Perhaps one of the most delightful discoveries of coming to terms with not having children has been that my natural joie-de-vivre has returned.
In other words, I got my mojo working.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I wake up every morning like Mary Poppins, thrilled with the way my life has turned out in every tiny aspect, but neither am I so daft as to believe that:
(a) anyone really feels like that every day (with the exception perhaps of the Dalai Lama and I’m sure even he wakes up occasionally with neckache and wishes he could bunk off) or that,
(b) having had a family would have solved it.
But back to that mojo thing. It’s funny stuff, a bit like love. You can muddle along without it, but it’s not until it comes back into your life that you realise what you’ve been missing. It’s like someone just turned all the lights back on.
And what I realised was that what had missing from my life for a long time was joy. But, even more importantly, that the missing-in-action nature of my joy had had absolutely nothing to do with the usual suspects of divorce, money problems, career hiccups, illness, depression or infertility.
I lost my mojo because I lost my meaning. I forgot, and neglected, my why.
Viktor Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist, wrote a deeply moving and important memoir about his internment in Auschwitz called Mans’ Search for Meaning in which he quotes Nietzsche: “He has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” Having a reason to survive internment proved to be a major factor in determining who was alive, and who wasn’t, when the Allies liberated the camp…
Our why connects us to the larger purpose of our life; it lifts us up from our mundane day-to-day reality and gives our souls and hearts space to sing again. It reminds us that we matter, to ourselves. And that we have a mission that we, and we alone, are uniquely equipped to fulfill.
This is a message our culture keeps pretty close to its chest as it’s actually pretty subversive. Because once you realise that what you’re really looking for is meaning, you stop buying stuff hoping it’s going to fix that hole. You stop numbing yourself with food, relationships, holidays, property, sex, drama, alcohol, work, TV, celebrity culture, whatever…
You wake up in your life and, like the brilliant Talking Heads’ song wonder how did I get here?!
I got my mojo back because I understood that it wasn’t motherhood I craved, it was meaning. Being a mother is deeply meaningful, but it’s not the only route.
I got my mojo back because whilst I understand that giving birth is the primordial creative act for a women, there are many ways to be creative, many ways to serve and many ways to be a mother. And that my mission is to share this message with other childless women so that they too can make the joyful transition from childless to childfree – to being a nomo and proud of it!
To help them remember what their mojo’s for. What their why is.
I prefer dogs to kids. Not because they are “almost human”. I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such. For me dogs are the role model for being alive.
I am quite glad that my life is one rocky quest that gives me chances of constant self improvement, not disturbed by biological determinism. It takes lots of courage and understanding of deeper purposes of human existence to break free from poky cage of rotten cultural patterns. The most important thing is not to care too much what people say – at the very end of the day your main obligation to society is to pay your taxes.
Yes, and maybe it’s about acceptance. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson of all.
Thanks for this post, Jody. As a 40-year-old single woman who still thinks she’d like children but knows it’s not the answer to the void, I could really relate to your writing. I know enough mothers – either single or with a partner – who are still searching for meaning. I guess our sense of meaning and purpose has to come from the inside and not from any externals, but as you suggest, that’s not a popular message in today’s consumer culture. Best wishes, Katherine x
I agree entirely, and I know a couple of friends who have actually been quite disappointed/depressed by motherhood because it didn’t provide that meaning for them- thus for both the childed and the child-free it is really important to pick apart these two strands; meaning and self-actualisation comes in many forms, and caring for children *may* be one of them, but there is no certainty that it is the case, and there are indeed plenty of alternative forms.
The most helpful thing for me was an interview in the UK magazine Pyschologies, about 6 years ago, with Laura Linney, describing how her life “burnt down”, leaving her exhausted and alone and having to rebuild. I found the metaphor really helpful, that I needed to rebuild.
It seems it is only possible to rebuild when one has that “aha!” moment and realises that having no children does not equate a life with no meaning, or fullness. You are not rebuilding a second-best, ‘runner’s up’ life, you are rebuilding a full and satisfying life in a slightly different direction.
And yes, my mojo is definitely not only back but bigger and better than before. I’m more content now than I have ever been in my life. I also seem now to have the enthusiasm to involve myself in sports, culture, charity, education, socialising- I plan to be a feisty old bird.
Hello Feisty! Really great comment – thanks for sharing. My heart goes out to your friends who’ve found out the hard way that motherhood isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of meaning. It’s sold as such by our culture (and I have a theory that the recent ‘festishization’ of motherhood is actually part of a societal backlash to female emancipation and thus it’s been ‘oversold’ to try and hold back the pace of gender equality – in Scandanavia where gender equality is much more advanced, they don’t have the ‘mummy mania’ of UK and USA… ). Conversations about meaning are missing from many dialogues, and may also be a contributing factor in the absurd expectations we have of romantic relationships too… Oooh, I could go on for ages.
Great that you’ve got your mojo back! I too have got much more energy and curiosity again to get involved in other things… and am happier than I’ve been for decades! Hoorah!
Love your point of view, love it when you comment — thanks so much. Jody x
You are very welcome! I really look forward to your posts, this is a great site, it was about time someone spoke up about our situation.
Maybe one day you’ll come and run a group here in Germany 😉
You are right about the fetishization of motherhood, but I can’t decide if it’s being driven by a backlash from society-as-in-patriarchy or simply by women’s own responses to the uncertainty of the post 9/11 and 7/7 world; certainly both US and UK have irresponsible media that amplifies the fear, so women may be being influenced by that. Which takes us neatly to ‘but who owns the media’ and round to the patriarchy again!
But probably like most things in life, there’s a mixture of reasons…
This post was so deep with meaning. It is a wonderful and true article. Women can find other meaning than being a mother, and it is very important to have meaning in your life. Joy. Meaning. Mojo. I love this, and how uplifting this can be to women who are infertile and childless (they should really come up with kinder words…we’re not living in barbarian times anymore!)
Thank you for commenting – I’m glad the tone of the post resonated with you. There is so much good stuff online about choosing to be childfree or infertility, but very little in the ‘what next’ space. I feel so strongly that had I had more role models of a fulfilling life as a woman without children, I wouldn’t have had such a hard time coming to terms with it. And yes, ‘infertile’, ‘barren’, ‘childless’… tough vocab, huh?! Totally agree with you that we need to humanize the language… feminize it even! Thanks again, Jody x
Agreed – if I had *any* role models of a fulfilling life as a woman without children I would not be having such a hard time. Hence, why I am so happy I came across this website today and feel like I will be able to get my mojo back after all.
I remember the ‘aha’ moment, when I realised that what I really wanted was more meaning in my life and the fact that I haven’t got children didn’t mean that I couldn’t have that So true.
Thanks Sally. Those ‘aha’ moments are precious and full of meaning. They are pearls we can string together to fashion a life well-lived. Thank you xxx
You’re quite right – it’s working out how to nurture your mojo and recognise your purpose. The coaching sounds like a great idea to avoid that other Talking Head favourite – “Road to nowhere”.
I love the term ‘childfree’, it’s like giving permission to women who are not mothers to have a reason to celebrate, which somehow feels taboo. I would have joined this group if I lived closer. Look forward to hearing more about it!
We 1 in 5 who are not mothers do indeed need to celebrate. We have so much to be happy for and by living visible, meaningful, fulfilling lives we show the way for those still in ‘the tunnel’ and those even younger who may just be wondering if there are any alternatives to being a mother in order to be happy. If you think you can get together about 6-10 women I’ll come and run a group nearer you! Love, Jody x