This is the question that haunts you: What the hell am I going to do with my life if I don’t have a baby?
It’s often the driver that keeps the engine of anxiety churning, night and day… It’s the 3am question par excellence, although we’re a bit sheepish to admit it to anyone.
I’ve got some good news and some bad news
- The Good News: Once you’ve got to the time where ‘running out of time to have a baby’ becomes ‘I ran out of time to have a baby’ things get a whole lot simpler.
- The Bad News: It may get a whole lot simpler, but the solutions don’t get easier.
Why not being a mother sucks
If we put aside the biological drive to have children for a moment, one of the things we crave from having a child is to create a family. Becoming part of something bigger than ourselves. Becoming the most important person in the world to another human being. Taking on the lifelong task of being the best mother you can.
- Being a mother is, perhaps, one of the most important jobs on the planet. Even world leaders, prophets and dictators answer to their mothers, for good or ill!
- Being a mother in our culture is meaningful, has status and gets you out of your own way forever.
- As a friend once said to me when she had her first child “I don’t have to worry what my life’s about any more” – being a mother is an existential ‘get out of jail free’ card. You’re off the hook, meaning-wise.
When you’re a mother, the thing that has the potential to make the difference between a good day and a bad day, happiness and despair, fulfilment and frustration is… your children. Your work may or may not be a source of fulfilment for you, but being a good mother is something you don’t need anyone else’s permission for.
If you don’t have children, you can’t delegate the major part of your happiness, fulfillment and meaning to your role as a mother and your delight in your children. You have to do it for yourself. And the feedback loop is invisible – no cheery little people smiling and hugging you, no knowing smiles of approval from other parents, no special day in the calendar to tell you how wonderful you are and how much you mean not just to your family, but to the whole flipping world.
Whilst motherhood is a lifetime of hard work, the results are tangible (even if you don’t like them or they bring you great sadness) and once you have a child, irreversible. Creating a life of meaning as a woman without children is a promise to ourselves that no-one forces us to keep and which has to be renewed daily.
As a childless women, no-one’s going to jump on your bed at 6am and remind you that you promised to:
- write that book
- clean out the fridge
- change your job
- move to Paris
- leave Paris
- meditate more
- travel up the Amazon
- retrain as a garden designer
- stop buying scented candles
- climb a mountain
- be nice to yourself
- eat more vegetables
The world, frankly, doesn’t give a shit what you do with your life now, as long as you don’t make too much noise and hopefully become the unpaid and uncomplaining carer of your elderly parents.
So, this is the time to start making some noise. To get your mojo working again.
What does it mean to have your mojo working?
For me, one of the things it means as a childless women is having the balls to get out of your comfort zone. The balls to look in the mirror and see someone there who matters, dammit! And then to do everything in your power to make her life matter.
It means having the courage, faith and self-belief to create a meaningful life in whatever way makes sense to you, and to do the work to find out what that is if you’ve forgotten how to dream. That fierce mama you were going to be to your children? Well, you need her to kick your ass now and draw on her love and encouragement to be the best YOU you can.
It means working through the grief of your childlessness until you’re ready to stop blaming biology, society, your surgeon, your mother, your ex, your boss and the world for your situation and to get busy with your Plan B. That doesn’t mean that these aren’t factors in how things turned out, far from it, but that you’re THROUGH with investing your life-force in a toxic blame and shame game. It’s time you kissed your own knee better, gave yourself a loving pep talk about ‘getting back out there to fight another day’ and went back out into the world with your head held high.
It doesn’t mean you have to have a big life on the outside. Just because you don’t have kids, there’s no reason why you can’t live a quietly fulfilling life. You’ve got nothing to prove to anyone, nothing to ‘make up for’ (that’s just more shame talking). But it does mean that you need a big life on the inside.
To be a fulfilled and happy childless women when that’s not what you chose requires that you psychologically mature in a way that not that many people have the balls to do. It requires you to stare at the stark reality of your existence unsoftened by the idea that “life goes on” after you’ve died. This process, whilst daunting, will free you up to become the person you can only dream of right now.
From the hell of a barren women, to one hell of a woman.
That’s the bad news, and the good news.
It’s 6am. This is your wake-up call. Go kick some ass sister. The world needs you to show up, it really does. Have you seen it out there recently?!
Jody Day is the Founder of Gateway Women: an organization she founded in 2011 to support, inspire and empower childless-by-circumstance women to live fertile, passionate, meaningful lives. She works with women who are still hopeful of becoming mothers as well as those for whom that time has passed. She holds a certificate in integrative counselling and is training to qualify as an integrative psychotherapist. Jody runs groups & workshops for Gateway Women, and also offers one-to-ones for women looking to explore issues around identity, maternity & fertility. A Godmother & Aunt many times over, but never a mother, she speaks regularly at events and is always looking to share her empowering message with new audiences. If you would like Jody to speak at one of your events, or to write for your blog or magazine, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org