with lots of children, maybe with foster kids as well.
LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?
Kay: My parents didn’t have a clue how to show love and fought a lot, and we children felt truly unloved and unwanted. From a very young age, all I wanted in life was to be a mama. That I will never have that is crushing. We are not close to any of our nieces and nephews. We have tried, but we live too far away from them to be very involved.
LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?
Kay: I don’t have to discover that I am just like my parents in parenting, in spite of my best intentions.
LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”
Kay: I really, really struggle with this because I so want/wanted to be a mama, and I want to relate to other people. Trying to explain, however, becomes complicated. I frequently get, “You could always just adopt,” which is a more complicated conversation. I’ve found it best to just answer, “No.”
LWB: What’s your Plan B?
Kay: I still very much want children in my life, and it doesn’t matter to me now that they won’t be my own. We unofficially mentored a family for a while. We called them our “Rent-a-Kids” and they liked that. But they moved away, so now I’m looking for something similar. I would like to find a way to connect “aged out” foster kids with people who would be family for them, to give them someone to care about them and a place to go for holidays and other momentous occasions. I don’t quite know how to get this started, but I’ve recently come across a couple of possibilities.
LWB: Where are you on your journey now?
Kay: I still struggle with hearing pregnancy announcements, and frequently give a big sigh when I read stuff on Facebook about friends’ kids/grandkids or their parenting stuff. Early on I told myself, “This is not how your life will turn out. You will not have this.” It was an attempt to work for acceptance, but I eventually gave it up as it was turning into a self-pitying whine instead of acceptance. Sometimes I’m angry, more often I’m wistful. I frequently quote Agatha Christie: “Life is badly arranged.”
*To protect respondents’ privacy, we allow each to choose a name for her profile. It may or may not be fictitious.
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Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.