Having made it through yet another childless Christmas, all of us childless by circumstance women can breathe out a huge collective sigh of relief!
It’s over and we can get back to our daily lives, and the coping mechanisms and busy routines that serve to protect us, most of the time, from the feelings of isolation, sadness and loss we often feel. Now Christmas is over, we can move back into the mainstream again; we can pass for normal women again. Well, most of the time, anyway.
But there comes a day, maybe after we’ve had just one too many mediocre Christmases, when we begin to wonder if this is really all there is for us. Are we really doomed to eat the scraps at other people’s celebrations for life? Are we not ‘enough’ as people that we too deserve a celebration where our lives are at the centre?
We begin to find the chair that society keeps for us at the table of life, the one marked ‘superfluous woman’, too uncomfortable to sit in any more. We’ve sat there for a while, and done our best to bear it, but eventually, we either accept the chair and the ‘poor woman’ role that comes with it, or we decide that we’ve had enough of this damn chair and that we want something different. We think: “that’s it – next year it’s going to be different.”
However, ‘it’ is unlikely to change. And neither are the people around us, even if they say they’ll ‘try’. Because the inconvenient truth is that we have no power over how other people view us, or treat us. The only thing we have any control over is ourselves, and even that feels pretty shaky. But it’s all we’ve got and, actually, it’s all we need.
In my experience, change only happens when it’s absolutely necessary. When my back’s against the wall and there’s no alternative left. When I absolutely bloody have to change, because not changing is no longer a viable option.
With 2013 around the corner, no doubt a few New Year’s resolutions are surfacing in your mind. Generally, these involve trying to ‘improve’ ourselves by either giving up a bad habit, or taking up an improving one. But I’ve come to realise that such resolutions start from the wrong place, particularly for those of us who are childless by circumstance. They imply that there’s something ‘wrong’ with us that requires ‘fixing’. In my opinion, anything that reinforces the idea that there’s something ‘wrong’ with us is unhelpful at best, and highly damaging at worst.
I have an idea that all change, good or bad, starts when a pattern is broken. And it doesn’t have to be a big change, to make big change happen. For me, the biggest change I’ve made, and which is changing everything in my life, is that I gave up the idea that there’s something wrong with me.
I choose not to agree with our culture’s view that as a single, childless woman there’s something broken about me. By allowing myself to grieve the loss of my longed for identity as a mother, I’ve created a space for a new identity to blossom. And the ‘me’ that is arising from the ashes of my broken dreams is someone I’m learning to like, learning to respect, learning to trust. Because there’s nothing ‘broken’, or ‘superfluous’ about her!
A favourite quote of mine from Eleanor Roosevelt is that “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The fact is, we don’t have to agree with what others think of us.
If you want next Christmas to be different; if you want every Christmas to be different from now on, break the pattern. Stop believing that there’s anything wrong with you because you’re not a mother. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t agree with you. They’ll come round. And even if they don’t, what have you got to lose except your unhappiness?
Imagine if every childless woman were to stop beating themselves up for being ‘wrong’ in 2013. Breaking a pattern like that could change more than Christmas, it could change society! It could begin to break down the barriers between mothers and the childless; between men and women. It could cause all kinds of trouble! Childless women are a radically destabilising force in the culture – that’s why it wants to keep us in the naughty chair. However, we don’t actually have to sit there if we’ve had enough of how it makes us feel.
I have had a wonderful Christmas surrounded by families and children. And I didn’t have to sit in the naughty chair once. Changing the way we feel about ourselves can have a remarkable effect on others too…
If you’d like a shot of New Year’s inspiration, please do come along to a talk I’m giving: “Rocking the Life Unexpected”on Tuesday 8th January, 7pm in London’s Covent Garden.
Jody Day (48) is a London-based writer and the Founder of Gateway Women: an organisation she founded to support, inspire and empower childless-by-circumstance women to live fertile, passionate, meaningful lives. She holds a certificate in integrative counselling and is training towards becoming an integrative psychotherapist. Jody runs groups, workshops & retreats for Gateway Women, as well as offering one-to-one consultations. A godmother & aunt many times over, but never a mother, she speaks regularly at events and in the media. Her book: “Reignite:A 12-week Plan to Create a Meaningful & Fulfilling Life Without Children ” will be available on the Gateway Women website as an e-book in January 2013.
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