Before going into this, I want to make it clear that this article didn’t arise out of some Mother’s Day anxiety. God is my hope and comfort. I love my Moms, they are two of the most amazing women I know, and I love the mother’s God has put around me. They are a delight to me.
I want to try and put into words what it’s like to be a childless wife, specifically as a Reformed Baptist. I honestly can’t write outside of who and what I am, so I thought I’d just be up front about that.
Reformed Baptists tend to lean towards big families. They tend to connect well with and be saturated with large, home schooled, ridiculous children. I can say that because I’m second oldest of five, home schooled, and moderately ridiculous myself. We were an average-sized family within the early Reformed Baptist movement surrounded by families with 7, 8, or even 12 kids. Now, more and more people cling to the 1689 and Confessionalism causing the Reformed Baptists to become more . . . interesting. We are growing to represent many different walks of life including childless couples. Looking around my own church, I see how much more diverse it is now than it was when I joined it almost twenty years ago. And I am, as a childless wife, part of that diversity.
I don’t want to share this so that women with children suddenly walk on egg-shells around us few childless wives. I don’t want people to suddenly feel like they can’t ask a woman about having kids for fear of offending her. I’m not looking for pity or political correctness. This is born out of a desire to gather my own thoughts and experiences and communicate with other childless wives so that the feelings of aloneness are lessened. Being alone is a terrible place and when you realize you’re not alone it can help you carry on for another hour or day or year. I’ve found encouragement in not being alone. I hope you do too, and I hope you mothers out the will look on us with love and know we are cheering you on every step of the way.
Growing up, my main goal in life was to be a wife and a mother. That’s all I wanted in life. I believed and still believe motherhood is the most honorable profession for women. I grew up in a large family and I wanted one of my own. Not to mention, we all know the push, be it subtle and subconscious, within the Reformed Baptist/Home Schooled movement for big families. It’s there and us childless wives feel it. We feel it all the time.
So, here I am now, 35, with about two solid pregnancy scares under my belt in 13 years of marriage. My time, my window, is coming to an end. It’s not the end. I could still get pregnant, but it’s becoming less and less likely. I must seriously face the fact that it may never happen. That’s a hard thing to look in the eye and not fear.
But, look I must.
These are my struggles and my hopes. I trust that other childless wives will find themselves here. I pray you may be encouraged in your trust in our mighty God.
Contentment: Just like when I was single and struggling with contentment, so I’ve struggled with childlessness. I have wept often before the Lord seeking to bring my will captive to his. Has the Lord answered that prayer? Yes. He has blessed me with a measure of contentment. I may never have children, but my hope in this life isn’t wrapped up in having children. My eternal significance isn’t wrapped up in having children. It is all in Christ. In him only do I find my all. This isn’t easy. And sometimes it hurts so deep inside. Even after years, and with seasons of peace, the fact that I don’t have children and may never have children still rises up with intense pain. Yet, God is good. He chose this for me and I trust him in it. It isn’t what I would have chosen. Not in a million years. But, I trust him in the choosing. So, every time the empty hollow of childlessness tears open, the flow of sorrow is stopped by the tender hand of the Father who sent his only Son to die for me and the Holy Spirit who comforts me.
Time: Without children, a wife finds a certain amount of time on her hands that other women may not have. Believe me, most of us would give up all that extra time in a heartbeat for just one set of chubby cheeks to call our own. My struggle is to use the time I’ve been given wisely. It is easy, and largely encouraged by our day and age, to use your time for you. Yet, we childless wives have a unique opportunity to serve. We can serve our church and our families in a way mothers can’t. For each of us this will look different. Some of us pour that time into a career and use the extra income to serve our church. Others of us use the time to physically serve with extra meals, an extra pair of hand, and sometimes just an extra set of shoulders to cry on. Some of us use the time to pray and read and study. Every childless wife has to evaluate her use of her extra time to avoid selfish laziness and worldliness. I have found that this time can be a great blessing if it is used in the service of the Lord.
Feeling Outside: I’ve had single friends complain about women’s books and conferences focusing only on married women and mothers. As a childless wife, I know exactly how they feel. It is no fun to read book after book, or attend conference after conference, only to feel like nothing exactly applies to you. The childless wife struggles with feeling outside the group. She can understand all the parts about marriage but what is she supposed to do with the parts about children. The temptation to shut down when other women talk about raising kids is real. Instead of indulging in self-pity, we need to file the information away so we can better pray for and understand our dear sisters who are raising kids. Let’s be honest, there are a far greater number of couples raising kids than the small minority of single women, childless wives, and single mothers. While we may all feel on the outside, we should never let that be an excuse to withdraw from the body of believers. It may not affect you right now, but you never know when that will change and the more you understand, the better you can pray for others. But, the struggle of feeling on the outside looking in is very real for us childless wives. The struggle to control tears and emotions while others talk about how to raise children is real.
Childless Husbands: Husbands of childless wives can contend with feelings of failure and guilt. They can feel helpless and weak. Some of them vacillate between contentment and deep sorrow. Regardless the reasons for the state of childlessness, both spouses are affected. A couple can go through seasons of regular discussions about children and they can go through seasons where the discussions are so painful they are just easier to avoid. As a wife, you never want to be the source of a husband’s sense of failure. For us it can become easy to just bottle up all the emotions and struggles. We’ve all been over it again and again and more tears isn’t going to change anything. The struggle is between letting this trial grow you together or grow you apart. It requires prayer, honesty, and an understanding of the purpose of our lives. We aren’t here for ourselves but for the glory of Christ. If he chooses for our lives to be childless, we must trust him in that.
Questions and Pressure: There is a certain point, a certain age where people stop asking when you’re going to have kids. When you first get married, you get asked about kids almost every day. Most of the time, if not all of the time, this is just your friends and families way of expressing love and excitement about your life. It should be taken that way. But sometimes it builds into a great pressure. It makes you feel like without kids you’re behind or just failing at life. As you get older, people just assume you have kids. It can be uncomfortable to explain, yet again, that you don’t have children. I try to take questions about my childlessness in stride. Of course people are going to ask if I have kids. That’s normal. The majority of Reformed Baptists my age have children. Most of the time I have no problem with this question. But, every once in a while it takes every ounce of self -control to answer questions about kids with a smile and a gracious attitude.
Worldly Selfishness: The questions about your childlessness generally leads to the desire to explain that you want kids because you’re suddenly afraid you’re going to be lumped in with people who are choosing to not have children for selfish reasons. It’s hard to tell someone you don’t have kids but want them when you’re not getting any younger. You want to wear a t-shirt that says, “No. I don’t have kids. Yes. I would love to have kids even if they ruin my furniture, destroy my body, take up all my time, and empty my bank account. I didn’t choose to be childless to have a comfortable life.” It’s hard when you pick up from mothers that they think you have it easy. Comparatively, we probably do. But, it’s not because we choose to have it this way. Our house may be tidy most of the time. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t give up our tidy homes in a heartbeat for fingerprints, toys, and general destruction. Don’t assume we just have such an ideal life where everything is always in control. You have something we would gladly sacrifice everything to have. You have the one thing we must fight our biggest battles of contentment over. Don’t look at us and think we have the better life or that we can’t understand why your house isn’t spotless. We know why it’s not and we wish we had the same problem.
Fear for the Future/Disappointing Parents: As a childless wife, it is easy to fear for the future. You picture your husband dying and no one being around to take care of you like your parents take care of your grandparents. Like the rest of life, this comes down to trusting the Lord. He has commanded his church to take care of the widows. He has always had a tender compassion for widows. Coupled with this is a fear of disappointing your parents. As much as you want kids, your parents want grandkids. They have to struggle with contentment just like we do. It’s easier when you have several siblings and some of them have kids, but if you are the only children, I can see where this could be a huge burden. Again, trust the Lord. Be content. Look towards the heavenly treasure.
My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves
There are some real blessings in being childless, just as there are in being single. You can dedicate your life to the Lord in ways families with children can’t. You can serve where others can’t. You can adopt and foster where others can’t. But, with childlessness also comes great sadness and constant battles for contentment. I have found these to be lessened as the Lord loosens my grip on this world. The King has come. He even now rules and reigns. This world is not the end but the beginning. This is just the start of my life, most of which will be spent in heaven, not here. This is my hope. My anchor. Christ alone. He comforts the broken hearted. He will wipe away ever tear. He has loved and cherished many childless wives before me and will continue to do so after me. I’m also blessed by a plethora of nieces and nephews. They give me a chance to love those little hands and feet, see first steps, hear first words, answer questions about why this and why that, and make the house a mess. If you don’t have your own children invest in your nieces and nephews. If you don’t have any of those little treasures, find a family in your church and adopt them. There is always a need for someone who can love little people. If you don’t have a desire for this, pour yourself out somewhere else. I know childless wives who take young women under their wings. I know others who serve the church by helping with visitors and open their homes for hospitality. Don’t waste this life by sitting around waiting to have children, or get married, or for your children to grow up. Us childless wives may have children someday. We may never have children. We should all find ways to serve with or without them.
God is so good. Over all the struggles with this life, he has never once left me alone. He has never once made a struggle pointless. Each tear, each cry of my heart has been answered gently, kindly, and with promises, with hope. I may not have any biological children, but I have sisters and brothers in Christ who are young. I have nieces and nephews, and most of all, I have the hope of heaven and my Christ. I hope this has encouraged other childless wives to remember they aren’t alone, and has helped others to see how they can pray for particular parts of their church, for we are one body.
Yes, this is probably my favorite quote. “All we have to decide is what to so with the time that is given to us.”