"Why is it that we’re lauded and celebrated when we’ve only just embarked on the journey? Why do we stop marking, ritually, the accomplishments along the way? The hurdles that we overcome?" she asks. Good questions.
I think a lack of rituals and milestones and celebrations and acknowledgement is one of the more difficult aspects of childless/free living. Yes, there are still some milestones that we celebrate, but I would venture to say not as many as parents get to mark.
Plus, I grew up at a time (1970s) when many of the old rituals and milestones weren't being celebrated, or were marked in a much more informal way than they had been in the past. My track record in this respect has been sort of hit & miss:
- Not being Catholic, I didn't have a first communion.
- But I was confirmed when I was 14, alongside my younger sister. We didn't wear white dresses -- although we did wear veils (which all the girls in the class agreed looked dumb). Our aunts (also our godmothers) were our sponsors, and both sets of our grandparents attended (our paternal grandmother died soon afterward). We got gifts (including a charm bracelet from my aunt, which I still have.) But it was not the big deal it is in some families and cultures.
- I stopped having big birthday parties after I turned 12 (although my birthday was always celebrated by my family & a few close friends). These days, dh & I generally celebrate our birthdays by exchanging cards & going out for dinner. Sometimes, BIL & family will bring a cake to our next get-together, which is nice. :) It's not often these days that I hear "happy birthday" being sung to me.
- I didn't have a high school prom, in the American sense. We had a spring semi-formal dance in the high school gym, to which my sister & I wore sundresses, and my class had a graduation cruise, to which the girls wore short dresses.
- We wore long dresses & suits to our high school graduation ceremony. Caps & gowns were adopted the following year.
- I missed picking up my diploma for my undergraduate degree, because I was already beginning a year-long master's degree program at another school in another province. I did get to attend that graduation with my parents & my future dh.
- I did have a lovely traditional wedding, preceded by a couple of small bridal showers -- one hosted by my aunt and attended mostly by relatives on my dad's side of the family, and one hosted by a neighbour of my parents.
- But because our wedding was 1,000 miles away, the only people from dh's family who attended were those in the wedding party -- his dad, brother & two cousins. The cousins on his mother's side of the family took us out for dinner before our wedding, when I came to Toronto to hunt for apartments, and when we returned from our honeymoon, we were taken straight from the airport to his aunt's house, where his dad's relatives held a "welcome home" gathering for us.
- A baby shower was planned (but never held).
- My sister & I hosted big catered parties for both our parents' 40th & 50th wedding anniversaries (as well as a party at their house for their 25th, years earlier). The 50th anniversary party coincided with our own 25th. Of course, we don't have any kids to plan milestone wedding anniversary parties for us. My sister did ask whether the 50th party should be a combined 50th/25th, but I thought that would complicate matters and that my parents deserved their own milestone celebration (and, for that matter, so did we..!) . We usually mark our anniversaries with dinner out & the exchange of cards, although we will usually do something more special for the ones divisible by 5.
- I recently retired -- but, since I lost my job 18 months earlier, there was no retirement party. I never even got to say goodbye to most of my coworkers. (I was presented with a bouquet at a department meeting and taken to lunch with my immediate team on my 25th work anniversary, and attended a big banquet for long-service employees later that year.)
Ultimately, it's up to us to decide what milestones and life passages are important to us, how we want to celebrate them (or not) and to remind others that, even if we don't have kids, we have a life that's worth celebrating too. Menopause parade, anyone??
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Jody Day of Gateway Women touched on the importance of rituals -- and the absence thereof for childless women -- with Sasha Cagen of Quirkyalone. (This topic comes up in the conversation around the 26-minute mark, but the entire video is worth watching.)