Reflections on what’s missing from a year of headlines
It was early on in the pandemic that talk of grandparents not being able to see their grandchildren started to become part of the daily swirl.
I was genuinely moved by the grandparent heartache at first. I could, all too well, relate to the plight of having something close to your heart to which you expect free access ripped from your existence. Even if only temporarily. I actually shed some tears on behalf of this not asked for angst.
At the time, I was six years out of multiple fertility treatments rendering no baby. Like most people who spend merciless stretches in the trenches of trying to conceive, or in other circumstances hoping for parenthood, I had formed surprisingly deep and influential bonds with my unborn.
By the time the pandemic hit I had come to a point in my grieving and healing process where I was able to hold some space for life’s more meager infractions. “Fertile world problems” I’ve come to refer to them as.
Fast forward one year, and past endless headlines blaring the pandemic discord and disturbance heaped upon the parented and grandparented world. Much of it entirely justified and important to air. It’s what has been missing from our conversation that stirs concern.
I felt I had passed by maybe two articles on being single and without children this past year, what I consider to be one of the toughest pandemic situations there is. I was thinking I’d seen a few drops written about caregivers – those with bedridden or severely limited elderly family members or those caring for children with extreme disabilities. And maybe a few peeps about our disabled population.
Broad Google and New York Times searches proved as much and then some. There were six pandemic related articles on our disabled population, including my favorite, “My Life Is More Disposable During This Pandemic” (which I shared on my personal FB page when it came out). And also a few on caregiving.
The rest was even worse than I imagined. Searching “childless during pandemic” brought up a small handful of articles on parenthood vs non parenthood in the workplace, an important topic no doubt but not exactly what I was getting at. And by the sixth search result, my eyes were landing on an article entitled “A Break For Working Families”. Alas. A search of “single and childless during pandemic” rendered the same.
“Single during pandemic” actually rendered nothing immediately related except the top article, “Single Parenting in a Pandemic”. Good grief. “Aging without children” rendered a mere two pieces from 2011. “Growing old without children” rendered one lone article. Already suffocated by this editorial pronatalism, I searched “parenting during pandemic” and sat back as scrolls of articles lit up my screen.
Obvious reasons for my own personal indignation aside, this doesn’t track with actual numbers. The population of people without children in the US, ages 45 – 50 is said to be at 15.4%, for example. The total rate of women who never gave birth in the US in 2010 was 18% (a very small percentage of these people, around 1 – 1.5%, have been able to adopt). Rates of people without children in the US have risen decisively over the past forty years. And, rates of childlessness in the US are only expected to rise with coming generations. They are currently behind that of our planet’s average, which stands at around 20%. Add in a 2010 meta analysis of data finding that as many as 90% of people worldwide who don’t have children in fact wanted them. This paints quite a different picture than what we’re typically shown.
While those who are part of the mainstream also have very real problems that warrant attention, there’s much to reap from those who have had to navigate without the benefit of belonging to a majority. And without basic functions or things that most others get to have. But the experiences of parents and grandparents under normal average circumstances have always lopsided our cultural narrative, so why would it be different in a pandemic?
By the time I caught a glimpse of this headline – “The Year Grandparents Lost”, it was clear my threshold for hearing about that which I had sought ferociously and lost had taken quite a thumping.
“Oh, That’s enough!! ENOUGH already!!” I began to rant to no one in particular. Agitation rumbled. I had lost grandparenthood entirely after all, heard nary a peep from anyone on the matter, and these folks were getting a whole article for one measly year??
The infinite waterfall of things I’ve had to sleuth in daily life because of the loss of my children flashed through me. “You know what? HERE’S an idea…..” I continued to vent. “Whydoncha make like an involuntarily childless infertility and IVF survivor and FIGURE IT OUT!!!!”
Now, I understand, when one is used to expecting to have something, it catches one more unprepared to cope with its absence. Those of us who carry unearned privilege in any area of life, including myself, typically require more coddling.
However, in a culture that has made no room for you, it’s important to keep tabs on just how different the average perspective is from yours. And so I proceeded to read the whole article, which contained nothing unexpected.
The comment section was also as expected. It included a peppering of dismissive naysayers who I do not support. Proposing that people in any kind of painful situation, wherever it may fall on the spectrum, shut up entirely is never productive. It’s not all that human either.
There were then of course the endless banners of “I have blank number of grandchildren and they live in blank and I haven’t seen them for blank……”. This was dotted with a few glimmers of much appreciated mature and balanced outlooks. People grateful they hadn’t gotten sick, that their loved ones were ok and that they would see everyone soon.
And then finally, a much craved particle of battle worn perspective, a comment that began with: “My fourth grandchild was stillborn and she will be missed every year forever.” Well, thank you, Deborah. I get you. And I am so sorry for your loss.
I say thank you because when all facets of human reproduction’s most unforgiving plights are relegated to the darkness, our entire human story is naggingly incomplete. And, other parented experiences not as endowed with harshness become distorted, cluttering the ether with their low vibrational hum.
The bottom line is this: our culture values the aging parented population enough to give them marquees for one year that didn’t go as planned, and devalues childless people enough to give us no space in the conversation for entire adult lives that didn’t go as planned.
Interestingly, it seemed no childless people were consulted on this “The Year Grandparents Lost” piece. It never occurred to anyone that, since we spend decades away from our grandchildren, we childless folks might have survival skills to offer on the matter? Really? I’m envisioning for this piece what would have been an appropriate disclaimer: “Be assured that absolutely NO childless wisdom whatsoever was mined for this article!”
On a side note, I can only imagine the pandemic nursing home and assisted living vernacular over the past year. Grandparented people ruminating to childless people about their missing grandchildren without a care for what their childless peers have been through in their lives. And worse, our experiences have been rendered so invisible many of us even believe their monologues to be more relevant than what we go through. These disproportionately dominant narratives have a way of wrapping themselves around our daily conversation like a boa constrictor.
And then, there’s the parented side of things.
Early on in the pandemic I was able to summon some sympathy for this as well. Even though I miss my own children in my life and yes, I have ached for them amid the pandemic too. I know what it’s like to have to navigate through upheaval without the necessary societal support systems intact.
In my case I had to navigate through four years of a medical situation (infertility) with a rogue group of medical “professionals” (fertility doctors) that resulted a life altering traumatic loss. All while having to constantly educate and advocate for support in every facet of life including from my own loved ones. There is no palliative care for those of us who come out of treatments without a baby. There are no built in support systems. And in our parent centric culture, even unbiased counseling that does not do more harm than good is tricky to locate.
To the other side of things, I have been concerned about the dearth of affordable child care and how bordering on impossible, yet necessary, it is in the United States to be able to work and have children. The number of women leaving the work force – both women who are and who are not parented – does not exactly fill me with a sense of promise either.
The New York Times article, “Working Moms are Struggling. Here’s What Would Help.” contains a list of considerations on the topic.
Mostly, I was on the lookout for our long standing cultural habit of claiming certain needs as exclusive to those who get to be parents when they are often things that apply to PEOPLE in general. The first part of the article looked mildly promising on this front; there was an acknowledgement that “those caring for sick and aging relatives” need support too (a disproportionate number of this group don’t have children). There was also an acknowledgement of the additional work and stress non-parents have been dealing with during the pandemic. (For those who want to catch a sighting of this rare bird, find it under the “Don’t penalize people for caregiving” section).
So far so good. Until I hit the “How individuals can help” section. Starting off with quite a bang, it begins by pointing out that “mothers need their communities now more than ever.” I couldn’t help but note the irony.
Well so did I in the face of the losses of my children, parenthood and grandparenthood. Instead, I was minimized, silenced and talked at every time I tried to share myself when we were trying to conceive. By the time we got to the end, my husband and I essentially buried our children alone. In the years that followed, I was denied societal acknowledgement of my losses as well as the communal and social aspects of grief. Two things that facilitate healing immensely.
And then there was this peculiarity –
“We are only going to survive this by recruiting non-mothers to our cause,” said Katherine Goldstein, creator and host of the Double Shift podcast, about a new generation of working mothers. “The people most burdened at the moment can’t always even stop and figure out what they need.”
Anointing your crew with a superior need status, albeit a temporary one right from the outset? Not the sharpest recruiting strategy I’d venture to say.
I also wondered exactly what Katherine Goldstein meant by “recruiting non-mothers to our cause”. Is this a true effort at real teamwork – a vision of a bonafide “village”? If so, then count me in! Or was it the usual “serve me when I need you but when you need me I’m not going to be there yet again and oh by the way I’m going to take all of the credit and social status as per usual too” kind of a deal?
Again, I found myself concerned with what was missing.
Would there be any healthy reciprocity from backing this “cause”? Would team mom be willing to sit there with those of us making the wretched transition into non parenthood in our space of grief, annihilation and in many cases trauma recovery without judgement and dismissal?
Provide a casserole here and there for someone recovering from a miscarriage or their final failed fertility treatment or a breakup during their last fertile years, or dealing with a chronic health condition that kept them from having children in the first place?
Would team mom support paid leave for everyone, not just for people who can use it for a family with children? Commit to contributing to an equitable workplace that includes the needs of the involuntarily childless and doesn’t only address the issues of parents?
Speak out against reproductive and childless bigotry in the human conversation? Be our support in family situations where we are belittled and discounted?
Will they bother to notice that our lives, by necessity, are quite different from parented lives? And then take the necessary time and curiosity to take a genuine interest in our lives? Considering our lives different, but EQUAL in value to that of a parent?
Will there be compassion and respect for our boundaries that we need to set in this life long grief journey for the sake of our mental and emotional health?
Will you teach your children to value their childless Aunts and Uncles and to care for them when they are old?
Ultimately, will there be an interest in us and care for us that extends beyond how we might be able to serve you in the moment?
I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. Maybe what she said was quoted as an incomplete thought and was not in full context? I really wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, however the “most burdened” sentence that followed didn’t instill much faith in the matter.
And then, one last whammy because hey why not while you’re at it…..the author of the article begins the “Friends, do your part” section with this thud: “If you don’t have children at home, think of ways to help those who do.”
I had to fight through the tide of presumption before reading on.
Considering all of the ways people DIDN’T think of to help me when I was loosing my children one slice at a time and then in the subsequent years grieving their loss, well, I suppose I’d be pressed to turn to something else for some inspiration.
This notion may have an appropriate application regarding those who don’t have children but are not involuntarily childless. However the vast majority of those of us without children over the age of forty five – as much as 90% of us – ARE involuntarily childless.
Many of us already do participate in the lives of other people’s children, and happily so. I’d imagine there would be much more of that going on if the involuntarily childless were regularly seen, heard and valued in the ways described above.
Many of us are already busy with our own families both nuclear and extended, who, believe it or not, actually have some use for us. In addition, we have our own lives to contend with, which typically entail many facets we are navigating with little to no support.
Seven years out of fertility treatments, I’m still cleaning up collateral damage from my infertility and heavy grief years, and I’m still in the throes of re-inventing and rebuilding my life. Necessary for those of us who have lost an entire life track, and a most herculean yet ambiguous task. A task for which I have gotten zero acknowledgement and support from the outside world.
In order to meet our needs for meaning and fulfillment, we childless folks also typically have rich inner worlds often sustained by creative projects. This is not frivolity as many would like to think. Rather it is how we pull off the grand feat of emotional and spiritual survival amid all we carry.
Last, let’s not forget those of us who still have open parenthood loss wounds. Being around or associated in any way with that which we lost can be like pouring salt on injuries that need space and gentleness to heal – two things almost impossible to come by in this parent centric world.
Yes, the pandemic has been hard on mothers in certain ways and yes we need to address the broader systemic failures that have stoked the current state of things. What’s not OK? When the implementation of solutions to these problems overlooks, excludes and tramples on the rights, needs and visibility of childless people. This, traditionally, is what happens.
On a more personal note….
I was getting my blood drawn recently, partaking in some very broad and basic pandemic chit chat. And then, not related to anything, this: “It’s sooo hard for these parents, having to home school and deal with everything else….”
Uh, yes. We know. Memo received! Since loosing my children I don’t have energy to waste on that which already gets a disproportionate amount of attention. Therefore, I didn’t miss a beat. I jumped in with a completely unrelated statement on the pandemic challenges and obstacles my chef and restaurant owner husband (and thus I) have been facing.
I also recently witnessed, on an evening news program, an in person reunion between a mother in a nursing home and her adult son. I am now healed enough to be able to be present for such a moment, at least sometimes, and it was truly touching. I was able to feel some of the awe and joy that was on this woman’s face, all while reminding myself that, if I live well into old age this is something I’m going to have to figure out how to get by without. It’s not an end all be all of course, but things like that no doubt aid in one’s overall sustenance. I exited the moment with my own sense of wonder – where was the coverage of the people like me, of people who don’t have any children to be reunited with??
The few times we’ve Zoomed over the past year or so, I’ve seen a similar sense of awe and joy in my Mom’s face. I’ve been taken aback by the beauty of it all, as well as the cringiness of having to observe what I will not get to have.
I will soon be reunited with my parents after a year and a half long in person hiatus. I’ll be so elated to see them, even their life long dysfunctions might appear charming for the first five minutes. And I’m sure I will join the waves and share this happy moment on social media. And all the while, there will be a piece of me, both hovering and suspended, bearing witness to that which will never be.
23 thoughts on “Parenthood and Grandparenthood in the Pandemic”
Oh Sarah!! This is completely, utterly brilliant. I read & wrote about the very same NYT article a while back and was especially irked by the exact same passages (for the exact same reasons) 😉 (see link below) — but you’ve just hit the nail on the head so well and so thoroughly. This deserves to be read widely. Thank you!!
Thanks so much LB!! It’s funny and noteworthy we honed in one the same quotes. But not at all surprising, given their universal level of egregiousness. I’m still chuckling at the start of what I think was your last paragraph -“UUmmm, Okaaaaay….” Yep! Very interesting you’ve seen evidence of people without children offering help and having it turned down. Loved your closing thought too! I was and still am bothered that such a presumptive oversite of our demographic is still on socially acceptable grounds for a reputable outlet like the NY Times.
I deeply apprecite your support and sisterhood XO
“In order to meet our needs for meaning and fulfillment, we childless folks also typically have rich inner worlds often sustained by creative projects. This is not frivolity as many would like to think. Rather it is how we pull off the grand feat of emotional and spiritual survival amid all we carry.“
Just to say…your words resonate with me. On the one hand I have an intense need to express my life losses through my art making, but on the other I struggle to put it out in the world, because my childless state has left me with a social anxiety that I find difficult to move past.
YES! I can all too well relate to the cunundrum (to put it mildly) we often find ourselves in – To speak or not to speak? To express or not to express? Society has boxed us into quite the rock and hard place with this. I often have a real “push pull” type of experience with this myself. So glad you’re connected to your art making. Wishing you strength and energy in finding the balance with “putting it out there” that’s right for you.
I’ve read a bunch of your blog posts & you are spot on! This one, in particular, spoke to me. So much of what I’ve been feeling over the past year (& have been trying to explain to others) you were able to put into words so perfectly. I sincerely hope you’ll write a book on this topic. You’re a gifted writer. And, I’m sorry for all of your challenges – I’m in that same club. 🙂
Thank you so much! So hard to convery these things to others, isn’t it? Overall it makes a difference for the better, and there are those who are willing to make the effort. But like a lot of things these days you can come out with a clear, on point iteration that floats over people’s heads. Our experiences are beyond what most world views will accommodate, and, until someone experiences not seeing representations of themselves and their lives “out there” in the world, they just don’t seem to get it. Good luck with your efforts at explaining our plight, and thanks again for your comment.
I am very sorry for your losses and pain. I am extremely grateful to have had two children (please hear me out), but have had five miscarriages so know a little of the lonely pain and presumption surrounding fertility from those who seemingly pop out babies whenever they feel like it. I know how lonely grief is (I was also grieving the death of my mum and grandmother at the same time as well as friends who disappeared) and you are right to say society is seemingly obsessed about mothers and pronatalism (youth in general), although I would argue a lot of the rhetoric doesn’t really translate in real life as I have never been more invisible or alone since becoming a stay at home mother. I am not complaining as I love my children dearly, but mothers don’t always tribe together like social media would have you believe.
Some mothers are nice but some seem self-obsessed and smug to me too. I like to think I am still a considerate person who is aware of other people and the huge possibilities in life irrespective of my maternal status. Infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and death in general are still (ridiculously) taboo; it is wrong but an intrinsic part of the human fear of our own mortality, I think. It is heavy to carry losses alone and I am sorry, but please don’t buy into them versus us hype as not all mothers are oblivious. Women should support other women.
Thanks for your perspective Suz. I am sorry for all of your losses. It never ceases to amaze me what a deluge life can be, at times one hit after another with no space to process and care for ourselves. I too have had quite a rough haul in the aftermath of everything mentioned in my post.
Rest assured, I’m WELL aware not all people who get to be mothers are oblivious. I’m lucky to have some of them in my life, though I’ve had to take much risk, expend much energy I didn’t always have and do way more than my share of due diligence to raise their awareness. I hold patriarchy and the greater collective accountable for this, not individuals.
All that said – Beyond person to person contact, there is a broader level of bigotry and unconscious bias we childless folks have to meet in the world. Not being visibly represented in mainstream media and elsewhere, the notion we don’t have needs of our own, the belief that the main way we can make ourselves “useful” is to serve people who got to have children…..and the list goes on.
My piece was in part a response to an article that expressed presumptive, derogatory and clueless demands and expectations of my demographic. Help and support were requested (or more like ordered) from people without children, many of whom already do not get the help and support THEY need. Moreover, the article doing this was published in a reputable, about as widely circulated as you can get media outlet (the New York Times). All within the (mistaken) tone of being socially acceptable. It’s unfortunate that the necessary calling out of this should get interpreted as me thinking all people who get to be mothers are oblivious.
Women should support other women, yes, but it needs to be within the boundaries of reason, reciprocity, and a healthy awareness of our differences.
Thank you for replying to my comment. Apologies, I may have slightly misjudged the tone of your article as it makes total sense to call out anyone who thinks their life is superior to another’s and make demands as if their time means more. I just (poorly) tried to say mothers aren’t all like this and some of us avoid some mothers for that very reason. I still don’t feel appreciated more by the world for having children, and nor should I, but I agree society is somewhat superficially obsessed with pushing parenthood as the path to fulfilment. Historically that was about the patriarchy trying to control women although I never felt pushed into anything by any males, subliminally or otherwise. I think the deep roots of wanting a child are actually founded in a more basic fear of mortality.
We need a rethink of how we care for all people, particularly as they age so we can create a more cohesive society where we look outside of our own families and share knowledge and help, so people in general don’t feel ‘othered’. Anyway, sorry for rambling thanks again and apologies if I offended.
Apology accepted and deeply appreciated, Suz. I wasn’t offended so much as mildly frustrated – most of the time when childless women speak out for reasons justifiable, our perspective gets attributed to something petty or low minded. And I’ve been privy to this for awhile now so it does add up. People of course have the right to not like or agree with the manner in which I speak up (I’m sure my facetiousness can rub a few people the wrong way), but that’s a different thing entirely.
In fairness though, another truth – this is a vast and emotionally igniting subject matter that seems to have endless valid angles. It’s tough (or at times impossible) for all of us to find footing within it (myself absolutely included). It’s just hard all around as none of us are working within precident or much outward context. We need to cut ourselves and others some slack when it’s reasonable.
I do hear you on the downsides and limitations that inevitably exist regarding interactions/socialization with people who get to be mothers. One of the main childless experiences on this is being dismissed/turned away from/looked down upon for something you don’t have through no choice or fault of your own. Both of our experiences in this department are entirely valid of course, but also likely different with different ramifications.
My internal background chuckles every time this general subject comes up because, ironically, the social aspect of motherhood was not something I was looking forward to. Especially in the wake of multiple failed fertility treatments, I anticipated I was really not going to fit in! For me and a lot of people like me, I think much of the angst over the isolation and societal sidelining we deal with comes from not having had a choice in the matter.
Thanks for your point on the having children/mortality connection – that’s huge. A whole other endless subject matter awaits……!!
Your blog is wonderful. I’m sorry for the experiences that have made you so wise, perceptive, and able to speak the raw truth. Thank you so much for articulating what is so hard to put into words. Those quotes in that article were ridiculous and so presumptuous. How nice of the mothers to “recruit” the childless women to “their” cause. As if we have no needs, heavy burdens, grief, trauma or sorrow around not being a mother, or any purpose or demands on our time of our own. (Hello, a job and or own bills to pay?? Especially those of us who also cope with being single long into adulthood.) I completely understand the real challenges of motherhood, particularly during a pandemic. But – it’s a little hard to stomach or feel true compassion after the endless rhetoric of “best job in the world” “so blessed to be a mother” the “this is heaven” with their new baby posts…. “momma of x, y, z” social media bio identities. They want all the social status of it too. Is it selfish to say, then figure the hard parts out on your own? Or turn to your chummy mommy tribe, the one you have abandoned your childless and hurting friends for? Let them pick up the slack. Because after years and years of listening to them crow and flaunt and chirpy chatter, as Jo Dee Messina sings, “My give a damn’s busted.”
We hear over and over again how blessed they are, how they have what matters – the ONLY thing that matters. And yet, those of us who go without and die a little more inside each day, we are supposed to be servants to them too. (And I say this as someone who does have some wonderful bonds with little people I adore and willingly offer my time and love – but willingly, to very few select that make my heart full, not ache (too much), and their mothers aren’t self-absorbed or entitled either. But just no. The entitlement and presumptuousness is mind-boggling. And if I didn’t get my dream, if I have to live in a world of pain, something they know nothing, living without deep, sagging sorrow, and grief, then my life is my own and my needs come first — and I will be as self-serving and self-protecting as possible, as harsh as that sounds. How dare they expect the childless women to serve their needs. Those comments really, really bothered me.
Thanks for your comment, Emma. Rage is so understandable amid the collective narratives you site here. Having to grieve and then heal within this unjust cultural context is a colossal task indeed! You said it perfectly – “As if we have no needs, heavy burdens, grief, trauma or sorrow around not being a mother, or any purpose or demands on our time of our own. (Hello, a job and or own bills to pay?? Especially those of us who also cope with being single long into adulthood.)” There’s such a disparrity between most of our actual realities and the way our lives are perceived. As if we needed that extra indignation to process!! – that’s why I feel, within reason, it’s important to vent.
This all brings to mind my renunciation of the expectation that people like me should constantly empathize with people who get to be parents when their children are young, and then teenagers, and then be there to hold their hand when their nest is empty (all while everyone acted as though my empty nest that was never full to begin with was not that big of a deal……). And, all while my situation remains unacknowledged and/or dismissed – uh, NO.
Thank goodness for the people get to be mothers who defy these social waves. In my experience anyway, there ARE quite a few out there – they are the ones with their heads down taking care of business while being appropriate and substantive regarding their parenthood on social media (as opposed to self congratulatory and attention seeking).
And yes, months after first reading this article, the comments in it still do not sit well with me either. So with you on that!
I can agree with this: “The people most burdened at the moment can’t always even stop and figure out what they need.” What I CANNOT agree with is the assumption that women with children are the most burdened. UGH. How very self-centered of that author.
Our stories (women who wanted children but didn’t get to raise them) continue to be ignored, even during the pandemic. I have often thought about women who had to delay fertility treatments and fertility-related surgical procedures due to the pandemic. I have thought about women who are in the wrong relationship or no relationship and can’t change their situation due to the pandemic. My heart aches for all of them.
I don’t know how to put it all into words, but I don’t have to because you did a spectacular job with this post. What I can so eloquently say is that it all just sucks.
Six years after stopping fertility treatments, I too am “still cleaning up collateral damage from my infertility and heavy grief years, and I’m still in the throes of re-inventing and rebuilding my life.” It’s such hard work, much harder than anyone in my family has realized. I often feel alone, unseen, and misunderstood in the massive undertaking that has been recreating my life after it didn’t go how I had, for 36 years, envisioned it would be (i.e., raising children).
Thank you for always making me feel seen, understood, and less alone. Invaluable!!! ❤
Thanks for sharing your perspectice from six years out, Phoenix!! It’s so important to have it out there that this is a vast and life long process.
Absolutely YES to all of the other pandemic predicaments you mention here – I’ve thought about them many times. Haven’t gotten to read about them much though (as I’ve already pointed out :-). I was actually pleasantly surprised to to see some coverage early on in the pandemic of those who’ve had to put fertility treatments on hold. That unfortunately got gulped up in the tide of pronatalism……
As always, thanks for your comments. Glad I can be of service and I’ll be in touch more soon! XO
Outstanding piece Sarah – thank you for validating and making sense, as always of my conflicted feelings. I don’t want to not look broader than myself and see that its not always easy raising children under any circumstance but really I have mostly wanted to scream “what about me” and “shut the **** up”, how can you complain at spending more time with your family – how long did you cry after dropping them off at school and battling with the guilt of coming to work! Really – you’re complaining! Figuring out how to work from home and transfer my entire job to Zoom amid complaints of home schooling has broken my heart repeatedly for over a year. I naively thought I might escape child centric conversations joining all meetings via Zoom – no such luck – I also thought I would be spared announcements and updates – however, they have been coming thick and fast (my only source of calibration is to forget to sign the virtual card and donate to a gift and actively say “no” to issuing the communications – really there is no end to invisibleness of my situation). Admittedly I haven’t worked at putting my side of the story out there to many folk – I’ve hoped they would figure it out. I didn’t have the ability to educate them when I was in the trenches and since then I still don’t have the energy. In my limited experience of expressing myself – it seems only to temporarily bring any understanding – i’m swept aside instantly which never seemed to benefit going forward. I built up to a breaking point this week – I blamed stressful work loads – however, I really think its the constant “child centric” messaging from my place of work. I find myself wanting to retreat from work/friends and everyone much as I did in the early years of recovery (this article reminds me – its a life long battle). Thanks so much Sarah – I will revisit this one over and over when I feel I may explode with the injustice of it all. I always feel more whole when I read your posts.
Oh, Jane!! Your work situation sounds so hard. And so exacerbating. I’ve been thinking a lot this past year of how the whole work/Zoom thing in many ways would violate our wound boundaries more than the work assaults that take place in person. I don’t have the same situation, so not much wisdom to offer from me I’m afraid. Just big hugs and lots of empathy. I wish I could be more useful, though I do see (and on some levels understand) the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario of speaking out vs not. Sending you energy with what is no doubt a draining situation, and wishing you lots of self care and some kind of a feasible path forward.
Reminds me of another article I saw way back in the pandemic on the whole guess what??? working from home and parenting thing. The mother actually said that getting to see her work colleague’s children (via Zoom) made them seem “more human” in a way. Goodness gracious, I guess I’ll have to address that one next…..
Hi Sarah – thanks for your reply and insights – not sure what I would do if I didn’t have your words to connect with. This today is one of the messages in our company newsletter – really – it will never stop……..
“Our new Parenting Network has also recently marked the Global Day of Parents by pulling together a short video montage on the challenges faced by working parents and guardians over the past 12 months. I’d encourage you all to have a look.” – no thanks I’d rather not…..!
True it will never stop, but I do hope things will one day get better. I’m thinking about how much different this scenario would be if A) childlessness were also represented in the company newsletter (I’m assuming it currently isn’t?), B) If the last sentence read something more like “I’d encourage all of you for whom this is not a sensitive issue to take a look” and C) it was widely understood that many of us who are “taking a look” are doing so from the perspective of life altering traumatic loss, not from the amplitude of time, freedom and owing the world for not having children many presume of us (both consciously and subconsciously).
Thank you Sarah – any one of your suggestions would change it completely. Absolutely no acknowledgement in the company newsletter of childlessness. I might take your suggestions and send them to the communications team, make them aware of other viewpoints (I can probably do this by email and maintain my distance)!
Good luck Jane! Keep me posted!
I went through a roller coaster of emotions reading this. Silently dealing with my own pain all these years to be told us child free couples should be doing whatever we can to help cover the burden of working mums etc during the pandemic felt like a slap in the face and a punishment for not managing to successfully procreate. Thank you for writing this.
Thanks for your comment. That’s the thing that hit me first initially too – how monumentally self reliant we’ve had to be in situations where we really NEEDED support, only to be met with expectations of…..GIVING support. The absence of any sort of implied reciprocity is rather maddening.
Yes I couldn’t have said it better.