There are a lot of celebrations designed to congratulate couples. There’s the engagement party, bridal shower, kitchen tea, hen’s night, buck’s night and of course the wedding. Dating couples get Valentine’s Day and married couples get the yearly wedding anniversary.
Once kids come along, there’s a whole new plethora of celebrations to be enjoyed. Baby showers, kids’ birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, not to mention family-oriented occasions such as Christmas and Easter.
For the childless couple and especially for the single person, such occasions can be as fun as a visit to the dentist. Naturally, one wants to be happy for the couple and their impending nuptials or childbirth. It is inevitable, however, that such occasions will often leave the single and childless feeling a little excluded.
Let me hasten to add that this usually is not intentional. We don’t go around celebrating peoples’ marriages and babies in order to make unmarried and childless people feel bad. There is usually a genuine desire to celebrate what is good and blessed in other peoples’ lives, whether it be a lifelong relationship commitment, a long-awaited child, a new job or a satisfying achievement.
However, these celebrations can exclude people in our midst. It is unfortunate, but it happens. There are some people who will never have their own wedding, never receive new kitchen appliances from others, never even receive flowers on Valentine’s Day.
There are those amongst us who will never hold a baby shower, never watch their baby’s first step, never get breakfast in bed on Mother’s or Father’s Day. They will not help their child with their homework, never argue with a stubborn or silent teenager, never experience the Empty Nest Syndrome. Their nest will always be empty.
For those of us who are single or childless (or both), how do we survive such occasions? If you are anything like me, you are genuinely happy for the happiness of others. You want to be there for them, to share in their joy and to praise God for his blessings.
But if you are anything like me, that joy is also marked by sadness, loneliness, jealousy and a sense of being “different”. It can’t be helped. Such occasions are bittersweet by nature for those who have not experienced marriage or children, or who have loved and lost.
I survive these occasions by being kind to myself. I do try to celebrate with friends and family as much as possible. But if I am struggling, I don’t beat myself up about that. I acknowledge that some days it is too hard. I allow myself to take a breather or to leave early if I’m not doing well. I can even opt out of such celebrations if necessary.
Being kind to myself also means not feeling guilty if I say no. (Ok, maybe a little guilty.) I remind myself that I can make decisions about my self-care without having to explain myself to everyone on the planet. Self-care might help me to keep overwhelming sadness and jealousy at bay.
In the end, I am comforted to know that God knows how I feel. I can pray to God about my pain and know that he understands. His kindness and comfort are only a prayer away, a mere breath away.
How do you cope with showers and other couple and baby celebrations?