My favorite folks ! :)

13 November 2010

Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

 Duane and i frequently come up blank on "what to do" on a weekend.  I do get frustrated that when i ask what he'd like to do, the answer often is "Idonno."  Sigh.  Of course, he is pretty limited because i'm pretty limited.  If he suggested hiking to the top of Sugarloaf, well, it would just be cruel.  

Our frequent default is to see a movie.  We do rent movies inexpensively, but often we want to "get out."  Frankly, the cost for the two of us to see a movie here in Big Bear is less than one of us seeing a movie in Orange County.  The cost isn't very high here to begin with, but if we see a matinee it is less, and they have great coupons too.  So going to a movie for the two of us is pretty reasonable.  

Still, i wish we could come up with more things to do.  Of course i have plenty of work that we need to do.  A large part of our woodpile is still too big to fit in our stove.  I need to pick up twigs and all for fire starter.  We could actually do some of the things that we have discussed doing like building a shed or a greenhouse.  But the building takes money.  I also have laundry to do.  I could do cooking/baking.  We often don't do these things, however.  Our lifestyle is that we can be rather lazy.  We don't often have work we have to do (it is amazing how that the many things we procrastinate just don't ever have to be done).  My energy limitations hold us back some, too. 

Of course, we are somewhat limited financially right now.  Our budget is very, very tight at the moment.  With the idea that we've company coming for Thanksgiving (we won't have the big meal here, but there will still be folks to feed other meals and we will be bringing stuff to the big dinner) most of the money we will have will be going toward food.  

I've lots to do that doesn't cost a lot of money (well, no more money; i have the supplies).  I've been making things to give as Christmas gifts, and i've always lots of projects - knitting and other crafts - to do.  But that isn't something Duane joins me in doing.  Although, maybe he would enjoy doing some of them, i'll have to ask.

No big deal.  We just are going thru another of our lazy Saturdays.

I follow a blog by Jess called The Macs.  It is one of the first blogs i ever followed.  She lost a daughter age 10-1/2 months to chemo about 20 months ago.  Her son is about 10 months old.  This week she has been talking about friendship.  She especially has been focused on it since reading Lisa Welchel's book Friendship for Grown-ups.  Jess has a lot of friends.  

I think many of the bloggers i read do have a lot of friends.  I think that is why i'm attracted to them.  Friendship is something that does not come easily to me, although i'm blessed with several wonderful friends.  It is something with which i have always struggled, although it is important to me.  

But i also think that when you reach a certain age and do not have children, friendships can become a bit more challenging, especially if previous friends began to have families.  Of course, i'm past that part (friends starting families) most of my friends and family are now having grandchildren.  

There are times when i comment at mommy blogs (i read a few) where i feel very limited in my comments.  I can only comment from my own experience in childhood or adolescence, i do not have the experience of being a mama, experiencing whatever thru my children, from which to draw.  I was a nanny for several years, but i've had the feeling (in the past) when i commented from that experience it wasn't much appreciated.  There are times i feel a certain "failure to launch" in life, because i never had the opportunity to take this path.  I feel that i only have the childhood part of the picture, not the adult side.

Thus it was with some surprise that i read this week a recent report on childlessness at another blog:  Fertility of American Women.  Of course, i don't really see this report as fertility.  Many women may have been fertile, but unable to have children due to other circumstances unrelated to physical ability.  

What surprised me most is that the data shows that among women age 40-44, 18% do not have children.  That is almost 1 in 5.  It also showed this pattern across many demographics:  Race, education, income level, and location in the US.  

I thought, "How is it possible that 1 in 5 women don't have children, yet i know so few of them?"  But on further thought, i find that is not true.  I began to make a list of the folks i know (some are good friends, others i just know) who do not have children.  

Elsa (yes, my youngest sister)
Sheree (although she is 37)
Debra Ann
Emily (not yet 40)
Jessica (cousin, she may not be 40 yet, either)
Melody (maybe not yet 40)
Michelle (different one)
Jessica (another one)
Sharon (another one)

These are just the folks that i know or have met personally.  There are at least another dozen i've met online.  Some are still wanting to have families, others are no longer pursuing that and have begun putting together a life with a family of two.  Some are single and never had the opportunity.

And, of course, i don't know the reasons for all these women on my list.  Some have never met a partner with whom to share life.  They are not folks who would consider being a single parent by choice.  Others have had infertility struggles.  And some, i simply don't know.  We've never discussed it. 

The website i read this report at seems to be (i only found it recently so i don't know the full story) of childless by choice, what they call "childfree." 

And in thinking over this list, i began to realize why i was so ignorant of the number of childless women i know:  We don't have a unifying pull.  

What i mean is, when a woman becomes a mother, she joins this great sorority of shared experiences that seems to draw them into a circle.  When 2 women meet, if they both have children, they immediately share a bond that they can usually find topics on which to discuss easily.  If one is not a mama, it may be more work to find a common topic.  If neither have children, there is not an immediate "oh we have this in common" - childlessness alone doesn't necessarily make that bond.  

Those of us who do not have children do not meet for a "no mommy no me" morning.  We don't meet and share experiences at schools as we have no children in those schools.  Preschools, "Mommy and me" programs, after school programs, Vacation Bible Schools - all these things are geared toward children and parents. 

Pamela Jean did a great job in choosing the title for her book, Silent Sorority, but i'm afraid that the fact is non-mamas don't really share a similar bond.  Even if two childless not by choice women meet, they do not necessarily speak of this childlessness.  It is not, it cannot be the same as the bond shared by mamas.  I'm not making an emotional or critical statement here, simply relaying facts.  Sharing some observations. 

Of that long list i have above, i have only discussed children with six of these women.  With the others, i simply do not know.  

Often these things are just too painful to ask, and it is hard to know where to take it.  If someone has been thru a long, difficult fight with infertility and chosen not to pursue it any farther, they may very much not want to talk about it.  Others may want to talk about it but don't have the chance.  

The daughter of a friend lost a baby about a year ago.  (I don't know the daughter well, but have been around her all the time she was growing up.)  I very much wanted to send a note to her, remembering the kindness of a family who sent a note to us after our loss (the only note anyone sent us, i think).  However, i didn't have an address and when i asked, the family said she didn't want to talk about it any more, she wouldn't appreciate a note.  

It is also hard to know how to respond to people.  When asked if i have children, these days i will usually just say, "No," or on occasion, "We haven't been blessed."  In the past, trying to relate to people, i would say we wanted them but that we haven't been all that lucky, or on occasion i would even mention our losses.  It doesn't seem to me that such a thing should be impossible to mention, but the reaction i usually had was so much discomfort that it stopped rather than encouraged conversation.  I've had to stop doing that because it just isn't helpful.  But i admit, i rather resent that i cannot mention our desire for children or disappointment.  I also resent that if i mention it anywhere (such as at Facebook), the lack of response is heartbreaking to me; however the one or two who do acknowledge the loss means more to me than i can say.  I don't know if any other culture is better at this than we, but our culture definitely does not handle any kind of loss or disappointment well.  

But the culture is not to blame alone.  Just as my response to a note after loss was very different from my friend's daughter, the experience of going thru infertility is so very different for each woman.  It is not at all the same as sharing the experience of giving birth, nursing, raising children.   The reasons for not having children is also very diverse.  Women who are childless do not have a unifying experience to bond them.  I know i said that before, but it is becoming very, very clear to me right now.  

Also, good or bad, right or wrong, it seems disappointments and loss can drive a wedge as often as it unites.  

I'm thinking of a conversation with a distant cousin a while ago.  She was sharing how depressed she feels at holidays, being around the family, family with children, etc.  How disappointed she is that hasn't happened for her, how sad she is.  I tried to commiserate with her, our disappointment about no children is intense, too.  But when i tried to "connect" - her response was, "At least you have a husband!  You have someone in your life who loves you!"  In general she is a very upbeat person.  She does not usually respond in this manner.  However, this is my experience frequently with folks.  They tend to say, "At least . . . " in other words, "my pain is still worse than yours."

I've run into this many times on many levels.  Most recently it was with someone i know who lost an adult child (many years ago).  I spoke of the pain of childlessness and her response was "At least you didn't have to go thru the raising of them only to see them die so senselessly."  What i felt but did not say was, "At least you got to be a mama.  At least you knew the joy of being called mama."  

I did not say this because this "At least . . . " stuff is insulting.  It is rejecting the pain of one in preference of the other.  For me to say that to her would be to discount her pain of the loss of her child.  The fact that she was discounting my pain does not make it right.  I don't really understand why we do this.  But i do know it divides rather than connects.  There is NO comfort in an "At least . . . " statement. 

Wow, this is long.  And negative.  Think i'll have to do "grateful" in a separate post.



Linda said...

You make so many good points here. It must be so hard for you.. Thanks for sharing your helps me to know I should never say..."at least you..." to anyone. I can see how that is so wrong and hurtful.

I used to go to Big Bear sometimes when I lived in Southern California. Do you love living there? God sure made some beautiful places in this world.

Your pictures of the critters were cute.

Happy Weekend!

Jess and Krissy said...

You're so right. My DH's brother and his wife had an early miscarriage last Christmas. I was devastated for them when I found out, which was, of course, after the fact AND after I'd stuck my foot in my mouth with a comment about the new baby. I apologized profusely, to which she responded she was over it. I was dumbfounded, and a little angry. I know that makes no sense, but I know that if we'd suffered a loss, I'd be a hot mess for a long time to come, and only slightly less "messy" after that. She just brushed it off. I was angry that she was so nonchalant about the loss of a baby, a real, living baby, even if it only existed inside her, and even angrier when she conceived again easily the very next month. I say that to say that we are all so very different that even if there WAS a common thread, we still wouldn't have anyone to talk about it with because no one reacts the same. I want to talk about it. I want to tell someone, anyone besides my husband and my mother, that I'm heartbroken every day, moreso now than any other time of year, and some days the fact that I might never be a mother makes me physically ache. I want to say to someone that I'm scared. I'm scared we'll never have a baby. I'm scared we WILL, and I won't be able to care for it because I will get too sick. I'm afraid a baby will ruin my marriage because I will have to give what little I have to a baby and there won't be much left for my wonderful husband. I'm afraid he'll resent having to care for me and for children. Mostly, though, I'm afraid that the only person I'll ever fill a stocking for is him, and the only one I'll ever by a tiny red Christmas dress for is my Yorkie. There is no one to tell these things to. I long for, so very much, a group of women, a "no mommy, no me" group, where I can sit and sob because my heart hurts, or talk about the things I do to make life special for my husband because I can't give him children, or just sit and be quiet and KNOW that other people can feel my pain. Such a group doesn't exist, and I need one. I can't even say these things in my women's group at church because they don't understand, and they shy away because it's uncomfortable.

Sorry. I'm going to stop here. It's long and whiny. In case you can't tell, I'm having one of those emotional days, and your post hit a bit of a nerve. Praying for you.


That corgi :) said...

We often struggle to figure out what to do on the weekends too. Part of it for us is I only have one complete day off (I work half days Friday/Saturday) so we tend to pack a lot in on Sunday when I just want to "chill" at home. I like lazy days, LOL :)

all the critters were cute!


marygems said...

Kathryn- you and I should be friends! We both have similar needs in some areas. How are you at long distance friendship? I would love to learn about this place called Big Bear ? in California-? and maybe you'd be interested to learn a little about New Zealand? I'm often lonesome at weekends, and love my blogger friends posts that keep me company, but I would like to get to know people more deeply and be able to pray and support and to receive that when I need it also. Let me know your thoughts. You write so well and express your sentiments clearly-I want to give you a good old BEAR HUG. Your friend down under in New Zealand. Mary.

Kathryn said...

Hi Linda - i did come off as rather harsh, didn't i? I just see folks throw up so many divisions when they are in pain.

We LOVE living in Big Bear. We feel so blessed. Did i ever tell you that i did find your old church (in Huntington Beach?) on Google Maps. You can see it in street view. When you get to California again, let us know. :)

Oh, Dear Krystal - i just want to give you a hug! I understand that pain too well. You can say whatever you want to me - or email me. I pray God give you the desire of your heart.

Hi Betty - must be hard to not have weekends. Hope your Sunday is a long, delightful day where you can "chill." :)

Mary Gems - i think you must be a gem. :) Part of the reason i like blogging (rather than Facebook or Twitter) is that there is more opportunity to know folks more deeply. I was going to say i'd email you later today but i see your profile has no email address, so you will have to email me. (My email is listed under "about us" at the top.)

Amrita said...

Hugs for you Kathy

Mali said...

What a thought-provoking post. I found you via Lisa's Life Without Baby.

YOu're right that those of us without children don't necessarily have a lot in common with each other. I guess because there are proportionately so few of us, we notice this more. For example, I see lots of mothers who don't like other types of mothers, but there are enough of them to go round that they always find some they can bond with. I've stayed very close (via internet) with women who went through ectopic pregnancy at the same time I did. But not all of them. And that's okay. I don't expect to have something in common with every childless woman.

And then, those of us who are childless by choice are united in a loss, a grief, and some of us work (as I know you do) very hard to go on to live positive lifes, and not to be defined by our childlessness, and so perhaps don't like to be reminded of that.

I've also been caught in the "my pain is worse than your pain" headlights - I couldn't believe it when it happened, and it changed the relationship.

And finally - my husband is good at answering "Idunno" too. He commented last week we needed to find more friends to do things with. Hmmm. Easier to say than do I'm afraid. If you figure out how, let me know.