It felt like I had to take part. And then I was floored as I was asked to say a little about myself. I’m childless, is there more?
From (un)becoming an imposter I reached out and began the process of re-belonging, not only as a childless man, and as a part of a childless couple, but as a multi-dimensional person. Yet, when asked about myself, I floundered. The shell had cracked, but inside I see myself just as empty. A list of the activities I attach myself to followed, between the urms and errs. Still I forgot I am a writer. But belonging to them? A sense of purpose and meaning is absent. My engagement scratches at the surface.
In part out of fear of further hurt, disappointment and upset. It feels as if I had my fill of these, and I am uncertain how I will cope with further attacks on my sense of self. As it is how I have framed our losses, as something fundamentally wrong with me and not just unexplained. As I reflect as I write, I realise it isn’t the hurt, disappointment or upset that stops me from engaging, these are understandable responses to a situation which hasn’t worked as hoped. Especially when I have focused all my energy, time and love on it. What stops me from engaging is the self-attacks on myself, the viewing of myself as a failure.
And that is what a childless not by choice man feels like to me, failure. I see, but I discard, the unwanted silver linings; the strengthening of my marriage, the enhancements to my therapy practice, the desire to support others in the same situation, and the frankly astonishing still being alive and not lost in numbing addiction or movement, but instead with a desire to live a life that is full and real.
It was that desire that led me to taking part in the Full Stop podcast, it felt like a chance to share my experiences, to embrace being childless as being about more than letting down my wife and I. I enjoyed being on the Full Stop Podcast, for it was healing as I was able to talk openly about it to two warm and caring people. Thank you Sarah and Michael. I’ll hopefully chat to Berenice soon too.
In those 30 minutes you get a fair overview of the past 10 years, including the tears just on the surface. Rather like with my re-belonging I am only scratching at the surface of what a childless man means to me as I challenge my (society’s?) dominate narrative of it being a failure and the shame that brings. I live with that internal conflict, the angry voice and the disappointed voice which stifles me, as well as a creative voice, a voice that doesn’t give up, no matter how long I can go missing listening to the voices of others I took up as my own. Perhaps the love I was hoping to offer my children to ensure they wouldn’t develop such voices, I can instead offer myself as part of my healing.