I feel isolated because I don’t have children

May 3rd, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 19 comments

Thank you for your teachings. I am a Christian who grew up in a traditional Christian home and graduated from Christian school. Now, as an adult married 17 years to my Christian husband; however, I have no children due to an ongoing illness. 

I am now coping with the reality that I will likely never have children.  I am now in my forties. This has been a great disappointment for me. I have seen many childless women groups on the internet, but I am careful who I take advice from. I should add that my husband and I have a wonderful marriage, but I am wondering how I best serve the Lord though I am not a mother?  

What makes this most difficult is that I feel socially isolated. I have been reading my Bible and searching scripture for my new purpose. Are there any biblical scriptures you suggest? 

Thank you for taking the time to consider my question.

Elizabeth

Answer: 

Dear Elizabeth,

You are, indeed, going through a difficult challenge.  The Bible leaves much unsaid about the emotional pain felt in many heart-breaking situations, but when it comes to childlessness it gives us numerous examples of women suffering devastating pain because they couldn’t conceive. We are sure that surrendering the dream of having children is almost unbearable.

We are going to assume that you and your husband have decided against adoption or you would have phrased your question differently. Perhaps you have also thought of foster parenting and rejected that idea for your own reasons. We do suggest that you find some way, whether within your own extended family or by reaching outside that group, to connect to the next generation. It is important for all of us to envision a future that lasts beyond ourselves.

You might consider providing a “safe haven” for the pre-teen and teenage children of friends—a place that they can come during the inevitable clashes with parents with whom you can collaborate on this.  Or perhaps you are in a position to offer supplemental coaching or tutoring to either local homeschoolers or conventionally educated youngsters.  Whatever it is, you could become a really important person in the lives of the next generation.  They will see you this way and you will derive pleasure and purpose.

Once you look beyond children related areas, there are so many avenues to serve God available to you. Assess your resources, talents and interests and you will find innumerable areas where your contributions can make a huge difference. While the pain of not having children won’t go away, the time and energy you can devote to other areas is also a reality and one that you can embrace.

You don’t mention work or career considerations. Maybe God is giving you a never-before-considered opportunity to do something really fulfilling in a work context?  Our most recent Thought Tool addresses the question of escaping ‘in-the-box’ thinking.  Perhaps it could be useful to you.

You speak of social isolation. This is a recurring problem in many religious, family oriented communities. The normal expectations, as wonderful as they are, of marriage and family make it difficult on those who don’t match those expectations. This does mean that you need to make more of an effort to make a place for yourself. Synagogues and churches with which we are familiar have all sorts of groups ranging from book clubs to ministries that visit the homebound to classes on financial guidance.

Your effort can take many forms and depending on the circumstances might mean steeling yourself to be less sensitive to certain comments or speaking to a group leader and letting her know that you feel left out when the discussion continually goes off topic and turns into “mommy sharing.” Enlarge your heart to recognize that you might share a deep friendship with a mother of a large family; neither she nor you is defined solely by children.

As for Scriptural suggestions, Jewish women for thousands of years have turned to the book of Psalms for solace and strength. No matter the sorrow or celebration, Psalms speaks to their souls.

Wishing you joy and fulfillment,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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19 comments

Varghese says:

I totally agree with Susan. You can try adoption from other countries (called International Adoption) or within the US (Domestic Adoption). You work with an adoption agency in the US to complete the process. It can cost $10,000 for domestic adoption and $20,000 for international. The US Govt. provides a Tax Credit for adoption, so you will get $12,000 after the adoption is finalized. The adoption through Foster Care is another option. You don’t involve an adoption agency, so the expense is very minimum.

Preparing yourself for the adoption is the greatest challenge you may face. As my pastor TD Jakes says “Whatever it takes” take the first step, then second. God will bless the ones who have the heart for the orphans.

Susan Lapin says:

Varghese, there are reasons that adoption isn’t an option for some people. While it’s wonderful for those who can, our point was that there are other ways to find meaning and be involved with the next generation if that isn’t an option that suits.

Ann Switzer says:

A friend of mine has had 7 miscarriages and is childless. In her 60’s now she is immersed in the lives of her nieces and nephews — she loves these children and I have only heard her once speak, one sentence about loosing 7 little ones. She is full of joy and love and has found little ones in her family circle to pour into.

Susan Lapin says:

What an admirable woman – she chose joy.

Rosalind says:

What a wonderful, thoughtful response. I made an insensitive comment to the wife of my husband’s first cousin about not having children which I regret to this day and have never had the ability and probably lacked the courage and humility to admit this to her. She was a school teacher and is one of the most lovely, kind women that I know. Given Elizabeth’s pain and your response, it is time to make amends.

Susan Lapin says:

Rosalind, it is very hard to admit to wrongdoing or saying the wrong and insensitive thing. May God give you the courage and strength to do so in a sensitive and loving way.

Karen Boswell says:

I am reminded of Sarah and Rachel….

Not saying their end will be yours, Even if……

He is faithful

Susan Lapin says:

Thanks for writing, Karen. (We do remove links:))

yaffa says:

loved the reply!!

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, Yaffa. We hope it was sensitive and helpful.

Val says:

Wow, I could have written that exact “problem” above; I too am in my 40s, Christian, married for 17 years, no children. However, I’ve found other ways to fill my life with joy, from working with rescued and abandoned animals, to loving my nieces and nephews. While not the same as children, animals can and do bring joy to many people. I’ve considered adoption through foster care, and still haven’t ruled it out completely, but I’m also considering all the negative aspects, and strangely enough my fears are now centered around “What if the children don’t treat my animals well?” I should state that I’m a nurse and find joy in my work as well. I wish the lady who posed the question above all the best, and hope that she finds joy in her life as well.

Susan Lapin says:

Val, one heart that speaks to another is a gift. Thank you for reaching out.

Carolyn says:

First I want to say how sorry I am. My prayers for your heart to find solace. I too am childless and found it difficult to relate to the “mommy” crowd. You will find many great friends in older women who are not so focused on their now grown kids. In time, you will also meet other childless couples who are free to go out to dinner sans kids. And finally, in a few short years your friends with kids will be ready to have friendships with you that don’t revolve around “mommy” talk. I have a great relationship with my nephews and they have brought incredible joy to my life. God has given you this life, so try to embrace it, even if doing so is difficult at times. Giving up on a dream is never easy and can be very painful. Issaiah 55:8. ” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.

Susan Lapin says:

Carolyn, thank you for taking the time to reach out. “A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” No one can share quite like someone in a similar situation.

I have been serving the Lord since a young teenager. I did not want to just married and have children, I figured anyone can do that. I wanted to travel and I went through higher education which tool a good while. I also helped my siblings take care of their children and I do have relationship with a few of them. (nephews and nieces are mostly selfish) I do not have children but I would really want to find a Godly mate but has not yet. I am willing to foster children but I would prefer to do it with a Godly mate. I am not depress but wonder from time to time why God never allowed this, I am a healthy happy individual. I have travelled extensively and have done missions.

H- says:

Dear Hope,

You will be rewarded for the work you have done for God. You are so kind for wanting to foster children. You have such an amazing heart. May He grant you your request. I myself have no children yet. May He look on us with favor and answer our prayers speedily. Dear Hope, keep hoping and having faith in God. Kind regards, H-

Tim says:

My wife and I had similar experiences as Elizabeth. We’re both close to retirement age. After five years of trying, she had one pregnancy, which miscarried at 6 months. At the time, I was very angry at God, and it took a while to get over it. We decided not to try fertility clinics and in vitro fertilizations. For me, it was the very idea of several fetus’ not being implanted. To me, this is much worse than abortion.

I’m a Mormon (she is Catholic) and one thing I did, for a while, was with the Elders (young men) in my church, even though it was expected that I would be meeting with the High Priests (older men with teenagers and adult children). The Elders appreciated my presence, because they would often share marital and child-rearing difficulties, and I often gave advice that they had never thought of (experience and wisdom). It also helped me by reminding me of the things that had happened in my own marriage.
For my wife, she has been spending a lot of time, over the last 20 years, caring for her 92 year old mother, who lives with us. Her mother has just decided to return to the Philippines to spend her last days with her great-great grandchildren. She’s been a Naturalized American for 25 years.
Since all of our parents lived to ripe old age, we figure there’s lots of time to do various things for other people. Doing things just for yourself is SO BORING!

Susan Lapin says:

Doesn’t sound like you’re bored, Tim! Thanks for writing.

Elizabeth says:

Thank you all for your written expressions of kindness and insight.

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