For most of my life, this would have been a fairly straight forward question, but being childless has forced me to re-think so many aspects of my life.
If I’m being completely honest, I’d probably not given legacy much thought until the last few years. Perhaps like many, until we get to mid life it doesn’t really start to hit home. But just like parents, or those struggling through fertility treatment, or childless through circumstance, we have been conditioned to believe that children are your legacy. After all, if you don’t have them, who do you hand down certain family traditions, in some cases a family name, perhaps an estate? Then there’s all the things that so many of us take for granted, like your character traits and learnt behaviour, not to forget genetics. But when you don’t have children of your own, what does your legacy really look, and feel like?
As I’ve come to terms with a life without children of my own, I’ve become acutely aware of the challenges faced by the childless women and men that have had to adjust to a new life, the one they never thought they’d have.
Through the many heart breaking stories I’ve read on the ‘Childless not through Choice’ forums, introduced to me through Gateway Women, I now realise how much of a challenge coming to terms with legacy is for the childless community.
The impact of being an Auntie
Through working through my own challenges surrounding childless, I’ve come to realise how fortunate I am for my family of nieces and nephews and what they bring to my life.
I became an Auntie for the first time when I was in my last year of university and since then have 4 more nieces and nephews, now from 10 – 25 years old. Although being an Auntie is very different to what I perceived being a parent could have been, I am so grateful for the relationship I have with them all. I recognise and celebrate the very unique relationship I am able to have with them, because of, rather than despite not having children of my own. I try and put myself in the position of an Auntie who does have children of their own. Often with the busy and chaotic lives that comes with being a parent and I wonder just how much energy I would have had to those nieces and nephews growing up? Something I will never know, but I am pleased to have been so actively involved in their journey so far.
Personally I would love if the UK would adopt Auntie’s Day on Sunday 25th July, which was started in the States, by the amazing Melanie Notkin of Savy Auntie. She has created amazing resources for Aunties – especially for those yet to have children of their own, having children later in life, or not becoming a motherhood altogether. With 1 in 5 women reaching middle age not having children of their own, that’s a lot of people that don’t get to have a special day in their honour, ie father’s day or mother’s day, I wonder just how many of them are aunties/uncles!
Being around children can be a huge trigger for some childless not through choice women, bringing on many upsetting feelings, and if I’m honest with myself it’s something I hid on more than one occasion. Friend’s pregnancy announcements were tricky occasions to navigate, so I know the relationship with nieces and nephews isn’t going to be a straight forward one for everyone. If, however, you’ve worked through more of your grief and are in a much better place your nieces and nephews can be a great source of happiness. If you are fortunate enough to have close relationships with some or all of yours, why not consider how they might feature in your legacy? Also, worth noting that there’s nothing to say that close friend’s children can’t be your version of nieces and nephews if you don’t have existing biological relationships.
As the saying goes ‘there’s nothing more certain than death and taxes’ and although morbid, scary and frightening to think about (or is that just me?), it’s an important question to ask yourself when considering legacy. A question that I have asked myself over the past few years, is ‘What do I want to be remembered for when I’m no longer here?’
It’s an interesting question for all of us, regardless of having children and one that so many won’t even stop to think about, perhaps until it’s too late!
I for one have created a list, (I love a list!) which is by no means an exhaustive one, but as I move forwards and experience my new life it will change and grow with me.
Something on my list and one of the reasons I became a life coach, is my passion for helping others. Not like Mother Theresa of course, just in any small way possible. During one of my coaching sessions a few years ago I realised that this sat at the very heart of what ‘makes me tick’, something that aligns with my values and beliefs. As we started to navigate some of the challenges I was experiencing at the time, some revelations came up surrounding loneliness and what it meant to me. This coaching conversation led me to volunteering at a London food bank and this very small act, turned out to be a huge catalyst for change in my life. It encouraged me to pursue my coaching training and lead me to volunteering for the NHS through the pandemic. When I look back I’m blown away with the significant change I created during that time, thanks to the support from an amazing coach.
I’m a strong believer in taking opportunities life puts before you and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So when I saw the opportunity to get involved with the Give an Hour campaign, which enables you to share your career journey and insights with young people it felt the perfect next step. Last week I presented to a group of college students at their careers ‘Festival of Progression’ event. Being able to share some of my experience to those students was a real privilege, something I would never have thought I was capable of doing a few years ago. Having been invited back to mentor is potentially a new chapter in how legacy might look, who knows?
Although the meaning I associate with my legacy has totally changed over the past few years, I am finding ways to channel my passions into a different meaning. One that is more aligned with the impact I can have, living life to the full, and having a positive influence on anyone that I can help, regardless of family ties.
Speaking to those students about my career, and my journey to becoming a life coach may seem like a small act, but it’s one that left me feeling extremely proud of myself and really grateful.
As Emma Gannon recently acknowledged in her Pod Cast with Cate Sevilla. ‘A trusted and certified life coach can help you reframe things in a way that, if your friend or partner/family member tells you, you can get defensive, but it’s totally different when it’s an authority figure. That’s because their job is to listen to you and give a fresh opinion that’s free of bias. It’s totally different when it comes from a coach’.
If this article has resonated with you, or you’re interested to know how I could support you to make changes in your life, I’d love to hear from you.
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