On being 50 and childless

Close up portrait of a pretty older woman

When I was a child I announced to my family that I was going to have six children.

Close up portrait of a pretty older womanMy grandmother had two daughters, my mother had two boys and two girls and so to my logical, if somewhat competitive, five year old mind, I would have six babies.

At some point in my teens I think I realised that six would be quite a handful. But although I may have modified the number I never lost the desire to be a mother.

And yet here I am planning my 50th birthday with no children in sight.

The circumstances of my childlessness are quite common, I’m sure.  An ex husband who wasn’t interested and a new partner who had already done his time with babies and has had a vasectomy.

Every day I count my blessings that I have a good life and a truly wonderful partner, but there is still a huge hole in my heart. A hole so big that I can’t even begin to look into it for fear that I might tumble into a sadness so deep that I will never return.

Missing out on the parenting path…

When you don’t have children there are so many experiences which you miss out on.  Pregnancy and childbirth, obviously.  But also those tender moments of choosing a name and painting a nursery, of growing closer with your partner over a shared project who is a living, breathing combination of yourselves.

Seeing your deceased father in the eyes of your son, or your own stubbornness in your daughter’s tantrums.

And there are other things that I’ve never done.  I’ve never made friends at the school gates or been a taxi driver to a teenager or stayed up all night with a sick child.

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All of these things are shared experiences for anyone who has been a parent. They are things you bond over. You can give one another that ‘newborn keeping you up?’ knowing look.

For those of us who can’t join in these conversations we feel like outsiders.  Because there is a whole world of experiences that we have never had and shall never have.

And, do you know what, that’s okay. It’s not great. But it’s okay.

Provided that you never assume that I chose this. That you never tell me how lucky I am not to have kids. That you don’t look at my life and believe that I chose career over kids or lifestyle over parenthood.

Some people do choose childlessness. For others it is their greatest sadness. On behalf all of us in this second group I ask you not to judge, not to assume and never, ever to ask “So why don’t you have kids?”

Not unless you have a lot of time and a box of tissues to hand.