Monday, March 23, 2009

Are You Invisible?


Wallflower would not exactly describe me, but for decades I have conveniently blended in to the crowd as a childfree by choice woman of childbearing years. Allowing strangers to make assumptions as to my family status has been easier than a long, intimate conversation with someone I may never meet again. Truthfully, no one is owed an explanation, not even the curious.

Life is different now. I live in a suburban town with rural roots. Because of my volunteer work with a local nonprofit and my husband's five generations of family connections in that same town, I cannot go to the grocery store without recognizing someone I know. I like that, and they will get used to me. I've accepted the fact that I may never fit in, even though I may make a significant, unrecognized contribution to this community before it is my time to leave. As my sister-in-law put it,


"Childless people have more energy to contribute to all of the world's people. They also have the time to treasure good friends."

Outside of our family choices, we childfree folks are as diverse in our reasons as we are in our pursuits, using the time that is not devoted to the upbringing of the next generation.

I have explored the invisible nature of being childfree in a few different contexts--on a personal level in intimate settings (expecially hard when people don't already know, love and accept you); in the blogosphere, where we are often not a large enough a self-identifying group to warrant our own affinity category (marketers cannot sell us something specific as we are too diverse and lack unity), and within society at large via the good ol' U.S. Census (Do We Count?).

On November 15, 2007, I even staged an online event called "Purple Women Count" due to my frustrations in trying to find some way to be unified with others like me and counted in the larger context of the modern woman's experience, not necessarily that of a mother. Sadly, I let the anniversary pass last year, without so much as donning a purple sweater!

Because I administered a blog on the topic of being childfree for two years, I drew the attention of reporters who were looking for an interesting story to sell their editors. I am of the opinion that it is almost impossible for a newspaper reporter to capture the experience of a childless by choice individual and draw parallels. Their job is to find an interesting angle, and "early articulators" have been most often covered, those with regret in their decisions a close second. (See White Picket Fences post 10-09-07). Those content with their choice, may be the least interesting and most invisible among us.

Do you have a story about being invisible?
Flickr photo by pericomart (cc)

3 comments:

Water Tower Aficionado said...

Hello,
I am new to the term, childfree, but have been so for 34 years now. just in the last 2 years have I been able to put a name to the feelings I have had for awhile.

I too would like a way to identify with others like myself but not just through my local No Kidding group. I want to activate my like-minded cohorts to have a voice.
Kelle

Dawn said...

Thank you for your post.

I'm 30 years old and unmarried, but in a relationshp with a man who does not want children and can't have children.

I have a married brother, who is expecting their first now, and a cousin and his wife who have a child that just turned 1 year old.

I just moved back to my home country and town less than a year ago. My brother, his wife, and my cousin, his wife, and their 1 year old hang out with each other all the time. They never call me to hang out with them or ask if I can. They have couples parties and get together with their babies and play Wii games... but never invite me over.

At the same time, they all go on about how they never get to see me or hang out with me. So, last night I invited them all to hang out with me- it turned out that they were having a get together with each other and another couple and that couples' baby, so they couldn't make it to come hang out with me because they'd need to get a babysitter and my brother and his wife didn't want to break the plans they'd already made to go to this get together.

I feel like I need a ring on my finger and a baby in my arms (or belly) to get into this exclusive club, and I feel like I am being punished or ignored for choosing to wait for the right person to come along to get married.

I also don't really like babies. I like kids and I get along great with kids, but I don't think babies are cute and I don't envy the responsibility that comes with them.

I like being free to do what I want, when I want and love my pets like my kids. I have things I want to do in the future that kids would muss up... but I would like to be invited to hang out with my family and not have it made to feel like I am the one being a recluse.

I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but I sometimes feel like I should just give up on having a relationship with them and consider them to be aquaintances that I sometimes meet in passing for a few minutes every once in a while and attempt to find other women like me who aren't focused on planning their wedding or bragging about how cute their babies are.

Dawn said...

Thank you for your post.

I'm 30 years old and unmarried, but in a relationshp with a man who does not want children and can't have children.

I have a married brother, who is expecting their first now, and a cousin and his wife who have a child that just turned 1 year old.

I just moved back to my home country and town less than a year ago. My brother, his wife, and my cousin, his wife, and their 1 year old hang out with each other all the time. They never call me to hang out with them or ask if I can. They have couples parties and get together with their babies and play Wii games... but never invite me over.

At the same time, they all go on about how they never get to see me or hang out with me. So, last night I invited them all to hang out with me- it turned out that they were having a get together with each other and another couple and that couples' baby, so they couldn't make it to come hang out with me because they'd need to get a babysitter and my brother and his wife didn't want to break the plans they'd already made to go to this get together.

I feel like I need a ring on my finger and a baby in my arms (or belly) to get into this exclusive club, and I feel like I am being punished or ignored for choosing to wait for the right person to come along to get married.

I also don't really like babies. I like kids and I get along great with kids, but I don't think babies are cute and I don't envy the responsibility that comes with them.

I like being free to do what I want, when I want and love my pets like my kids. I have things I want to do in the future that kids would muss up... but I would like to be invited to hang out with my family and not have it made to feel like I am the one being a recluse.

I don't know if it's the right thing to do, but I sometimes feel like I should just give up on having a relationship with them and consider them to be aquaintances that I sometimes meet in passing for a few minutes every once in a while and attempt to find other women like me who aren't focused on planning their wedding or bragging about how cute their babies are.