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The Childless Woman

Updated: Apr 24

“I’m pregnant!” The words hit me hard. Words that I was expecting. Words that I wanted to hear. I knew it would happen eventually.  I hoped it would.  I genuinely wanted it for her.  But it reminded me of the loneliness I had been bracing for. 

It started in my mid-20s.  I was on a girls trip with highschool friends.  It was something my best friend from high school had said. (As I aged, I categorized my best friends from different stages of my life.  The weight of “best friend” slowly morphed as she became less of a friend and more of a memory of what we were during a phase of my life.)  On the girls trip, she and I were the only ones that hadn’t had children yet.  She whispered to me, “We’re the last ones without kids.”  I remember the words piercing me differently.  I knew she had said it for camaraderie but it created a wall between us and them: women without children vs women with children.  It only reminded me that one day I would be alone.   

That was the first, and I thought hardest, hit that I would experience.  One-by-one different groups of friends and family started having children but I always had my younger sister on my side.  I knew she would be drafted by the other team but I loved having her for the time being.  She crossed all categories of best friends.  She was the one I was closest with. We could talk for hours without even thinking about it.  We would complain about the women who had children and the ridiculousness that was required for motherhood.  Even though I knew motherhood was lovely and important, it was still worth ranting about.  

When she told me she was pregnant, it broke me for a few weeks.  I cried a lot but not in front of anyone.  I cried in the car, on runs and in the shower. I’d quickly wipe my tears and blame my puffiness on the summer heat.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  I was ashamed of feeling sad for myself when my sister was experiencing something beautiful.  I was lonelier than I had ever been in my life.  

I sought out online communities for support and I had friends without children. I found that most childless women fall into two categories: 1) The women that hate children. 2)  Women that couldn't conceive or never found a partner to raise a family with.  These women were forced to make peace with their situation because it was out of their control.  I fall in neither category.  I love children. I’m a teacher! I absolutely love babies.  I just didn’t want to raise them. Even though I know it isn't true, it somehow felt worse that I made the choice that created this wall of separation.  No one felt sympathy for me.  

The last time I went out with my highschool friends, we were celebrating someone’s 40th birthday.  After many cocktails, one of the ladies asked how often we had sex with our husbands.  I don’t know if she was feeling insecure about her own relationship or just fishing for gossip ( I suspect the latter) but I was drunk enough that I answered her.  “2-3 times a week.”  I was immediately thrown shade.  Disbelief? Jealousy? Maybe.  I’m not sure but I suddenly felt the need to defend myself.  “I don’t work over the summer and my husband works from home so it’s easy to have nooners because we don’t have kids. During the school year it’s only once a week!”.  The conversation ended quickly and that loneliness rushed in.  

I often get jealous of mothers because of small talk.  Stereotypically, men always have sports to talk about.  If you’re stuck at a party where you don’t know anyone, men always seem to find another man to talk sports with.  Women often talk about their children.  Countless times, a woman at a social event has asked me if I have children.  I say no and often lighten the conversation (not sure why I feel the need) by making some sort of self deprecating joke, like, “ I can hardly take care of myself!”.  It takes only a few minutes after that for the conversation to go stale and for that woman to find another mother in the crowd.  I find this is especially challenging because more often than not, I am socially inept.  

I’m not sure if I was prepared for the social implications of not having children but they have gotten easier and less abundant with age. I’m fortunate enough to have tons of nephews and nieces so I like to think that I get the best of both worlds.  I’m really happy and confident being a DINK and wouldn’t change it for the world.  

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