On Being Childfree – Zoe’s Story

Welcome everyone! It’s week eleven of the “On Being Childfree” blog series and I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your continued support. Every week the post is the most read on my blog and I receive emails from people wanting to take part and DMs on Instagram that people are finding this so helpful. This week I’m delighted to welcome our tenth guest story, Zoe. Zoe is opening up about her life as a stepmum after marrying her soulmate, with an 18 year age gap. 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.

(If you would like to see where it all began, click here. Thank you so much for your support, if you would like to share your own story please email me on booandmaddie22@gmail.com)

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We Are: Zoe and Simon, in our 30s and 50s

Home Is: Kent

We Do: We work together in our family business

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We met when I was 20. I definitely wasn’t looking for a relationship and it completely took me by surprise. But meeting Simon has literally been the best thing to ever happen to me. 15 years on, 5 homes, a cat, a wedding, countless holidays, career changes, running a business together and plenty of heartaches I can honestly say we have everything. Except children together. 

I’ve always been called an old soul and Simon a big kid to the point where we didn’t really realise how big an age gap we had to start but within a few weeks it was out there – 18 years. I massively struggled with this and actually deleted Simon’s number from my phone at one stage. How could I have a late 30s boyfriend at 20?! He persevered though, the rest as they say is history and I am so glad he did. Simon is my very best friend and I honestly couldn’t imagine life without him. He makes my life better just by being in it, he makes everything ok and I am excited to see him every single evening. 

With Simon, came four other very special people into my life. I won’t lie and say it was easy because at times it was really, really fucking hard but we worked at it and I genuinely love my step children, I honestly couldn’t imagine life any other way. 

Simon had a vasectomy before we met, he thought his family was complete and didn’t expect his marriage to end and to remarry (especially not to a younger, childfree woman). The children topic came up pretty early. If I’m completely honest I haven’t always been hugely maternal and Simon was of the mindset that he had “had his children” and thought this would always be an issue between us. He kept saying that one day I would want the children he couldn’t give me and I would bat him down but he was adamant that one day I would leave him because of our situation which upset me so I rarely spoke about it. 

After we got married five years ago we started to think we might want children together and discussed a vasectomy reversal/IVF and made the decision to go for it. I’m not sure what really changed but marriage and me getting older definitely played a part. Then life threw a massive curve ball. One of Simon’s daughters moved in with us and a year later developed an eating disorder which she is still battling and has become more and more severe despite us doing everything we can. 

If I’m honest the eating disorder has taken over our lives in more ways than you can imagine. We decided that we couldn’t even think about bringing a child into such a toxic environment; it wouldn’t be good for the baby or Lucy let alone the stress itself of IVF. We last spoke about it in January 2018 so over a year ago and the situation is no different now, Lucy still needs to be our priority and also taking care of ourselves as it is mentally and physically draining. Of course I wonder sometimes but also I sometimes think perhaps this is our destiny and I don’t think I will be resentful. We have an amazing relationship and I don’t think you need to have a child to define a relationship or even yourself as an individual.

I certainly feel like a parent a lot of the time and lots of my day to day is spent parenting albeit it in a very unconventional way! I won’t lie and say I don’t romanticise about having my own child. Sometimes little things happen that hurt and it can feel like a kick in the stomach. For example, it can be really hard seeing one of the kids snuggle up to Simon on the sofa when watching a film when of course they would never do that with me, as close as we genuinely are. And the “oh she looks so much like/ he acts so much like” comments can floor me as the reality is no one will ever look like me or act like me. Other people can make it extremely hard, the off of the cuff comments about “you next”, “it’s about time”, “you’re leaving it a bit late!” etc are so unbelievably unsympathetic. I would  never ever ask any couple as quite simply you never know what people are going through. 

Sometimes I get caught completely off guard, I vividly remember one of my best friends telling me she was pregnant almost three years ago and me biting so so hard to the inside of my cheeks to stop myself from crying in front of her; I was over the moon for her but I just couldn’t help the emotion. The last time it happened was only a few weeks ago. Someone who works for us sent a picture of his newborn baby boy when we were lounging in bed drinking tea on a Sunday morning and I couldn’t help it, the hot fat tears were running down my face. 

I think the biggest thing I’ve come to realise is, is that it’s the lack of choice that I resent. I can’t decide suddenly one day that we want to have a child, that would take a lot of planning. At the end of the day I know I’m so lucky to be in such a solid, loving, respectful relationship.  I love our life, we are parents, we’ve dealt with so much together and absolutely adore each other and that counts for a lot. 

I think our time has been and gone and I think I’m ok with that. 

Thank you so so much to Zoe 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 Zoe’s story, leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.

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