At my recent birthday party a close relative commented, "Now I guess you are really out of the loop kid-wise." Like many childfree people, I suffer hurtful comments from well-intentioned (and sometimes, not so well-intentioned) people. I ignored this one and tried to enjoy the rest of the evening. Unfortunately, the relative approached me a minute later and, in front of a room full of family, said, "I feel so sad that youíll never know first-hand about the mysteries of the universe, about the web and the flow of life." I was shocked that this person, whom I felt close to for many years and shared many joyful experiences, did not think that I lived life on the same level as she does, simply because my husband and I do not have kids.
I was feeling sad about the comment the next day and sought out a childfree friend to commiserate. "Oh," said Sarah "It drives me nuts when people try to make us feel less than human because we didnít bring more kids into this crowded world. It doesnít matter how many creatures you bring into the world but how well you take care of the ones who are already here. Caring for others, of all species, is what makes us really amazing."
I pictured Sarah teaching her fantastic kidsí art classes Ė how she looks like a mama Opossum with kids clinging to her arms and legs as she walks around the art room. Kids never want to leave her classroom and Iím sure they have wonderful memories of hours spent building massive clay creatures and painting murals. Being childfree does not make Sarah less of a teacher or less of an engaging human being. She is kind, warm-hearted, happily married to man who is a true friend, nurturing a mismatched family of cats they rescued from local animal shelters.
Since that birthday party, Iíve found ways to reach out to others also Ė volunteering at animal shelters, running playgroups for kids at local homeless shelters, teaching, and sharing my artwork with visitors to my studio. Iíve become aware of other childfree women who are contributing everyday to the quality of life in the community. I have a new appreciation for the nuns who take loving care of my father at the nursing home behind my house. They are on-call twenty-four hours a day to tend to the psychic needs of the residents. They always stop and chat when Iím walking my dogs. Do they worry about not connecting with lifeís great mysteries because they are childfree?
Do I know less about being human and living fully in our mysterious universe because I donít have kids? No! I have less experience in some areas but more in others! There is a loss in every decision we make - what we choose to pursue or not pursue. Because I donít have kids, I have gained more time to care for beings outside of the realm of my nuclear family and that time is precious.
We need to combat negative perceptions with positive reflections. I am interested in hearing stories about childfree couples and singles in your world who are active and positive community builders.