Every time March rolls around, my thoughts are full of memories of my godmother, Cynthia (left), who desperately wanted children but was unable to have them. Instead, she became godmother to 3 lucky girls, and I was one of them. She was born in March (1936) and died in March (1988).
She told me once that although God never answered her prayers to give birth to children of her own, she never stopped loving Him, and she never doubted that He loved her. On the other hand, she thought that her infertility was a key factor in her divorce. Her ex-husband went on to have 2 children with his second wife; she never remarried.
In her later years, Cynthia enjoyed self-employment helping others as a psychologist and astrologer. I wondered then, and now, exactly how she reached peaceful acceptance with her own life situation. And though I didn’t feel comfortable asking, I always admired her for it.
It’s a different world for women without kids today, especially those who deliberately choose to live childfree, thanks to societal changes and the Internet. Boomer NotMom Andrea Peterson shared a guest post and comment this year that she wished she’d had “comforting support all those years ago” that is offered by sites like TheNotMom.com. I wish that, too.
Laura LaVoie’s post on this site about her childfree great aunt made me think about the women without children in my family, though each of them was childless by chance. Including my godmother, who wasn’t a blood relative, there were three of them. What I recall was that Cynthia was the only one who dealt with me as a person in my own right, as opposed to giving unsolicited parenting advice to my mother. Guess which of the 3 earned the most affection from me?
My aunt Nancy lost her first husband, the love of her life, to racism before I was born. Sometime in the 1940s he jaywalked across a Georgia street unaware that a white policeman was watching. The policeman shot him dead.
Nancy re-married a few years later to a man with a “good job” (as a train porter). Though he had a child from his first marriage, they never did. She seemed most maternal when she cooed “pretty boy” to her parakeet, who lived in a beautiful cage that was 4 feet tall.
By the time I entered kindergarten, her husband was blind from diabetes and she was an alcoholic and a very mean drunk. I was afraid of her, especially when she yelled at my mother and others that they weren’t raising their children “right”.
My family’s third NotMom was my late cousin Esther, a stylish school librarian whose husband
left her long before I came along, and no one ever told me why. She helped foster my love of books and sewing, but she earned my mother’s disdain for repeatedly explaining what she was doing “wrong” with me. When Esther’s only sister died young, leaving behind a son and a daughter, she thrilled in assuming a motherly position to them and later, their children.
I know these women loved me and the other children in their lives, each in her own way. The lessons I took from them are a big reason why I rarely speak out to Momfriends with 100% honesty about their parenting decisions. When pushed, I’m quick to say that I don’t know what I’m talking about; that I have no experience or knowledge to back my opinions. I never want to be that meddling voice my mother heard so frequently.
What I know for sure is that during their lifetimes, the childless women in my family, and others like them, were often objects of pity, regardless of their marital, professional or financial status. The idea of linking together was unheard of, so they lived with any feelings of grief and apartness unspoken and alone. No matter what your complaint, NotMoms, it really is easier now.
Were there NotMoms in your family? What have you learned from them?