By Lisa Manterfield
This year has been another busy year for travel. Between work-related trips and visits to family and friends, I’m feeling as if I’ve spent more time away from home than at home.
I’m not complaining. I enjoy travel and I’m also aware, if I had children, I couldn’t be doing this. If I had school schedules and missed classes to deal with, or frankly even if I had to find the money for three round-trip tickets instead of just one, it wouldn’t be feasible. Being childless not only allows me the do the fun things without worry, it leaves me free to take care of the other things that are important to me, namely my family—in particular my mother and husband.
There’s a downside to this freedom and independence, too. People often have expectations that a person without children is a person with nothing important to do, which equals the first person to be called when a favor is needed. Do you know what I mean?
Although my geographically undesirable location means I’m usually the last person to be called in for family help, some of my friends are given more than their share of the responsibility because of their childlessness. Quite often they’re called upon to organize family gatherings, take care of sick relatives, or just run errands because the family members with children don’t have the time.
I know that my childlessness affords me more freedom than many of peers who are mothers, but that doesn’t mean I’m sitting around idly looking for something to do. If I had children, my life would be full. But guess what? Because I don’t have children, I’ve made certain my life is still full, whether others believe it is or not.
What do you think? Do family members assume because you don’t have kids you have nothing but time on your hands? Do you feel the lion’s share of family duties falls to you? And what are the advantages of freedom and independence you do get to enjoy?
Wow! I have thought this a million times! My Dad has been sick for 2 months, and I have chosen to be more involved in his care than some of my other siblings. I have 5 brothers put there is a family split related to his care. But being the only girl at times they look to me to come up with ideas for moms brithday or mothers. Well Mother’s Day, I bow out of , I chose to do something with my mom but not on The day. But at times I feel this with my friends,where they want my time, or help and they think well Sandy is free. But at times when I call to have time together there family is the always first, but less time for me. I have really just experienced it, lately, and it’s a bit disappointing. And it’s hard to explain sometimes. But I work hard to have a satisfying life without children, and now most of the time I can enjoy not having the extra responsibility of children. But this premise is so true! Thanks for bringing this topic which has been the thing I am experiencing the most lately! I am so grateful to this blog, that always reminds me I am great the way I am even without children!
Thank you for this post!
For me it is my workplace where being childless or having children really makes a difference. I work as a teacher in Germany and I see my (female) colleagues trying to take advantage (like getting better working conditions, e.g. better timetables) and not getting involved in school life that much and their excuse are always their children. It doesn’t mean that they always succeed. But there is a pattern…
As you say: ” People often have expectations that a person without children is a person with nothing important to do” – I’ve worked hard (and I am working on it every single day!) to enjoy my childless life as much as I can, making it as meaningful as I can and I am putting up resistance to be the one ending up with all the extra work.
Saying “NO!” to work that others are not doing out of “family reasons” has become really important to me. I’ve got family, too – they just do not happen to be children.
You’re so right .. They assume that we have stress-free lives, have all the time in the world. Just tired of being misunderstood in general by them. I definitely do enjoy my sleep and trying to appreciate the peace and quiet .. just wish i can move to an island where i don’t have to deal with ignorant people
I’m my brother and father’s power of attorney. Talk about a lot of responsibilities. My father is on the edge of retirement and is starting the process of health care. He doesn’t NEED me to help him with this but every time it is time to make a phone call dealing with this he comes to my house to deal with it. 100% of the phone calls lately have been you need to wait until x date to do this. He doesn’t need me for those calls.
Also my dad made me his executor of his will. It is in the final stages of being done with the lawyer and he has asked me to go again. The last time I went I wasn’t even ALLOWED in the room. It turns out that I’m also going to be babysitting my sister’s kids the day of his next appointment. My dad is the biggest offender of thinking I have nothing to do with my life because I don’t have kids.
My mom is also getting ready to retire (parents are divorced) and she has also told me I’m to be the executor of her will as well. I’m posted before that my mom gets mad when I don’t drop my life to go on weekend/week long trips with her.
I just wish that they would realize that I do have a life.
Jane P (UK) says
Hi Kara – I feel for you, I have a similar feeling to you in that my parents are both now very ill. I have been on every doctor, physio, hospital appointment on and off for the past 7 years. I am utterly drained and have had to step back. I now battle with guilt most days, its a shame but I have had to claim my life back and believe myself that I cannot keep dropping everything (my mum says she understands that I became very stressed last year) but I think she is expecting normal service to resume! It hasn’t – and I can’t go back to it. Very difficult to manage my feelings day to day – I just repeat to myself that I must focus on my life and I will support them when I can (I’ve invented some work commitments to help me)!
We don’t have kids, AND we’re the only ones left in NZ to look after the elderly in-laws. The other sons are forgiven for not visiting regularly “because they have kids and it’s so expensive” but they are also overseas earning much bigger salaries in much lower tax jurisdictions, they could come and visit without the children, etc etc. We would love to be living overseas now that we don’t have children, but can’t because we feel solely responsible for the in-laws. Argh.
I totally agree though that our lives are much fuller than parents are able to imagine, because they can only see life with their children.
I just returned from a 2.5 week trip to Europe. And of course the usual “must be nice” comments rolled in as I posted my pics on Facebook. Yes, yes it is nice. But I’d still trade it all for motherhood. And even then I only ever wanted a single child, and I still think I would have found a way to make travel work.
Before my father died, he put me in charge of all the funeral arrangements, medical directives, etc. He did so because he said I was “unencumbered”, therefore I’d do a better job. (I’m the only one of 5 girls who didn’t have kids.) May he Rest In Peace.