Accepting Childlessness: The Fears About Life Without Children
By the time I realized I couldn't have children, I didn’t know how to create a vision for a life where I wouldn’t be a mother. It stirred such concrete fear inside me over how I could accept this reality. I wasn’t sure how to move forward. And for a while, I didn’t.
When I finally had a breakthrough and felt ready to visualize a new path, I was deep into my career as a transformational life coach. Through that experience, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with women who, like me, are living through the complex journey of involuntary childlessness. Everyone experiences the grief of not having children differently, but the fears about a life without children seem to be universal.
What is Involuntary Childlessness?
Involuntary childlessness refers to a person who wanted to have children but, due to circumstances beyond their control, could not. This could be someone who experienced infertility or other medical issues, but it is not limited to that. Those who could not have children due to age, not finding a partner, or lacking financial stability are also involuntarily childless.
The Fears Around Life Without Children
Recently, I got real with almost 300 women in my network about their fears around not being able to have children, no-holds-barred. It’s not just about finding new ways for women without children to support each other but to encourage a greater understanding for those who don’t know what it’s like to experience this.
Childless women said they fear dying alone
There’s an overarching loneliness attached to a life without children. “It took two weeks before people started reaching out during the pandemic… I was forgotten…” one woman told me. When thinking about getting older and reaching the golden years, many fear “no one will be around to take care of me or handle anything after I’m gone.” And it’s a valid fear. We all want to feel taken care of by those we love during the times we need people the most.
Women without children worry they’ll have no legacy to leave behind
What happens to all the things, monetarily or emotionally, that mean something to me? What will become of everything I’ve created in this life? I’ve asked myself these questions, and so have many women who are involuntarily childless. “I don’t have a legacy to leave in this world, or anyone to carry on my memory when I’m gone,” someone mentioned. It’s bitter to think that everything you do in your life will die when you do.
Women who are childless involuntarily say they’ll forever be branded an outcast
“I am the outcast who will constantly explain to new people why we don’t have kids and eventually why we don’t have grandkids,” is what one woman said when asked about what her fears are around not having children. Without a traditional family dynamic, people seem to put women on the back burner. Another said, “I will always be THAT girl who wanted children but was flawed.” Women who are involuntarily childless often feel incomplete and insufficient by those they love.
Accepting Involuntary Childlessness
It’s hard to accept something you never wanted for yourself. But without seeking to accept what is, you can never truly move forward. Living a fulfilling life is still possible even though it doesn’t include children. The women I’ve been talking to want you to know that creating a new journey after childlessness is possible.
Create your own identity
Make the most of this beautiful life knowing your identity can be whatever you want it to be. “Do not be governed by what society believes you should be,” someone said, and I think it’s sound advice. Get real about where you are in your journey right now, assess the positive things around you, and use it as a starting point to become someone you never imagined. You may not have been able to choose to become a mother, but you can choose what comes next.
Get accountable for your suffering
One of the best words of wisdom I received from a woman in my network was, “This is not a punishment. It’s just different than your original plan.” It’s so easy to feel like a victim, but victimizing yourself is the easiest way to stunt your growth. You are responsible for your happiness. If you feel like you’re suffering, it’s because you’re avoiding the healing that you deserve. If motherhood isn’t possible, what is? Spoiler alert: everything!
Remind yourself there’s nothing wrong with not having children
We carry such an unnecessary burden thinking there’s something wrong with us when we find out we can’t have children. One woman responded, “I wish someone would have said ‘you are not strange or weird and it’s okay to be childless.’ It’s not a reflection of your worth…” Knowing how long women have fought to be seen as more than child bearers, it would be crazy to convince yourself it’s the only valuable thing about you.
Turn Fear into Freedom: Moving Forward
Letting go of the things you can’t control does not happen overnight. There’s inner work and mindset transformation involved that does not have a time stamp. Building your Positive Intelligence, getting aware of your mind traps, and making choices that meet you where you are in your current journey requires a life-altering commitment that won’t always be easy. But it’ll be worth it, and it’ll show you just how much is possible for you once you take steps to move forward.
If you are struggling to accept life after involuntary childlessness, let’s connect. I’ve coached over 500 people throughout my career, supporting them to move forward with their lives. I know I can support you, too.
Kelly Oz is a certified transformation coach and certified professional coach with 10+ years of experience mentoring over 500 people to embrace a future that is limitless through deep mindset coaching. Through her innovative, action-based coaching models, Kelly is passionate about working 1:1 with women who are ready to get real about what it means to move forward after life's challenges. Kelly is offering a safe space for women to use their voices, support each other, and transform their lives with exclusive practices for self-improvement.