World Childless Week is the brainchild of Stephanie Phillips. She first conceived the idea in 2017. With the help of numerous childless bloggers and members of several online childless support groups, WCW has grown and blossomed. The World Childless Week website contains a wealth of stories and insights. Learn more about the mission here.
Wrestling with the Childless Label
While I’ve long chafed at the childless label, Jody Day encouraged me to take it head on and provide some added perspective. My World Childless Week 2019 post is now live in the Finding Acceptance and Moving Forward contributions.
You can also read it below. Welcome your comments and shares.
Society Lacks Sufficient Words, Imagery to Capture Our Superblooms
I think I have an answer to what’s behind the dearth of understanding about those of us who are not parents. It often comes down to semantics and lack of imagination. There are simply insufficient words, appropriate metaphors or images to adequately characterize us. Clunky labels like ‘childless by circumstance,’ nomos, infertiles, non-moms or non-dads simply do not do us justice.
We are so much more than our reproductive organs or the pro-natalist terminology and stereotypes that diminish us. Clearly, WCW is an opportunity to broaden our vocabulary and our thinking.
I positively reeled when I received an ‘unexplained infertility’ diagnosis in my 30s.
Despite all I’d achieved, without a claim to motherhood, I felt I’d been doomed to a barren life of incompleteness, shame and disdain. These negative themes are implicit in many feature stories. Whether celebrities, sports figures, entrepreneurs or politicians, those who are mothers and fathers garner adulation. Those who are not must account for why.
Society, for all its advances, still harbors and advances a biased and warped view: those without children lead less meaningful lives. The prejudice is not only insidious, it’s pervasive.
Tackling Childless Stereotypes
In the early days of my unexpected diagnosis, I tried various labels to reconcile my reproductive limitation. None seemed to fit. I felt an allergic response to descriptors like ‘childfree’ (an active choice) or ‘childless.’ My unease started years ago.
Words with ‘less’ tacked on came with shortcomings and a weird diminishment:
· Pointless (defined as ‘having little or no sense, use, or purpose.’)
· Worthless (defined as ‘having no real value or use.’)
· Aimless (defined as ‘without purpose or direction.’)
Taken by itself, the word less means ‘a smaller amount of; not as much.’ This diminution, by the way, also plays into the hands of those who want to position people without offspring as lacking. I chose, instead, to see me as ‘me’ – not better or worse, just ‘me.’
As age 45 approached, however, society’s bigotry compounded the personal and relationship losses I’d endured during multiple unfruitful cycles and IVF ‘alpha miscarriages.’ Heartache and angst overwhelmed and pulled me into a downward spiral.
What saved me from drowning? Connecting with others who had been pummeled by grief and loss. Their validation, authenticity and realness unexpectedly gave me a lifeline.
Wisdom and Perspective
I am 56 today and much wiser.
This I know to be true: those without offspring are anything but deficient.
How did I arrive at this conclusion? A dozen-plus years back, I did not personally know women and men whose lives looked like mine. That changed, however, when I let down my guard in 2007, found my voice and spoke my truth. It led to a book and blog, Silent Sorority. Soon, others joined me in the public sphere, and together we became a feisty and loud chorus.
Today, I recognize, respect and honor those once cast out as ‘less than.’ It takes stamina and strength to thrive in a world that often doesn’t take the time to hear our different voices. When we speak up and out though we not only reframe the conversation we inspire and change others in ways large and small.
To those in the early days of competing pressures, heartache and loss (and those witnessing such struggles), I ask you to consider ‘our stories’ of courage, resilience, and reinvention.
We don’t garner the coverage and kudos showered on mothers and fathers. The under-appreciation and oversight is particularly curious given the complex challenges and prejudices we’ve overcome.
We are the human equivalent of superblooms. (Superblooms are a rare desert botanical phenomenon in which an unusually high proportion of wildflowers whose seeds have lain dormant in desert soil germinate and blossom at roughly the same time.)
Hardy, we bloom where we’re planted. As such, we bring forth beauty and make meaningful and unique impacts on the lives of others.