Economists are predicting a dreary back-to-school season this year, as shoppers continue to demonstrate the realities of life after the so-called “end” of The Great Recession. Teen employment is at its lowest since 1964, so they’re relying more on their parents’ wallets, too.
Of course, the money woes are added to the emotions parents feel every year this time as they acknowledge that their offspring are continuing to grow up, edging closer to the day they will leave home. Wistful melancholy mixes with pride in Moms, GrandMoms, aunts and uncles. What I know for sure is that for some women without kids, the back-to-school season can be a little sad. Another autumn without a young student in their house.
If you know anything of grief, you know about the concept of “triggers,” sights, smells and sounds that remind you of what you’ve lost. Mention seasonal triggers and people think of December holidays. There are others. It’s not really something NotMoms like to volunteer to talk about.
The sharing of pain that raw is laden with fear and one basic question: Will I be understood? Any statement of personal truth is hard enough to get out, from an announcement of homosexuality to a terminal diagnosis. Misery expands when the confounded listener insists on getting you to explain exactly how you feel and why at a level of detail far beyond your comfort level.
None of the By Chance NotMoms I know want to do anything that might stir up strains of Common Reaction #1: “Oh, you poor, poor thing.” Besides, if the conversation itself can conjure unwanted, unexpected tears, the conclusion is often to keep quiet, even with close friends.
(Childless By Choice women may keep their feelings private as well, hoping to ward off Common Reaction #1A: “Wow. You must hate kids.”)
And then there are the Mean Girls, and it’s so easy to be mean online. Some childfree websites laugh openly at the very idea of childless women grieving over what they’ll never have. (I apologize for including the link, but how else to prove the point?)
Personally, I’ve always believed that Back-to-School signals a “hunkering down” time of year for most adults in almost every setting. Sports, graduate school, new TV programming…and always, a good deal on office supplies. When summer ends, we all take note.