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.


  1. An excellent piece, Lilly, but I am so sorry that your sister thought you were "done with it." I can imagine that it floored you, so understand if you didn't explain to her that it will always be part of your life. Or did you get a chance to try?

    Even when we "move on" and embrace our new lives, and even when we have done our grieving, the fact we are childless will always be with us. It's not something we can ever be done with, especially when society (and our family and friends) constantly reminds us of how we fit in. Or don't. Sending hugs.

    1. Thank you Mali,
      well, I tried to explain but she did not really understand. I decided that she tries to do the right thing and is not unthoughtful on purpose. I am the older sister, it was always me taking care of her and not the other way around. Maybe that's just the way it is. :-)
      Sending hugs to you, too!

  2. Oh, this post is so good and relatable!! My family thought I was "done with it" too. I have had to educate my parents and sisters that my not having children to raise is a lifelong loss. I've pointed out to my parents that my life is structured entirely differently from everyone else's. I wish I didn't have to educate them, but I am thankful that they are receptive when I share my perspective.

    Yes, everyone (understandably) talks about their kids all of the time; it is okay if I talk about my childlessness.

    Thinking of you! I'm thankful we are not alone and that we have online friends who always understand us. <3

    1. Dear Phoenix,
      it feels so good to know that you can relate to that (even though I wish you didn't have to). Thank you for the support and your kind word, and yes, there are online friends who understand and that is really valuable! :-)

  3. "I am not a victim, I just have the same urge to talk about the non-existing children as my sister has about her existing ones, and she is not a victim either." Wow – this is so powerful. And so true.

    It is hard to not be understood by our society. This is why I am also grateful for this wonderful community <3.

    1. Yes, me too, I am more than grateful to have this community!

  4. Wow, "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 absolutely HATE the phrase "move on." How do you move on? You can only move forward. There is no clapping of the hands and being like, "ah, that's done, I wash my hands of it." I can very much relate to this powerful post!

    1. Dear Jess, sorry for the late reply.
      You said it so well, it is not moving on, it is moving forward! It is not leaving our experience behind it is carrying it with us, even though it doesn't hurt anymore as much as it used to.

  5. Dear Lilly, I missed this blog and thanks to Elaine's latest post I finally read it. You have beautifully written it.
    I am almost a decade older than you so I can only confirm that you are never "done with it". But it does get easier.
    sending lots of love from sLOVEnia,

  6. Dear Lilly, thank you for this post (an for all your other posts). You said it very well: We are never done with it. And you explained beautifully that other people in other life situations are also never done with what they are dealing with in their lives: children, an illness, their jobs, their partners and difficulties there, whatever. It is actually quite ignorant to assume that involuntarily childless people are not engaged with their childlessness their whole life. Lots of love, Anna

    1. Dear Anna,
      thank you for your comment! Yes, it is true. There are other situations in life, too, in which people struggle. I could imagine, that being childless isn't as obvious as for example an illness or loosing a job and that's why people might assume we "are done" with it. Yes, it is quite ignorant to believe so. Besides that we all don't know what other people carry with them every day, as you said.

  7. Liebe Lilly,

    auch ich möchte dir für diesen Beitrag danken, den ich immer wieder im Kopf habe, besonders nach der gestrigen, eigentlich ganz banalen Kaffeetafel im Kreise der Familie, bei der es aber, wie immer, immer wieder nur um die Kinder der Schwägerin ging. Die sind zwar mittlerweile erwachsen, trotzdem merkte ich, wie meine Stimmung von Minute zu Minute sank und die schlechte Laune bis heute nachklang.
    Eine andere Schwägerin antwortete mal meinem Mann - nachdem ich das Beisammensein schon völlig entnervt verlassen hatte - „Ja, worüber sollen wir denn sonst reden.“ Die Kinder sind der Mittelpunkt ihres Lebens. Sie haben sie über alle Maße geprägt. Dass unsere Kinderlosigkeit das gleiche mit uns tut, ist ihnen überhaupt nicht bewusst.

    Ich habe deinen Text an eine alte Schulfreundin geschickt, weil man es nicht besser erklären kann. Ihre Antwort lautete:
    „Danke für den Text zur Situation ohne Wunschkind. Ich muss zugeben, dass ich bei dem Thema nie an einen gescheiterten Lebensentwurf gedacht habe. Ich kann mich da auch schlecht rein versetzen, weil ich, wenn etwas nicht nach meinem groben Plan verlief, alternative Wege eingeschlagen habe (Bio- statt Psychologie-Studium, Dresden statt Meer, Promotion und Wissenschaft statt "richtige" Arbeit), weil es einfacher war oder sich so ergeben hat.“

    Nun feile ich seit Monaten an einer Antwort darauf.
    Der Duden schreibt zu Alternative: „Entscheidung zwischen zwei (oder mehr) Möglichkeiten; Möglichkeiten des Wählens; ...“
    Ich finde, der Vergleich eines Studienfaches, Wohnortes oder der des Arbeitsplatzes mit dem Leben mit oder ohne Kind hinkt. Wir hatten nicht die Wahl.

    Wenn ich darf, würde ich deinen Beitrag gern in meinem blog verlinken, sobald ich die Antwort fertig formuliert habe.

    Herzlich, MiH

    1. Liebe MiH,
      vielen, vielen Dank für Deinen Kommentar. Ja, es ist nicht immer einfach und nachvollziehbar für viele Menschen, welche weitreichende Veränderungen unsere Situation mit sich bringt. Es gibt Freunde und Angehörige, die, wenn man sich ein bisschen erklärt hat, nachdenklich werden und ein bisschen besser verstehen können, wo wir stehen und dann gibt es solche, die es nicht tun. Ich finde auch, dass der Vergleich ein bisschen hinkt. Ich habe in meinem Leben auch immer wieder alternative Wege eingeschlagen, sei es im Beruf oder auch privat, wenn mein ursprünglicher „Plan“ nicht funktioniert hat. Aber die grundsätzliche Frage, ob man eine Familie möchte oder nicht, ist nicht mal eben mit einem alternativen Weg zu kompensieren. Es geht um eine viel tiefere und auch eine existentielle Entscheidung, es geht um Identität und um Frau-Sein. Und wenn der ursprüngliche Lebensentwurf nicht realisierbar ist, stellt man auf einmal alles in frage und ich glaube, eines der schwierigsten Dinge war und ist für mich in diesem Prozess, meine neue Identität zu definieren und zu finden.
      Gerne darfst Du den Text auf deinem blog verlinken. Und wie schön, dass ich Deinen blog nun auch kenne! 😊 Viele Grüße, Lilly

  8. Dear Lilly,
    thank you so much for your post. I think that people who think that we can "get over a loss and move on" don't understand what grieve is about. Even if we have accepted that we won't have children, the absence of them will always be a part of us.
    Thanks to a blogger friend (I think it was Loribeth), I discovered this TED Talk by Nora McInerny "We don't 'move on' from grief. We move forward with it", I recommend it to you, I find it amazing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khkJkR-ipfw
    Sending hugs!


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