We thought you were done with it...
Some time ago, my sister and I had a conversation about how I find family gatherings and celebrations difficult. She had just become a mother again and was really surprised that it is "still" difficult for me to endure the complete family happiness.
She looked at me in amazement and just replied: “Well, actually we thought you were done with it.”
Done with it. Well, you're never really “done” with it.
My sister's life has been dominated by children's issues ever since she became a mother. Kindergarten, school, vacations with children, soccer training, school successes or failures. She is sending pictures of the children playing, children's birthday parties. Our whole family's life has been marked by their change from a young married couple to a family of four. Understandably, my sister's perspective has changed. She's a mother now, so of course she has completely different priorities than she used to. And my parents are grandparents now.
It is completely accepted that life as a family is family and therefore child centered. My sisters life is enormously influenced by the existence of children, by the children's schedule. Of course my sister has the urge to talk about it, about how amazed she was when her daughter walked her first steps and said mum for the first time. When I ask her how is, she answers I am fine, the little one did this, the older one that. It is totally accepted within my own family but also in society, that the existence of children influence the daily life.
My husband and I also changed. Our perspectives and priorities changed as well. It is not the existence of children that changed our life, it is the non-existence of them. It is not accepted and basically not seen that this non-existence significantly determines our life, Whereas my sisters schedule is basically structed by the needs of her kids, I have to take much more self-initiatives to structure my life.
I am am constantly and always presented with the lost dream with all its ups and downs, because everyone is talking about children and life with children and life as a mum or a dad, grandma or granddad. I can't escape from it, unless I break off all contacts with my friends and family members with children, which is totally out of the question.
On the other hand, if I want to enjoy and share the freedoms and the beautiful moments that the childless life also has, or the fact that the non-existing children, the lack, the missed piece in life is difficult to endure, again it is friends with family who listen. And most of the times, they don’t understand how much the non-exsisting is influencing me with all its downs but also with its undeniable ups.
I sometimes just want to talk about how hard it is to listen to what the little ones do. Or that I miss going to exhibitions and concerts with friends. Or that sometimes I just find it very nice to stay in an adults-only hotel, which, by the way, doesn't mean that I don't like children, it just means that I don't want to be exposed to them all the time and everywhere.
The main problem is that my life is characterized by a non-existence that I did not choose myself. For me it has a similar central character as the existence of children for my sister. However, there is a lack of understanding and recognition that the constant confrontation with what we do not have can simply be very draining. I experienced that if I try to talk about my feelings and the missing piece, I earn pitying looks and I can literally hear their thoughts “oh no, she is not over it yet. Hope she will move on soon.” I am not a victim, I just have the same urge to talk about the non-exsisting children as my sister has about her existing ones, and she is not a victim either.
Everyone assumes that we just keep living our former life. As my sister said, that we are done with trying which means, we just moved on.
We will never be a “done with it”. After a women gave birth to her children, she is not done with them either. It remains a subject, sometimes more intense sometimes less intense, it doesn't hurt as much as it used to and perspectives change, there are actually more ups than downs right now, but the missing piece will always be a part of my life.