The Things I Can Never Talk About
You are being heard. -x-
The Things I Can Never Talk About
You are being heard. -x-
Every year it seems I get caught out with a bout of the Holiday Blues.
After a really fun and non-traditional Thanksgiving with wonderful friends, I headed into December ready to celebrate the holidays my way. Then Bam! I came down with the Holiday Blues.
There will always be things I wish were part of my festive season, like hand-delivering gifts to my family, shopping for small children, and creating the kind of Christmas I had as a child. But it wasn’t theses losses and what-ifs that gave me the blues this year.
Maybe it was the rainy weather that kept me indoors for much of the week. Maybe it was the end of year racing towards me highlighting the things that didn’t get accomplished this year. Or maybe it’s that Christmas doesn’t really feel like something to celebrate anymore.
Finally, I took my own advice, and that of a couple of friends, and dusted myself off. I bought a tree, made plans for Christmas Eve dinner at a favorite restaurant, and wrote and sent my cards. And then I made myself a cup of tea and sliced off a chunk of proper English fruitcake, and I curled up in a chair and wrote in my journal.
I made a list of everything good that happened this year—all the fun things I did (see photo below, for one), the challenges I overcame, the goals I reached this year, the friends I spent time with, the family I visited.
And guess what I discovered? It’s been another great year this year. I have lived my life, perhaps not always to the fullest, but to the best that I was able. And I had a good time doing it.
That, I think, is plenty of reason to celebrate.
“I still haven’t figured out how to make friends with people my own age (40s) who have children. I often feel disposable, or okay to invite to things when it suits them. I’m a thoughtful, caring person who deserves better.”
What do you think about this? It’s Whiny Wednesday, so let it all out.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner here in the U.S., and seasonal goods already moving off the shelves, the holiday season is well underway. I’ve been hearing holiday music in stores for weeks, and know of people who’ve had their Christmas trees up since the beginning of November!
For many of you, the festive season might not be such a fun time. Traditionally, whichever holidays you celebrate, they include family gatherings, which might mean facing insensitive relatives and prying questions about children. It can be one of the most difficult times of the year, with social gatherings, kid-oriented activities, and constant reminders of the many ways we don’t get to celebrate the holidays.
I love that this community includes new readers and seasoned pros, so let’s help one another out this year by sharing ideas on getting through the season with our hearts intact.
What are some of the issues you know you’ll face this holiday season? What events are you dreading? What’s going to be hardest for you?
And perhaps most important of all, how to do plan to get through the season with minimum emotional damage?
If you’re looking for some guidance from those who’ve walked this path before you, make sure to add yourself to your gift shopping list this year. Here are some books written by members of our community. Please consider supporting their work, so that they can continue supporting all of us.
Lesley Pyne’s Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: Inspiring Stories to Guide You to a Fulfilling Life shares real-world experiences of infertility survivors alongside Lesley’s gentle guidance. Lesley is a role model for redefining yourself after infertility and finding peace with a childless life.
In Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children, Jody Day takes you by the hand and leads you through her process of facing grief, letting go of lost dreams, and rebuilding a new kind of life.
Jessica Hepburn has two books on offer. Her first, The Pursuit of Motherhood tells her own heartbreaking story of her quest to become a mother. In 21 Miles: Swimming in Search of the Meaning of Motherhood, Jessica tells the “next chapter” of her story, her quest to find meaning in her own life and shares inspiring conversations about motherhood with some female powerhouses.
And I’d be remiss if I din’t include my own books on this list: Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen, and Life Without Baby Holiday Companion, a compilation of stories and advice to get you through the holidays, written together with Kathleen Guthrie Woods.
We’d have a bonfire in the backyard, and my dad would bring home a box of fireworks to set off and a couple of packets of sparklers. We’d have baked potatoes and roast chestnuts, and my mum would make parkin and gooey, delicious bonfire toffee. It was an evening spent outdoors, clustered around the fire. It was about friends and food and a little bit of danger.
It’s one of the many things I miss about my homeland, and it’s one of the traditions I would have enjoyed sharing with my children. And that’s the topic for this week’s Whiny Wednesday:
Traditions you won’t get to share with your children
Happy Bonfire Night and happy whining.
There was a time when I found it difficult to be around mothers of young children. It was hard to listen to them talk about their kids when I felt I had nothing to contribute, and it was painful to know that I’d never be able to share those experiences with them. I couldn’t bear to hear their sweet or funny stories, and it made my blood boil to hear them complain. What I wouldn’t have given for the chance to be kept awake all night by a colicky baby.
As I’ve progressed on my journey and begun to heal, it’s become easier for me to spend time with mothers, to listen to their stories, to speak up when I have something to add, and even to commiserate about the hard stuff, without feeling resentful.
I’m listening to what they say about motherhood and I’m hearing a common theme: Motherhood chips away at them until they lose touch with the women they once were. They love their children, they love being mothers, but they resent how all-consuming the job is and how much of themselves they lose to their families, until they know longer know who they are.
There are always two sides to every story, pros and cons, gains and losses. When we don’t get something we want and deserve, it’s easy to focus on what’s lost—the experiences, the opportunities, and the stories we won’t get to tell. But what about what’s gained? And what about what’s not lost? What about the sacrifices we didn’t have to make and the women we now get to be?
I may not be the woman I’d once hoped to be—a mother—but I know who I am now, and a part of me is grateful for what I didn’t have to lose: myself.
Jane P reminded of this article by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman that I posted some time ago, one I think is worth re-running from time-to-time. It’s a good reminder about how not to say the wrong thing to someone in crisis. I wish it was mandatory reading for everyone, and I especially wish it came with a note explaining that it applies when talking to infertiles and the childless-not-by-choice.
The gist of their Ring Theory is that the person in crisis is at the center of the ring and those next closest to the person occupy subsequent rings. In the case of someone coming to terms with not having children, she would be at the center, her spouse or partner on the next ring, perhaps closest family and friends on the next, and more distant family, coworkers, and acquaintances beyond that.
The rule is that that if people have something mean or insensitive or opinionated to say, they say it to someone on a bigger ring. When speaking to someone on a smaller ring, they can only listen or—if they must say something—offer help, support, or comfort. No advice, no miracle stories, no blame or shame. No offering of their kids, no suggestions to adopt. “I’m sorry” is all that needs to be said. If they want to dump, dump outwards, not inwards.
I wish people would understand that someone who has just acknowledged she won’t ever have children is in crisis, and what she needs more than judgment and unhelpful help is for people to say to the right thing.
I’ve been dating. Friend dating that is. As you can imagine, it’s been a challenge.
Last year, Mr. Fab and I moved to a new city at the opposite end of the state. As part of the move, I prepared myself for “friend dating” getting myself out into social situations where I could meet new people and hopefully make good friends.
Friend dating is hard enough, but I think it’s doubly so, when children won’t be common ground on which you can build a friendship. Irrespective of this handicap, I’ve been making an effort to meet new people. I joined a gym and have been challenging myself to strike up a conversation with someone new every time I go.
Last week, while I was waiting for my class to start, I smiled at a friendly-looking woman and initiated a conversation. It was general ice-breaking chit-chat, a comment about how the class seemed lighter today and that the traffic had been heavier on my drive over because the Junior College was back in session.
“Oh right,” she said. “I wondered about that. I drop off my daughter at the school and then drive my little one to pre-school and it took me ages this morning.”
Before I ping-pong a comment back or ask her a getting-to-know-you question, another woman stepped into the conversation and said, “Oh, you have a preschooler? I have a preschooler, where does yours go?”
And then she quite literally stepped into the conversation. She all but put her body between me and my potential new friend, as if I wasn’t even there.
In the past, I would have been devastated. You know the feeling when your heart sinks, your stomach sinks lower, and your entire body follows along. I would have felt dejected, rejected, ashamed, and worthless. I would have slinked away to my little childless corner and stayed there feeling worthless.
But I didn’t. I laughed. Out loud.
Because it finally dawned on me, it’s not about me, it’s not about my childlessness. It’s not even about moms elbowing us out of their important conversations.
It’s about one self-centered and pretty bad mannered individual on a mission to find her tribe, to fulfill her wants and needs, in this case to find a sympathetic ear to listen to her woes about moving her kid to a new school in the fall. She definitely wasn’t going to find that in me.
And the truth is, I was doing a similar thing. I was putting out feelers, looking for common ground, trying to fill my own needs and find my tribe. And these women, the second one especially, weren’t going to fulfill those needs.
The whole ludicrous situation made me realize just how far I’ve come. This year will mark nine years since I got off the baby crazy train. It’s a long time, but I’m happy to report that the Mom Snub bounced off me in a way I never could have imagined nine years ago.
Still, this puts me back in the friend dating game again. But it helped me realize that moms aren’t the enemy, it’s just that I need to find woman—childless or otherwise—for whom motherhood isn’t the sole focus of their existence at this time in their lives.
Maybe in 15 years or so, once she’s packed her kid off to college, her priorities will change. Maybe then we can become friends then.
If I’m not too busy with all my other new friends.
A few years ago, some readers commented that they couldn’t express how they felt around friends and colleagues, as they were always made to feel as if they were whining. So, we created Whiny Wednesday as a safe place to vent about about whatever’s on your mind each week. It can be an issue surrounding living without children, or just a general grumble about life, work, family, the world.
I used to start each post with a gripe of my own, but lately I’ve found I’ve covered most of what bothers me, so I put out a call for Whiny Wednesday topics, and you, dear readers, came through! So, each week, I offer one of your suggested topics as a starting point, but as always, any topic is fair game.
So, let’s kick off with this week’s topic:
Parents who respond to hearing that you don’t have children with, “Do you want mine?”
It’s Whiny Wednesday, your chance to gripe about the issues you’re dealing with this week. This week’s suggested topic is one we’ve all had to deal with:
An over-abundance of work pregnancies
I can relate to this one. When I was trying to conceive, I managed a small department of about eight people. One year we had three simultaneous pregnancies…and none of them was mine.
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