You want to make me cry? It takes eight words to flatten me to a core:
"I can tell YOU never had a child."
It doesn't matter that it's true.
You're right, I have never had a child. And that over the years, I've had a roller-coaster ride on the mommy highway.
At times, thanks to a successful and fulfilling career, I have celebrated the fact that I haven't had a child, who would have needed more attention than my jobs would have allowed.
But on the other hand...I'll admit that it sometimes brings me to tears to think I will never hear someone call me "Mommy."
Or that there won't be someone who can take care of me in my old, old age.
My family is very long-lived. My mother is a healthy 86. My grandmother was 84 when she passed, and she was dealing with a heart murmur, Parkinson's, and high blood pressure. And my dad was 91 when he passed earlier this year.
I'm in for a long haul. Who will take care of me?
And what to do with whatever possessions I have at the end of my life?
Who have I got? Duke, the lab-terrier of my dreams. He barks a lot. And smiles. And puts his head in my lap. That comforts me.
I've discussed the whys of my not having children in some of my blogs...including, never, ever getting pregnant at any time I ever had sex. And also explained that I was never childless by choice.
Adoption or fostering wasn't an option in my 20-year marriage.
That said, I've discussed the fact that I care for and look after my tight-knit core family, as well as having my then-two year-old niece and sister living with me during my sister's divorce. At that time, I took care of the needs of a toddler. And I was always the "big sister" to my brother and sister.
"You're an example," my mom told me when I was two years old. "The kids will model what you do. Not me. Be a good role model."
I can't remember a day in my life when I didn't have a responsibility to someone.
Because I am childless, though, it seems that many assumptions are made about my ability, or inability, to care for others, or to sense their needs. It seems to set me apart, needlessly, from the mothers and fathers I love as friends. I get the feeling they don't think I could possibly understand the joys of raising a child. Nor the heartaches.
I also think there's a built-in audience for "Mommy Bloggers" that I can't have.
So here are the five things I don't want you to say to a childless woman. Or me:
You're So Lucky You Don't Have Children...
Unless a woman chooses to be childless, she doesn't feel lucky at all. You, Mom and Dad, may feel burdened by cares or worries, or haven't gotten to do everything you wanted to do because you have children. For those who have wanted a child, well, we just don't feel so lucky sometimes. Perhaps it's a case of the grass looking greener elsewhere?
You Can't Possibly Understand....
What can't I understand? That a child needs nurturing and love? That their needs are endless? That a child needs discipline? That a child needs to have boundaries and rules?
What part can't I relate to? Yes, I can understand. Try me!
You're Free To Do What You Want
Technically, that's true. I am not encumbered by children in that regard. However, there are responsibilities that still come my way. Whenever we go away, the dog requires care, feeding and nurturing, along with visits to the bathroom, similar to what babies and young children need. That where caring babysitters come in handy. I scoured Yelp recommendations for reputable dog-sitting services in my area. This was MY baby, after all. The good folks at Out-U-Go provide Duke with the nurturing and care he needs.
Also, my own Mom needs support. Not necessarily caregiving, but at 86, and recently widowed, she needs help making certain decisions. As the only sibling in town, I am her go-to person when she needs anything. Mom feels stronger making decisions with me instead of on her own. How could I deny her that strength when she needs it?
You Can Do What You Want With Your Money
Again, technically true. I don't have to save for a child's education. I don't have to buy new clothes every school year. You invest in what you think will bring you long-lasting happiness and success.
On occasion, that may include helping out nieces, nephews and family whose resources are limited, when your resources are able. But not having children doesn't mean that you have an abundance of money to lavish on yourself. It means that you share it with those who are your family.
But You Don't Have A Family, So You Might Not Get This....
But I do have a family. I have my partner, my partner's 10 children and 15 grandchildren, my mom, siblings, and 11 nieces and nephews. Not to mention the friends I consider my family.
They, we....all of us....are FAMILY.
Let my role model, Mary Tyler Moore, and her great staff of writers close this out in my favorite episode of the "Mary Tyler Moore Show:"
Mary Richards: Mr. Grant? Could I say what I wanted to say now? Please?
Lou Grant: Okay, Mary.
Mary Richards: Well I just wanted to let you know that sometimes I get concerned about being a career woman. I get to thinking that my job is too important to me. And I tell myself that the people I work with are just the people I work with. But last night I thought what is family anyway? It's the people who make you feel less alone and really loved.
Mary Richards: And that's what you've done for me. Thank you for being MY family.
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