Childlessness can be experienced as a relational wound and can ask a lot of us and our friendships – Sometimes more than they can bear. As many of our friends move into parenting, coupling and families, we can find ourselves increasingly isolated and feeling like outsiders in family-centred relationships, social spaces and workplaces. Yet childless people have much to give as friends, and we deserve relationships with others who can be authentic, empathetic and available.
In this free Gateway Women Masterclass, Sarah Roberts, Judy Graham and myself explored the different types, purpose and contexts of friendships in our lives, and both the shadow and light sides of friendships for childless people. We talked about the difference for unpartnered and partnered people, how our needs change across the life course, and offered strategies for exploring new terrain in old friendships, as well as laying the foundations for new ones.
We shared some resources and recommendations in our talk that you might want to explore.
Finding new childless friends: we recommend that you join our online community, and create both online peer-support connections in a safely moderated environment, as well as meeting up locally at our member-only ‘Gatherings’ which take place across the world. Find out more and access/join here.
Addressing the tender relational wound of worthiness (which can impede our willingness to ‘risk’ friendship/connection again): we recommend a number of strategies, including working with a childless therapist (Sarah and Judy are both childless therapists working in Australia/NZ and my listings for other trusted childless therapists and coaches around the world can be found here.
Healing & connection in a group setting: do consider attending one of Gateway Women’s Reignite Weekends, which have been running for over a decade and have helped thousands of childless women heal their hearts and make new childless connections. Sarah and Judy are my Licenced Regnite Weekend Facilitators for Australia and New Zealand (with weekends planned for 2024 in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth) and there are also weekends which run in the UK. You can see the full listings here.
Living the Life Unexpected: How to Find Hope, Meaning and a Fulfilling Future without Children by Jody Day. More info and free sample here.
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Love by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. (Works for friendships too!) More here.
Platonic: How The Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends by Dr. Marisa G Franco. More here.
Academic Paper (free download) ‘Social Exclusion of Australian Childless Women in Their Reproductive Years’ by Beth Turnbull, Melissa L Graham and Ann R Taket. Multidisciplinary Studies in Social Inclusion, Vol 4, No 1 (2016) Free PDF download
We really hope that this webinar helps you to feel less alone in your experience of friendships around and within childlessness. If you would like to keep up to date with future GW Masterclass webinars, please join my mailing list here. You can also watch previous Masterclasses here.
Thank you to Judy Graham and Sarah Roberts for being my guests, and for their insightful and helpful contributions.
HOSTED BY JODY DAY (UK/IRELAND): the founder of Gateway Women and the author of Living the Life Unexpected: How to Find Hope, Meaning and a Fulfilling Future Without Children and a 2021 Digital Woman of the Year 2021. Chosen as one of the BBC’s 100 Women in 2013, she’s a global thought leader on female involuntary childlessness, an integrative psychotherapist, a two-times TEDx speaker, a founding and former board member at Ageing Well Without Children, a former Fellow in Social Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School and a proud World Childless Week Ambassador. A lifelong Londoner, for the last five years she has lived in rural Ireland where she is trying very hard to complete her first novel (featuring a childless heroine of course!) and developing her emerging Gateway Elderwomen project. Join Jody’s mailing list here and find her Instagram @gatewaywomen and @ApprenticeCrone.
SARAH ROBERTS (AUS) is a licensed Gateway Women Facilitator and World Childless Week Ambassador for the Asia/Pacific. Sarah’s heartbreaking childlessness journey ended a 25-year career working with children and young people. In 2014, she founded The Empty Cradle, a service for women coming to terms with involuntary childlessness. Sarah brings together a unique combination of lived experience, clinical counselling and social work skills (ACA registered), and academic work (completing Master Social Work). A 2020 graduate of Gateway Women’s year-long Plan B Mentorship Program, the Online Bee, Sarah is passionate about the complexity of the human experience and what it means to live a good life. Sarah considers permanent involuntary childlessness to be one of the sacred journeys of adult womanhood and has supported hundreds of women to grieve the losses and nurture lives of connection, meaning and joy. Living on a semi-rural property in Brisbane, Australia, Sarah’s ‘Plan B’ includes habitat restoration for local native wildlife (including endangered koalas) and future generations.
Sarah’s website is www.theemptycradle.com and you can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook https://www.facebook.com/involuntarychildlessness or Instagram @theemptycradle
JUDY GRAHAM (AUS) is a licensed Gateway Women Reignite Facilitator and a World Childless Week Ambassador. With over 20 years experience working in education, counselling and reproductive health, Judy was shocked to find the lack of awareness, empathy and support to meet the needs of childless women within the health and wellbeing sectors. Having navigated her own journey of circumstantial childlessness, Judy founded WomenHood in 2019 where she specialises in providing counselling and support for Australian women who are childless not by choice. Personal and professional experiences have deepened her appreciation and curiosity about how we can tend to disenfranchised grief, social exclusion and life transitions. Judy’s experience gives her the courage to challenge stereotypes and fuels the compassion she brings to other women on their journeys to healing their childless hearts and living lives of purpose, meaning and connection. Nurturing her own childless friendships and finding connection within the burgeoning childless community have been nourishment for the soul in her unexpected life.
You can visit Judy at www.womenhood.com.au and contact her directly at email@example.com or Instagram @womenhood_counselling
To watch previous GW Masterclasses click here. To sign up to future free GW Masterclasses, click here.