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Non-Fiction, Other Musings, Why Not?

What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting

I am one of the 143.4 million women in the United States who is not a mother.*  According to the latest information from the U.S. Census Bureau, 85.4 million women were mothers in 2008.**  That’s the latest data I could find.  That’s over half and yes, I’m probably mixing percentages here, but it appears that most women are mothers.

But that’s not what this blog is about and I hesitated to write about it, but I thought what the heck.  I’m a minority here and I know there are others like me, I just don’t know very many women in my age group that aren’t mothers.

The Times They are a-Changin’

Birth rates in the U.S. have decreased slightly over the past few years — down three percent in 2011 from 2010.  Read more about here.  I’m not sure about the reasons; probably more women are waiting before they make that commitment, there’s less people getting married (the “normal” standard for having a child) and the family dynamic is changing.  Any “family unit” with love, encouragement and support constitutes a family in my book.  But that’s not what this blog is about.

The Ultimate Experience for a Woman

Most women who are mothers talk about that unshakable, unconditional love they have for their children.  They’ve housed the precious beings for nine months inside their bodies.  That’s gotta be a bond stronger than anything I could ever imagine.  (That’s not to say men do not love or feel a very close bond to their children — I know they do — see above statement about family unit).

It turned out, for reasons I won’t go into, I’m childless.  I envy women who’ve experienced that glow, that satisfied, God-like rapture that they created life.  All my friends from high school are mothers; my sisters are and most of the women I know are.  After a woman reaches a certain age, people (unknowingly) start to view you, if you’re childless, as to why that is.  This isn’t a demographic thing, this is a universal thing, at least in my experience.

There are awkward moments and conversations when you first meet someone.  They go something like this:

People with children:  So, what do you do?

Childless woman:  I work at blah, blah, blah or I do blah, blah, blah.

People with children:  Do you have children?

Childless woman:  No.

People with children:  Smile and waiting.

Childless woman:  Smile back, silent.

Although that ship has sailed for me, I still find myself in those awkward moments.  Surely, I have a child in high school or about to get into college.  No. Just me.  And my husband.  I feel, well, incomplete and a need to explain.  I’ve stopped the explaining part.

I once worked for a horrible boss that said to me:  When women don’t have children, they get all dried up and look bad when they get older.  I’m not kidding, but that was long ago and another story.  That’s not what this blog is about.

What This Blog is About

I think there is a rhyme, rhythm and reason to the workings of the universe.  Things we can’t comprehend in our human state of being.  Some women are meant to be mothers in the traditional sense while others — for whatever the reason — just can’t or choose not to have children.  I’m finally beginning to be okay with that.

Still, I watch my nieces and nephews grow and accomplish milestones and the pride and love of their mothers’ faces are, well, kind of beatific, rapturous, God-like.  As if they possess some deep, ancient secret that comes from giving birth.  The same can be said for mothers who’ve adopted children.

Maybe I’ll create life in another life.

I’ve been around children all my life.  I was the babysitter when I was in high school and everyone used to say:  You’re going to be a great mother.  I’ve worked for wonderful, world-renowned childrens’ organizations and seen up close and personal the true mettle of what being a mother is.  It was rewarding and heartbreaking — two things I know every mother has experienced.

This blog isn’t about poor me, I’m not a mother.  It’s about women who, in some capacity fill that role, whether they’ve given birth or not.  It’s our nurturing instinct I think.

I often wonder who is going to “take care” of me when I grow old and gray.

Who is going to be there when I take my last breaths?  I corralled my nephew the last time I visited my family and asked him:  Will you take care of me?  Will you be my person?

Sweet, wonderful young man that he is, he smiled and said, Yes, Brigitte I will take care of you.

Still, I think I’m going to get that in writing.

*Nationalatlas.gov findings, Gender in the United States.
**U.S. Census Bureau, Profile America Facts for Features.

About Brigitte

Writer/Editor/Wanderer

Discussion

57 thoughts on “What To Expect When You’re Not Expecting

  1. You’re not alone. I too have no kids. I never wanted kids, even when I was much younger. It’s always been my choice to be child-free. I actually know quite a few women in NYC who don’t have kids. Some have chosen not to be mothers, and others wanted kids but nature had other ideas. And it’s nobody’s business why you don’t have kids. You can always nurture and take care of others.

    But I completely know what you mean—I wonder about what will happen when I’m old, with no kids to look after me.

    So yeah, get your nephew to put it in writing for you! 😉

    Posted by Madame Weebles | May 17, 2012, 12:34 pm
  2. The Buddhists say, that when you are not a mother yourself, you become a mother to the world, a far bigger task and in some ways, far more wideranging. This blog is an example of that. xx

    Posted by rococonnor | May 17, 2012, 2:02 pm
  3. With all this mothering I hope I last until I’m old and grey…just this morning I felt 80…does that count? All joking aside, I have friends who are childless, by choice and not by choice. I guess we are all on a journey, some of us with children, some of us with no children. In my case, I spend some dark moments wondering who is going to look after my special son when I am gone but your comment about when you are old and grey inspired me to recite Yeats out loud while I was making a coffee and, sure, that is no bad thing…

    WHEN you are old and gray and full of sleep
    And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
    And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
    Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
    How many loved your moments of glad grace,
    And loved your beauty with love false or true;
    But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
    And loved the sorrows of your changing face.
    And bending down beside the glowing bars,
    Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
    And paced upon the mountains overhead,
    And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

    Posted by ailialana | May 17, 2012, 2:18 pm
  4. (Thanks for sharing, Brigitte. I needed this post. It’s not always easy. The Mother’s Day holiday is especially difficult. I am pretty content with my life, but sometimes, sometimes, I suddenly get a little weepy. Each time it catches me by surprise. Again, thanks for the beautiful post. Big hugs, T.)

    Posted by Theadora | May 17, 2012, 2:52 pm
  5. I never wanted children, but by grace of social pressure I have two now !!
    But honestly, I never felt the difference, I am still the same……… in fact would have been much happier without them. I find no wrong in not having kids, it entirely is a personal choice…….

    Posted by shimmeshine | May 17, 2012, 3:23 pm
  6. I am one of those rare ladies who chooses not to have children (for a giant laundry list of reasons), and I totally know those awkward empty moments in conversation after mentioning I don’t and will not have kids. It’s really hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around a life without children, and I hope that one day people will be more open minded and accepting of this! Great post. 🙂

    Posted by vezinak | May 17, 2012, 5:57 pm
    • I agree with you! It is a matter of choice and I think that day is coming. I applaud women who have children and certainly wasn’t intending to, in any way, disparage that, but there are those who choose or cannot have children and still be mothers. Thank you for your insightful comment.

      Posted by Brigitte | May 17, 2012, 6:01 pm
  7. I have the utmost respect for those who do have children – as I know I could not do it. It takes a whole lot of strength, patience and selflessness that I just know I do not have. Though I do look forward to possibly being an Aunt, as then I can part-time mother some children, without having the gross possibility of ruining them. haha!

    Posted by vezinak | May 17, 2012, 6:15 pm
  8. I found your blog because of your benevolent blogger post, but thought I’d comment on this one, because it definitely resonated with me and I had more to say than just “that’s nice”.

    I’m not even thirty, but all of my friends have babies. I’ve been married longer than any of them, and people constantly ask me when we’re going to procreate. I always find it an intensely personal question for strangers or barely acquaintances to ask such a thing, but it happens all the time.

    I love children. I’m a young adult librarian and my partner teaches special ed, so it’s not like we’re opposed to the idea of tiny humans. I just don’t have that need or desire to have my own. I don’t think it makes me any less of a woman, or a human, that I have not reproduced (and don’t ever plan to).

    Posted by mollyspring | May 17, 2012, 11:53 pm
    • Hi Molly, some people ask things that simply isn’t any of their biz. I don’t think they’re being rude or maybe women without children (whether they cannot have them or choose not to) are more sensitive to it. Not sure; but I’m like you, I love children as well. They are far more perceptive than us adults, you know? Thanks for sharing and for your insight about this topic. It was wonderful!

      Posted by Brigitte | May 18, 2012, 9:10 am
  9. Times have definitely changed!

    When I got married in 1986 it was kind of frowned on if you didn’t have kids. It was expected. I think we’d only been married a couple of months and people were asking “when are we going to hear the patter if tiny feet?”

    A couple of years ago I asked my husband WHY did we have kids. His answer was “because we loved each other” and I was like, no, WHY EXACTLY? He thought about it for a while and said “because that’s what you do isn’t it?”

    We never even thought about the option NOT to have kids. If we hadn’t, we would have been subjected to the same stigma I’d seen other couples suffer.

    Now, it’s completely different, there doesn’t seem to be that same shocked look on people’s faces in response to a childless couple, or woman of a certain age. It seems more acceptable here.

    I quite envy women today, those younger than me. They have far more choices than I had. I look at my daughter now who is single, building a career and childless. At her age I was married, 1 child, housewife with a mortgage. I was never encouraged to be anything other than a mum. I’ve tried to encourage her to do whatever she wants 🙂 I don’t want her to end up like me, no career, no independence, and luckily, she doesn’t either 😉

    All 3 of mine have already told me, once I get to a certain age they’re gunna put me straight in a home! Lol

    Great post honey xx

    Posted by Vikki (The View Outside) | May 18, 2012, 3:49 am
  10. Hi Brigette,
    Again you amaze me with your courage! That post would not have been easy (from my opinion) to write.
    I am married and childless. I also have been subjected to the questions, but as I am quite young, people don’t hound me, they just assume its only a matter of time.

    I’ve given it some thought. Some people (those with children), honestly think that you cannot possibly feel fulfilled and truly happy until you have children. If that’s the case, then there is a lot of beauty in this world that they have failed to see….(but of course, what do I know….I am not a mother).

    Like you’ve said, there is no right or wrong answer.
    Again you’ve been very diplomatic in your writing…it just means that you aren’t insecure…and I admire that a lot.
    Anna

    Posted by iheartcabramatta | May 18, 2012, 6:39 am
    • Hi Anna, what a lovely and insightful comment. I hope that it came across as celebrating all women, mothers of all kinds. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave such a nice comment.

      Posted by Brigitte | May 18, 2012, 7:41 am
  11. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You’ve said it much better than I ever could have. I still do the explaining part, but I say with a small smile, “It just wasn’t in the cards for us.” That’s usually shuts them up and moves the conversation right along.

    Posted by Jenbug | May 18, 2012, 11:09 am
  12. I found your blog through Freshly Pressed and have really enjoyed this post, Brigitte, thank you so much, it’s very touching, I’m looking reading more of your blog, and hope it helps a little in keeping me motivated in my writing as well.

    On a lighter note, it reminded me of the old joke; “As a newly-wed, I was at the baptism of the latest baby in our already large family, when an old Aunt came up to me. Unaware that my husband and I were not plannning children, she poked me in the ribs with her walking stick and said, ‘it’ll be your turn next.’ I smiled and walked away.
    A couple of months later, the family were once again reunited, this time for the sad occaison of the funeral of one of the family patriarchs. Standing at the grave-side with the other mourners, I sought out the old Aunt and poked her in the ribs, whispering, ‘it’ll be your turn next.'”

    (apologies if my British humour – and spelling – isn’t to to your liking)

    Posted by Amy French | May 18, 2012, 11:18 am
  13. Nice story, Brigette. Our world has become a very crowded place anyways.
    Also, it is a matter of perspective. Why should someone chose to be selfless and serve other kids instead of having their own? I think it is wise for may of us (both men and women) to make a conscious decision and do the following
    – adopt children who need help (in addition or instead of having our own)
    – help organizations who provide help for children (and the elderly)

    …that way, one has the freedom (in a lot of ways, such as time, financially, emotionally) to bring smiles to many (instead of one or two) children.

    And in modern times, one does not need to worry about who is going to take care of him/her when he/she is old and weak. I believe modern science and the strength that comes from bringing smiles to people’s faces will.

    Posted by Indranil | May 18, 2012, 11:30 am
    • Hi and thank you. You’ve made some very thoughtful and relevant comments and I so appreciate them. Much of what I write has a humorous “hint” to it with a deeper meaning. I’d like to think so anyway and thanks for recognizing that. Be well! :).

      Posted by Brigitte | May 18, 2012, 11:46 am
  14. I love the subject and the post – thank you! Obviously, you are not alone but sometimes it feels like it. All of my friends and colleagues have kids or are planning on having them. I, on the other hand, I do not have kids, nor did I ever want them. That life is not for me.

    I always thought there was something wrong with me, but over the years I have accepted the way I am and my decision to not reproduce. I still have friends telling me, “It will happen, you never know!”, or “One will slip past the goalie!other variants of the same hopeful comment. I am polite to most people but some I have to lay down the law with something like, “Get over it, it is never happening.”

    Our plan is to have other family members’ kids take care of us later in life. They seem to like us better anyway.

    Posted by tobeyk88 | May 18, 2012, 12:15 pm
    • Thank you, Tobey! I love children, but as you said it is a personal choice. Again, I don’t think anyone means anything negative if/when they inquire. Sometimes it’s best to simply say, “You may be right.” ;).

      Posted by Brigitte | May 18, 2012, 12:35 pm
  15. Great post. As the mother of two it makes me crazy when people get all judgey about women (married or not) who don’t have kids. 1. None of your business who has children 2. you can have way more stuff if you don’t have children 3. They’re not mandatory.

    I wouldn’t want to live without my girls but I HATED being pregnant. I had c-sections so I don’t know the miracle of childbirth. I didn’t nurse the 2nd one at all b/c I sucked (hahah get it) so badly at nursing with the first.

    Good for you Brigitte!
    xo mags

    Posted by Maggie O'C | May 18, 2012, 2:11 pm
  16. I too came to this post via freshly pressed which I barely look at but am glad I did. I laughed at the awkward conversation. I have kids but I don’t ever remember asking new women I’ve met whether they have kids or not. I get a bit cranky when childless women feel the need to explain themselves to sticky nosed people. THEY DON’T. I sort of had my kids because my clock was ticking, not from this burning desire to have them. Don’t tell them that though… 😉

    Posted by Lisa | May 18, 2012, 11:13 pm
    • Hi Lisa, you know I think it’s most likely been my perception at the time of what they must be thinking when in reality they were probably just being curious, nice, making conversation. I’m a sensitive soul and I don’t think it’s meant as a “bad” thing. I think many women feel that clock ticking, but Mothers are the best — they have THE most important and difficult job and it’s not always noticed. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Posted by Brigitte | May 19, 2012, 7:05 am
  17. I can absolutely relate… even though I now have two children under age two. Completely unexpected, believe me! I didn’t have my first child until I was 37, so it’s fair to say I spent a good bit of time asking friends’ children, “Will you be my person? Will you take care of me in my old age?” Life changes so quickly… I went from being single and career focused to married and not just a parent, but a parent of a child with special needs. Life can be crazy in a wonderful, amazing, chaotic, stressful, meaningful way. Enjoy the ride, right? 🙂

    Posted by operationhaveitall | May 19, 2012, 11:37 am
    • You are so right! Thanks for sharing and taking the time to comment. Life can turn on a dime and I try to think I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I intend to enjoy the ride and hope you are too. Thank you!!! 🙂

      Posted by Brigitte | May 19, 2012, 12:21 pm
  18. I’m just a teenager right now, but I’ve already given some thought to how I’d like to spend my future. My sister got married and had kids at a young age, and I saw how much her life changed. Personally, I’d like to have a career and live my life for a while before I commit myself to providing for a family and taking care of a child that depends on me for life. Gone are the days when the best (only) thing a woman could ever hope to achieve was to have kids. And that should be the only explanation necessary.

    Posted by theacrimoniousphysicist | May 19, 2012, 1:12 pm
    • Everyone is different and isn’t that what makes life so wonderful? I love mothers and although I’m not one in the traditional sense, I certainly applaud any women that chooses and can have children. Thanks so much for your nice comment.

      Posted by Brigitte | May 19, 2012, 2:44 pm
  19. Hey, Bridgette! Congrats on being freshly pressed! I just wanted to let you know, that if you did have children your chances of having someone to take care of you when you are old and feeble, would probably be the same as they are now. I have worked in long-term care for almost a decade and I can promise you that these facilities are full of people that have more than one child. Just because you have children it doesn’t mean they will have the ability or capability to take care of you when you’re elderly. It’s sad but true! Stick with your nephew! I hope your blog continues to blossom!

    Posted by Life and all things love | May 19, 2012, 4:25 pm
    • Hi there! I know what you mean. I worked in a nursing home when I was in high school and witnessed what you said. My nephew is a sweetheart. :). BTW, loved your pics — your wedding pictures are gorgeous and how proud you must be of your brother. And your sweet little ones! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and hope your blog blossoms as well. :).

      Posted by Brigitte | May 19, 2012, 5:20 pm
  20. Brigitte,
    This was a great post. Even though I have a toddler son sometimes I think my path in life could have turned out differently. Unless you are a really close friend (and even then) I try to be very careful with the whole “when are you having kids?” question Maybe you can’t. Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe you do and he (or she) doesn’t. either way it’s not my business or anyone else’s. I like the buddhist quote from one of your readers. You are probably a mother to all your nephews and nieces and you know what? It’s always great to have that one aunt that loves you unconditionally, and that’s exactly how a mother loves : )

    Cheers,
    Nareen

    Posted by Nareen Luz Rivas | May 20, 2012, 2:16 pm
    • Hi Nareen, Thank you! I’m so glad you got the message and I agree, one of my nice followers who practices meditation and mindfulness left that beautiful Buddhist quote, while another shared a Yeats poem! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and kind words. I am a very lucky woman and aunt indeed! :). Be well.

      Posted by Brigitte | May 20, 2012, 2:22 pm
  21. I’ve just had to do an essay for Uni on Metamorphosis, and more specifically about how newness is brought into the world and whether it is made from existing materials.

    It was all about writing and writers, meta language and metaphors. Because I don’t believe the answer they were looking for in that particular criterion was; ‘by making a baby.’

    Posted by wordswithnannaprawn | May 20, 2012, 4:26 pm
    • I get it now….:). My brain is slow today. You’re funny and so is your website. :).

      Posted by Brigitte | May 20, 2012, 6:48 pm
      • Thanks so muchBrigitte that is so kind of you to say! I had no idea how my blogs would be received by other bloggers so any feedback is greatly appreciated. I would love to be a bit more of a ‘serious’ type of writer but my ridiculous personality will always ‘out’ at some point 🙂 have just put a new post up humiliating myself globally via wordpress with some photos of “My Great British Days Out” as a gangly kid….I really should probably just get some sort of therapy for this sort of behaviour x

        Posted by wordswithnannaprawn | May 21, 2012, 4:52 am
  22. i really enjoyed this read and i wouldnt worry about whos going to look after you too much..even those who have kids sometimes the kids turn around and dont look back…peace x

    Posted by Reem | May 21, 2012, 7:38 am
  23. Great read, Brigitte! I became a mom at far later in life so you can just imagine that I also went through those awkward moments like going to a birthday party of a friend’s son and me and hubby were the only ones who felt out of place. Motherhood is a choice and not an easy one at that. You have loving nieces and nephews who are there for you and that is what is important. 😉

    Posted by Malou | May 25, 2012, 3:20 am
  24. Hi there, I have just recently started a blog http://chummiesaus.blogspot.com.au/ and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Chummies/232534746862176?bookmark_t=page. It is a blog that exists to inspire and motivate couples or singles whom don’t have children, can’t have children and those who choose not to. I am keen to reach out to others so happy for more followers and likers to my links.
    Great Read! Glad to find your blog link.

    Posted by SB | June 1, 2012, 12:08 am

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noun
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