Welcome everyone! After taking a little break last week to focus on some home renovation work, I’m so happy to be back with a new story to share for this week’s ‘On Being Childfree’ series. I’ll be running a few more stories before Christmas and then taking a break into the New Year as I know that everyone will be busy with other focus. Today Kiz shares the challenges her and husband Mark have faced, especially from family, in embracing a childfree life. As always, I’m so grateful for everyone’s commitment because it is such a personal subject to open up about. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
I’ve also started to build a resource list, for those of you who are either childfree by circumstance or childfree by choice. A combination of blogs, communities, individuals who are doing wonderful things in this space. Please do let me know if there are resources you use I can add.
We Are : Kiz & Mark, more often known as Mr Lilly, both early 40s
Home Is: Central Scotland
Find Me: Instagram
We met in Glasgow in the spring of 2013 after chatting for a while online. Though, neither of us can remember how long the while actually was. One of those odd things that is just sort of right. By July, I think we knew that this was it, we were a team. Which thoroughly confused my beloved’s conservative, extremely religious family. I am neither, and belong to a large, mixed family who don’t tend to bother with religion, tending towards humanist. And wouldn’t have bothered if I had just lived with Mr Lilly without making it official. That did not suit his family at all and so we married the following year, with a large wedding and all the difficulties and drama you would expect that go along with it. Neither of us wanted a wedding much. Marriage? Yes. Wedding? No. This is in no way a judgement on anyone else in their late 30’s getting hitched but I felt pretty ridiculous to be honest. I am not built for wedding dresses and had never had the slightest interest in wearing one. My not so inner feminist struggled with all the traditions suddenly appearing. And neither of us particularly relished being the centre of attention like that either. Love for each other and a really lovely counsellor we saw together in the wedding run up got us through.
Now obviously, at this point we were no spring chickens, and should have got to trying for babies right away. Mr Lilly was mildly keen on this and I…wasn’t really super fussed. After what had felt like a rather stressful courtship and wedding trying to please people. I just really wanted some time with just the two of us. And no evangelical Christian brother surprise visiting on weekends trying to find out if I was living with my man in advance of the wedding. (Yes, this really happened. No, I am still not over it.) The likelihood of babies happening at that point were pretty slim though. We slept nearly all the way through our honeymoon and spent nearly the whole year after that as sick as dogs with every bug going. Once the wedding was out the way, our immune systems crumpled into exhausted wee heaps. I cannot blame my in laws for being unhappy with me at this point, they must have been wondering if I was trying to kill my new husband! He had lost weight from stress and then more from illness. And looked gaunt and tired. As first years of marriage go, it wasn’t pretty. Though I am glad to say neither of us fled screaming from the house and actually still wanted to be with each other. I joke that Mr Lilly is blessed with inhuman patience but reader, he is AWFUL when he is ill. He rarely is so just can’t handle it. My health is not robust generally so I have far more practice at it. So I am great at being a patient (just ensure my cup of tea never goes cold) but terrible as Florence Nightingale.
So there we were, a year down, unmurdered by a loving spouse and mother in law was starting to get a bit …hopeful. My own mother has never been bothered about grandchildren and spent a large portion of her life as a single parent after my father died. She has done her time with kids and she, quite rightly, is over it. Mother in law cherished these dreams and has two sons, neither of whom married early in life or showed much interest in being fathers. This didn’t stop her from declaring during a blessing she performed at our wedding that marriage “is between a man and a woman, for the purposes of procreation.” though. She knew I would not agree to that being said if I had known in advance!
Mr Lilly was still mildly keen on the idea of kids so I lined up books, research, spoke to the doctor etc etc. Put this all in front of him and waited. It took a wee while but eventually he admitted that all that homework which he didn’t want to do, and mostly didn’t do, helped him start to see that perhaps he didn’t want kids overly much and was just going with what he had always been told. You get married, then you have children. It is just what you do. That is just what adults do. Which explained why we were treated very much as children by his family despite our age. We hadn’t earned adulthood yet so should do as our (his) parents told us.
Two years on. I have never felt drawn to having babies but I was always quite interested in the idea of fostering. So we went though some of the groundwork for becoming foster parents. But my mostly formerly, not very robust health and most importantly, the fact I am on antidepressants put up a red flag for them. I have been on them long term since before Mr Lilly and I met and there has never been any suggestion that I stop taking them. Probably because being on them once the right dose had been hammered out, was feeling like I had been drowning and didn’t realise till I could suddenly breathe again. The drugs are a nice inflatable set of water wings and to be honest, it hadn’t occurred to me to ask for an end date to them. Waking up and being me every day rather than a walking black pit of despair is still a novelty even after all this time. (That is probably another count against pregnancy. I don’t think I would have wanted to stop them and honestly, having to research and make a decision on that would not have been something I would have wanted to do.) Fostering was halted since they admitted that was a major issue and would have likely led to us being turned down. The general view was they can work with someone who has been on antidepressants and is now free of them. Rather than someone still taking them. I do find that a little odd since me off drugs dealing with a kid in care would be a lot less safe for all concerned than me with my medicinal water wings. But I accept their reservations. They are trying to minimise every possible difficulty with foster parents since the kids come with their own large grab bag of problems.
Two dreams down and what is left? A surprising amount. Friends have children they let us borrow. This allows us to have a blast in play parks and museums, seeing these things through different eyes. Our Nearly Niece is 10 and wows me with her talent at one handed cartwheels and her confidence and enjoyment of life. She, as a flower girl, was also one of the best bits at our wedding. Nephew is 3 and an extremely smart bilingual kid who reminds us both that a) children are exhausting and borrowing one is much more fun and b) play-doh plus a bit of imagination is pretty magical. It has been a real privilege to watch them grow.
Maybe if Mr Lilly and I had met earlier and had had time and water wing free brainmeats on our side, we might have had kids but there is also that awareness that maybe we wouldn’t have been ready to meet each other, deal with each other’s families, build relationships with them after a less than auspicious start and understand what we need from each other. And more importantly, understand what we need for ourselves. That, for us, has definitely come with age. Self-care is an easy phrase thrown about these days but really learning what that is for you personally is a lot harder than you think. And the doing even more so. Especially with elderly parents in poor health.
Mother in law said last year, while watching me with my nephew, “you should have had a family” I was initially baffled. “I have a family?” I said pointing at various blood and non blood related loved ones. It wasn’t till she shook her head that I understood what she meant. It makes me grit my teeth a bit and probably always will. I am cheered though by my first reaction to that statement. I have a family, blood, non blood, found in strange places and already in place when I got here and it is enough. Neither of us expected to end up with this life but for the most part we are honestly pretty happy.
Thank you so so much to Kiz for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Kiz’s story and leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.