Monday, October 25, 2010

Have you ever felt this?

I'm in church playing the piano for 5:30 Mass.. A baby has been gurgling and whining throughout the Mass, and now I hear him letting out a wail. His mother is standing in the aisle bouncing him. Suddenly out of nowhere I have this bone deep physical need to hold a baby. I'm not even sure I know how, but I need to. When I realize that it's unlikely I'll ever have the chance to do that—I'm estranged from my stepchildren and step-grandchildren and live far from my niece and nephew—I just want to wail.

I lose all track of what's going on in the Mass for a moment because it hits me so hard. I look back on the last 26 years with my husband and think "What happened?" I was married, then alone, then married and now I'm alone again. I have no babies to hold. I don't think there's any amount of compensation or redirecting of mother energy that can counteract that physical need.

I know there are childless women who claim they have never felt a desire for children and don't expert to ever feel it. God bless them. But for me and maybe for you, it's such a deep physical need that no amount of logic will make it disappear. It's a loss which I will always grieve. Just as I miss my mother, miss touching her, miss the way she smelled and the sound of her voice, I miss the children I never had.

It's like when you're so hungry that you can't think of anything else. You can't talk it away. You need food or you will die.

I'm thinking maybe it's time to stop writing about being childless and go find someplace where I can hug babies. Who is going to let this 50-something childless stranger hug their children? Mothers would see me as a threat. I can hug puppies, but not human babies.

I tune back into the Mass in time to play the next song, but the feeling that something's missing lingers.

Do you ever feel this way?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How can we use our mothering energy?

In a comment on a previous post, Elena said she wished she knew how to use her "mothering energy." I wanted to flip out an easy answer about getting involved with kids at her church, a local school, or some kind of social program. But then I realized I would not feel comfortable doing any of these things. I have minimal experience being around children. I am utterly unprepared to teach or take care of them. I could learn, but the idea makes me nervous. I know, they're just kids and I was one once, but I feel less qualified to work with children than I feel about the accounting job someone just suggested I apply for. At least I have been balancing checkbooks (sort of) for decades.

Mothers and others might find it difficult to believe that a woman could go through life spending almost no time with children, but it happens. It happened to me, and maybe it happened to you.

These days I lead singing with the children at our church on Wednesday nights. It's fun, but another woman does all the talking and interacting with the kids. I just sing and play my guitar.

Some childless people have lots of kids around them. Maybe they come from big families where they took care of their siblings or they have nieces and nephews they adore. Some are teachers or work with kids in daycare or medicine or some other field. They're using their mothering energy all the time. We could volunteer at church, school, or the children's shelter to be around children, but if you don't feel comfortable with that, I understand.

Let's look at it another way. What is mothering? Beyond actually giving birth, it's taking care of someone else. God knows we all need that, no matter how old we are. We can provide food for the poor, company for the lonely, help for anyone who needs it. And it doesn't have to be human. We can take care of dogs. We can grow flowers or tomatoes.

And we can make things, using our creativity in so many ways, whether we write books, bake bread, make sculptures or program computers.

I know it's not the same as having children, but moping about what we don't have doesn't help for long. Grieve for a while, admit that it sucks, then find some other way to use your motherly powers.

What are your thoughts on mothering energy?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wise words for women without children

"Birthing is in every cell of you. You do not have to have a baby to experience the essence of you." Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of the fabulous Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, said that on public TV last week. I was in a hotel room in Washington state, using the TV for background noise as I got dressed. Suddenly my ears perked up. What did she say? Hey. Northrup also stressed that the world needs its childless "aunties" for the all things they do.

Northrup, who is in her 50s, often talks about rebirthing and the opportunity women have after menopause to create themselves anew. For childless women, we find some peace because our body has ended the debate on whether or not we should have children. The issue is settled. Certainly it's that way for me. Oh, I still wish I had kids and grandkids. I still ache for the loss, but it's easier to accept because there's nothing I can do about it. I must live the life I have.

In some ways, not having children can be a blessing. Yesterday I came across a fabulous post called "Women's Energy Bodies--Phases and Life Cycles." In it, blogger "mommymystic" describes the phases of a woman's life from a yoga point of view. She includes motherhood but also discusses the role of the mature childfree woman. " . . . In many religous traditions, a woman's spiritual worth seems to be equated with motherhood. Those who put this forth seem to be forgetting that most of the better known mystics in all religious traditions, male or female, have not had families . . . "

Read the whole post and be inspired.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is This Not Mothering?

I may not be an actual mother, but sometimes I get weary of mothering anyway. I take my husband, who has Alzheimer's Disease, to the doctor and find myself explaining where we're going and why and assuring him that the doctor will not hurt him. He will not give him any shots. As we walk, I hold his hand, not out of affection the way it used to be, but to keep him from getting lost or falling down. In the doctor's office, I speak for him because he's not good with words anymore. The doctor speaks mostly to me because my husband does not understand what he's saying. When it's over, I wait while he goes to the bathroom, then treat him to a hamburger. Is this not mothering?

Likewise, when I come home from a trip, I need to pick up my dog at the kennel. First, I wash her blankets and straighten out her bed. I make sure I have enough food and make an appointment with the vet for her shots. Then I go get her. She runs out of her cage, gives me a big wet kiss and jumps into the car. All the way home, she's trying to get my attention. Pet me, love me, entertain me. Is this not mothering?

I recently read about a new website for Jewish women who are childless. It's called Take a look. Even if you're not Jewish, you may find something helpful.


There's a great article, "Childless by (100% Regret-Free) Choice," by Nanette Varian on the MORE magazine site. Granted, we might argue that we're not childless by choice, but you'll still find a lot of interesting information about how our lives are different, about attitudes toward childless women, about books to read, and more.