Infertility brings up many questions, but the one I wasn’t expecting to ask was this: where do I belong? It’s been a struggle to answer this question over the past three years. I’m still not convinced I have the answer, but I’m getting closer.
Friends in different stages of life…
It’s hard to figure out where I belong in our friendship circles. Many of our peers are in the heart of raising children. They have fixed schedules and limited free time. The time they do have available usually fits best with other parents who live on similar schedules.
We don’t always plan that far ahead. It’ll be Friday afternoon, we’re both done with work and we want to do something. We’ll probably go out to eat, but we’d love to do that with another couple or a group of friends. And then… we get stuck. We just don’t have a lot of friends who are available on a moment’s notice.
I find that it’s best to plan ahead with friends who have children, but to hold those plans lightly because at the last minute someone might be sick or a meltdown occurs or something that will keep my friend from being able to join me. I completely understand. I don’t hold any anger toward my friend, but it is hard when her life is in such a different place than mine.
We’ve tried developing friendships with people who are a decade or so older… the ones who have kids in high school or college. That has worked for us occasionally, but on top of availability there is also a need for common interests and relatability. Why didn’t anyone tell us that friendship in adulthood would be so hard?! When you throw an alternative life into the mix (i.e. infertility) I’m constantly asking myself, where do I belong?
Church doesn’t seem to fit anymore either…
I really thought a church community would be a good solution to figuring out where I belong. I’ve been attending church since I was an infant. I’m comfortable in church settings, I know what to expect and how to behave. I worked in the church for 14 years — it really is my home. However, when I was diagnosed with infertility that changed — I haven’t felt at home in church since then.
Most churches that I’ve attended have great children and family ministries. They offer opportunities for children to learn and play together. There are programs for families to spend time with one another. There are Sunday school classes for parents of young children.
There are also great programs for older adults that are close to retirement or already retired. They have daytime Bible studies and learning opportunities around topics that apply to their stage in life.
I have yet to figure out where I fit. There are often young adult offerings but those are usually people in their 20s — people I taught when they were in youth group and younger. I just don’t fit there. I have commonalities with those who have young children, but most often when they are gathered together they talk about their kids. And that is okay. But, that’s not what I want to talk about all the time. And, I’m not retired yet, or even close, so those topics are relevant to me.
I feel frustrated about this. I feel lonely. I feel like a misfit. It would be easy for me to stay in this place of frustration and loneliness, but I’m making some choices to change my situation. I can’t expect others to do this for me. It’s my work to do.
Time to try something different…
First, I’m seeking out other couples our age who don’t have children for whatever reason. There aren’t a ton of these couples in our circles of friends, but there are a few. So, over the next several months I’m going to create opportunities for these couples to gather for game nights, which are perfect in the winter.
Second, I need to let go of my expectations that there is anyone who can just hang out at the drop of a hat. This isn’t college anymore. Most people have plans. As much as I’d love to have friends who are available at anytime, that just isn’t realistic. Between work, hobbies and sleep (lol), people are busy. So, I’m going to do better at planning ahead.
Finally, I’m going to start looking for a church again. I’ve been moping about my church issues all fall. I blame it on the fact that no one has really reached out to me, but it’s bigger than that. I just need to start looking for a community that fits my needs, that helps me answer the question, “where do I belong?”
Being childfree on the edge of mid-life is challenging. I have to rethink what friendships look like. I have to pay attention to what communities will welcome me. I need to start branching out a bit. Maybe it’s time to go to the local quilting group. Maybe I need to seek out some new friendships. Next week I’m meeting up with a woman who I connected with on Instagram. The possibilities are endless, but that requires me to be open. I’ve been working on that word all year… here’s another opportunity to practice.
So, where do I belong? I’ll keep you posted!