A Fortunate Rejection
I was listening this weekend to Sharon Blackie’s Hagitude when I learned of a global network of childless women, Gateway Women, founded by Jody Day (hear her here). An important distinction I did not hear, amidst my own heart leaping, was its online community was/is “for women who are permanently involuntarily childless – for any reason at all.” Nod and deep bow to them in their purpose. And nod to my own stinging-experience to come, as I completely missed that distinction. I was most present to the hope of women/men like me, those living a child-free life in a child-focused world. Naturally, when I received the second email rejecting my submitted ‘request to join’ form, it stung.
Not only am I marginalized in my Midwestern, ecclesially-oriented, child-focused worlds, I’m now marginalized in the childless population as well! I joked with a spirit-friend later that day: “Apparently, I can’t even do childlessness right!”
It got under my skin, which is always a signal for me that there is something here for me to learn, to heal, to release. Grief-praise, both.
I do not grieve my choices, nor the sheer abundance that is my life as a childfree woman fiercely listening for how to contribute wisdom-elderhood in a troubled world. I love being around circle-sisters (and fathers) who have children. I love being around their children, as long as not too much is expected of me. I love being a safe-space for mothers of all ages, because I simply don’t have a dog in any of the motherhood fights or imposed cultural assumptions. I get to provide non-judgmental listening that honors both the delights (I get to hear) and the challenges (I get to hold-with). Mostly, I live my life honoring both "breeders" and "non-breeders" (as my non-breeding family jokes). I love the mothering I get to do, outside cultural expectation.
Living a child-free life in small-city Ohio can be incredibly isolating, however. Brian and I have often thought that were we to live in an urban setting, we wouldn’t feel as isolated. Statistically-speaking, urban populations have more numerous child-free folks. In the church-centered cultures in which we do live, however, no one quite knows who we are, in this choice. When we socialize, we participate fully but also know to expect it will center on the children of those gathered—their progress into adulthood, their choices, or the various struggles as parents. Most adults we companion don’t have time or energy for the deep-dive spiritual explorations that Brian and I prioritize. Naturally, we gravitate most toward those whose children are now grown, who have had to re-create their lives so they actually have individuating lives of their own again.
Today? I’m thankful. Lighthouse Women would ultimately have been a draining space, tempting me to care-take those whose unhealed grief has never been mine. Today I know my desire to seek child-free eldering--all who are growing toward wisdom-sharing elderhood for the planet (including those involuntarily childless, those parents, all who have done their own grief-work, so to be free).
Always trust the process, especially when it stings.