Celebrating the Journey

Recently, I had a big party to celebrate turning 4 plus 0. In fact, the party was 2 weeks before my 41st which my friends thought very clever of me..everyone thinks I’m 40 when in fact I’m a whole year older..shock, horror:-)

I had spent the entire year planning and then cancelling the party. One part of me didn’t feel like celebrating…If you’ve read my other posts you’ll get why.

Another part of me felt that it was unfair that single girls and boys don’t get to be celebrated in the same way as folks who get married and have children…no church, no dressing up, no gifts, no teary-eyed speeches or first dances..not that I really wanted those things (lie), but I also resented that there was no equivalent for the single childfree life. Not only that, but ceremonies and celebrations are also a symbol of transition and passage into the next stage in your life. They are a way of saying to the world, “Look at me. I’m in the grown ups club now”.

As a single person, you recognise that our social customs and norms haven’t yet made space for celebrating the lives and achievements of those of us who are single and childfree. So, sisters and brothers, we gotta do it for ourselves! Feeling cheated got me all fired up and I finally decided to throw a party pour moi. I had a dress made, hired a venue and friends and family cooked the food and baked the cakes. Pictures of lil’ ole me, from nought to 40 were hung on the walls and I gave a speech. It is in the form of a fairy story because I think we need more fairy-tales which reflect our lives. It’s a little tongue in cheek and I hope you don’t think I’m a raving megalomaniac for posting it…well maybe you do, but I know you’re too kind to say that out loud:-)

Story-time

Once upon a time, in a faraway land there lived a little girl called Eileen. Although she was highly intelligent and supremely sensitive, like many little girls she was a little naïve. She was rapt and awestruck by the fairy-tales of her childhood…Cinderella, Snow White and Rapunzel. She dreamed of rags to riches, of growing up to a life of pumpkin carriages and glass slippers. She imagined living in a big castle in the sky with a handsome prince and golden haired, apple-cheeked offspring. Even then, she had notions above her station..no semi-d in the suburbs for her!

When she grew up she could identify with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, except it wasn’t quite the fairy-tale version. There were many dwarf boyfriends (She fondly remembered the magnificent Spaniard…all towering 5 foot of him, not to mention the Mexican boyfriend in the Cuban heels..they brought him up to her shoulders). She also dated several grumpys and quite a few dopeys..Snow White only had to endure one of each…that bitch got off lightly, Eileen thought!!!

When Eileen reached her mid-30’s, she wandered into a dark and mysterious forest in search of a prince. She met various characters along the way and asked them if they knew where the Prince was hiding. She was sick of the hide and seek games which she frequently played in Dublin’s nightclubs, such as Copper-Faced Jacks and Café Insane. She bumped into Red Riding Hood who told her she hadn’t seen the prince but she had spotted a cute Woodcutter..Eileen was impressed by his big shiney axe, but, alas, her anti-violence principles would not let her date him. She wandered deeper into the forest . She felt alone and scared. What would she do without a prince and a castle full of applecheeked offspring?

She lay down under a great Oak-tree and cried for three days and three nights. On the third day, she saw some people walking in the forest. They belonged to a hiking club and invited her to join them. She didn’t remember hearing about them in fairy-tales. She thought they were a curious looking bunch but they looked like fun. They brought her on adventures in the forest..she discovered mountains and rivers and far-away lands and she began to feel happy again.

The more she explored the more she discovered other girls and boys who had come to the forest by themselves and made their homes there. They taught her that you don’t have to live in a castle with a prince and little apple-cheeked offspring to be happy ever after. You could build a tree house or a boat house for yourself or you could live in the wide open under the stars. They told her that they would help her build a house for herself.

Eileen was very excited about building her new home in the forest, but she really missed her old friends and her family. She had been lost in the forest for a long time. She climbed to the top of the great oak tree and called out their names. Everybody came straight away. They built the most magical house together. The walls were decorated with pictures of all her friends and her family and their apple-cheeked children who she loved very much. Some of the pictures of Eileen were put up high on the walls so the children couldn’t see them. This was because she was (and still can be) a very naughty girl and the parents didn’t think it was a good idea for the children to see pictures of Eileen going wild.

When the house was built, Eileen decided to have a great party to celebrate her amazing adventures in the forest. Her sister Cena cooked a big feast for all the guests.

Everybody gasped when they saw her in her princess dress. They said she looked like a real life princess, except even better, but she was way too modest and humble to think that herself. Eileen looked at all the people who had come to be with her for the party. She realised that her house wasn’t empty and she wasn’t alone after all. She belonged to everyone in the room and everyone in the room belonged to her…they were all her family. They all partied their socks off all night long and Eileen was the happiest girl in the whole wide world.

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10 thoughts on “Celebrating the Journey

    • HI Jody,

      It was a fantastic night..I turned into a real life princess (well, maybe more of a drama queen) when I put on the dress:-)

      I added a picture to the latest post..lovely to hear from you..trust you’re enjoying the first night of the Olympics!

      Eileen

  1. Congratulations on this blog. What you did for your 40th is fab.
    I’m not single, but I live in Ireland and finished unsuccessful treatment for infertility a couple of years ago. Abandoned by my clinic, I turned to a professional counsellor who told me helpfully: “well, all I can say is that if I didn’t have my three daughters, I don’t know what I’d do”. She advised a book club. Turned 40 recently and found it very complex and difficult. Nobody really wants to talk about childlessness and being without family in your 40s and beyond – there is a real lack of empathy and a feeling of “well you’re not dying, are you” – AND everybody here seems to be pregnant all the time or going on about their kids’ junior certs or whatever… I’ve found the whole thing v.hard in ROI. Friends and family got fed up with me and melted away. It seems that only those in the same boat understand. I feel a bit fraudulent here, but I do identify much more with single women that those with children: we seem to be worlds & worlds apart now.
    It is definitely possible to reclaim your life, though, and to move forward, and blogs like yours are essential for that. I really admire what you are doing and yours seems to be the only Irish voice out there.
    Please keep up the great work!

    • HI Rose,

      Thank-you for your very honest and very kind response. It is always a joy to meet another soul on the childfree road and to be reminded that although the journey can be very difficult at times, it is possible to move on and move out of the pain and the loss of not having children of your own. I have a few friends who are coupled and have been unable to have children and we all have experience of feeling isolated and alienated in a world which is very child-centred!

      There is very little happening in Ireland that I know of to offer support to women, and men, who are trying to rebuild there lives when they don’t become parents. There are however, a couple of organisations in the UK that run workshops and weekend, including Gateway Women and More to Life…might be interesting to look into?

      I’d love to hear a little of what you have done to reclaim your life…that’s very much where I’m at…would love to hear your words of wisdom on the subject:-)

      Eileen

  2. Hi Eileen
    I don’t know if I actually made a conscious effort to reclaim my life; I just couldn’t stand the feeling of “suspension” any more: my life felt on hold for something that might never happen; a child that might never exist. I think the ridiculousness (and sadness) of that caught up with me. It was like living on “pause”. I fretted when spending money that I should be saving it for a future with a family; I worried that I hadn’t done enough to try to have kids, that I should have a donor child or adopt (but didn’t want to); I worried every time that I drank coffee or ate the wrong food that it would further affect my fertility. Most of all, I was in a constant state of cold sweats about my empty old age. I was so stressed about that, I couldn’t sleep & couldn’t relax enough to read. Holidays became jaded. I was terrified of the yawning decades ahead, without the landmarks that families have. I thought the dynamic would never change; nothing would ever change. I felt ancient. Peripheral at family events. I also felt extreme pressure (to the point of palpitations) to do something remarkable with my life (write a book, get a fab job) because I would never have a family (all those child-free articles that use Oprah Winfrey and Cameron Diaz as their examples…). With the infertility, I revelled a bit in being a victim; I alienated a lot of people by being outraged at their baby comments & lack or empathy.
    Then I turned 40, and I think that was the turning point. The build-up was horrible, but it felt like the window of opportunity (for having kids of my own) was properly closing, which helped. I didn’t want to have a high-risk pregnancy; it felt futile anyway to keep trying to fall pregnant at this age. Some of the pressure was taken away and it felt better. Also, I had a backlash to those feelings of envy and “empty decades ahead”: the advantages of not having kids started creeping to the fore. I’m back to finding other people’s kids just annoying…. Families look frumpy and harassed. 40-year-old festival dads are just irritating. I don’t know why pregnancy ever attracted me (to be honest, it always grossed me out; it was the big picture that was important). I like having money to spare. Anyway I just felt this huge, overdue, “ah, just f*** off families would you” was emerging. I’m not militantly child-free by any means; I’m not anti-children at all, I don’t want it to sound like that. I still don’t know whether I’m childless or childfree. I just got sick of the pressure. Since turning 40 I definitely feel as if I got some kind of release from the stress – so I think it could be an age thing? I definitely felt like my life started again around that time.

    I think Gateway is great and I was overjoyed when I saw this site. It would be great if there were events organised in ROI. The whole subject is so downplayed here, almost taboo, though – but the more voices, the better, of course.

    R

    • HI again Rose,

      Thank-you for your brilliant reply!!! I can so relate to so much of what you have said. Your comments about how turning 40 helped you turn a corner really resonated with me as I experienced something similar myself. Because the years up to that had been so difficult, I never expected that I could begin to feel differently. I never expected the grief and sadness to lessen, but it did and it lessened dramatically. I think for me it was also about recognising that the time had passed, and that was a relief..the pressure was off. And, like you, I began to appreciate the opportunities that not having children presented me with. This felt very natural and organic..I wasn’t forcing myself to ‘look on the bright side’…it just started to flow for me. This new-found happiness confused me. Most of the stuff I’d read about childlessness until then talked about an experience of enduring sadness which you learn to come to terms with. While it’s true that I do get the odd twinge or ‘moment’, it is not a prevading sadness. While I don’t quite understand it, I think it’s important to let other women and men know that this can happen.

      I agree that it would be FANTASTIC to have an event in Ireland. I am in contact with Jody Day and I will ask her for ideas on how to go about getting something going!

      Warm regards to you:-)

      Eileen

  3. Hi Eileen
    That’s exactly it. It just kind of “wore off”; disappeared some time after my 40th. I couldn’t sustain that level of misery and pressure. I think that having a more pragmatic personality might help: if it seems nebulous and impossible, or futile, I just don’t want to waste time and emotion in pusuing it. That’s not an answer for everyone, I know.
    I have felt good for a while now; I just hope it doesn’t strike in waves, like when my peers start to have grandchildren…. but somehow I just don’t think it will.
    The idea of the “Reignite” meetings on Gateway is great – I know I don’t want to sit around crying about not having children: I’ve been to meetings like that and I feel a bit out of place now. But there is always that feeling of: OK, I’m fine without kids, but there is a lot of time and head space to fill in the years ahead, as well as the residual worries of not having as much of a support network as families do…. it would be inspiring and confidence-boosting to meet other childfree women and hopefully make some friends.
    Anyway, will be keeping an eye on this site!
    Best wishes
    R

  4. If any one hears of an event or get-together for childless women please let me know. I have been taking longer than most to come to terms with it and it would help a lot if I knew some other women my age who are childless. Like others, I have become more and more isolated over the years as all my friends had children and lost interest in every other aspect of life.

    • Hi Nicki,

      The good news is there is a gang of us that meet up monthly for lunch..all of us moving on from life without children. If you google meetup and look for gateway women you will find the Dublin gateway meetup. If you join up you will get posts on our monthly meetups. As it happens, there is lunch tomorrow at chez max near Dublin castle:-) If you google gateway women you will find lots of helpful info and supports for women without children:-)

      • Me again! I see from meetups its 2nd Sunday of every month. That means next one 13th Sept. I’ll certainly make the effort to make that. Hope you all had a lovely lunch today, sorry to have missed it

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