Even though I’m perfectly content with my life as a married twenty-nine-year-old, society likes to remind me that one thing is missing in my life: children.
To be clear, my husband and I are currently fine with our status as a childless couple. Our house is filled with laughter, joy, and plans. We do not grieve because of our empty bedroom or the lack of play dates on our calendar. We are happy being just the two of us—plus Henry our mastiff and our five cats.
However, since we said “I do,” we’ve undergone numerous situations that remind us being childless is sometimes seen as being incomplete. We’ve had strangers badger us about our childless status and others insinuate we’re selfish.
I’ve come to learn that society isn’t always kind when your family status doesn’t match the expected norm.
Perhaps the most emphasized sentiment by those with children is that we, as a childless couple, are missing out.
In some ways, it’s true. There are many things I don’t know because of our childless state. I don’t know what it feels like to give birth. I don’t know what it feels like to look into the eyes of another and see myself reflected back. I don’t know the feel off a small hand in mine or the heaviness that comes with tears you can’t always wipe away. I don’t know the fears and the joys of having a child.
I am missing out on these things.
I’m not here to claim that parenthood isn’t a mystical, special bond I can’t even begin to understand. I’m not here to degrade parenthood or to suggest that it’s not fulfilling. I cannot speak to the bond of a parent and child because right now, I am missing out on this perspective of life.
I am here to say, though, that whether childfree by choice or childless from circumstance, those without dependents can still be successful, joyful, and fulfilled. They can still find a way to contribute to a better world and to find meaning in their lives.
Having children is one piece of life’s puzzle, albeit it a major one. When you take away that piece, however, there are still pieces left. There is still room for meaning, for joy, and for fulfillment without children in the picture.
I admire all the parents who raise the next generation, and I will be the first to acknowledge how important your work is. Nonetheless, as a childless woman who is a teacher, a writer, and a human being in general, I, too, feel I can shape the world into a better place.
So yes, it’s true we miss out on certain perspective and milestones because we don’t have children. Our lives are vastly different from those of parents.
In some ways, though, we aren’t so different from you. We simply want to find our place in the world and a way to leave a positive mark behind. We want to find meaning and purpose.
Please don’t pity those without children or feel that they’ll never find a level of meaning to their lives. The meaning may be different than the conventional family life society emphasizes. It may lack cartoons and teething rings.
Please remember, though, that different isn’t less. Different is, quite simply, different, and those without children aren’t missing out on life. They are simply living the life they are given or the life they have chosen. We must all learn to respect this important point, regardless of our family status.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a published romance author. Learn more about her at her blog: www.lindsaydetwiler.com.