The importance of self-reliance particularly when you are childless

By Nina Steele 

My husband and I often joke about how similar we are. Self-reliance is a character trait that we share and not having children has meant that things have stayed pretty much the same.

We are both aware that as a childless couple, not having other people actively involved in our life (except for some immediate family members), for example close friends, could be risky, particularly later in life when one of us dies and the other is left to carry on with life on their own. However, we feel very strongly about who to let into our life. Having friends for the sake of it, has never been our thing. We have to share the same values; it is a prerequisite to any friendship.

We find nothing more depressing than to spend time with people we have little in common with. What generally happens in those situations is that, instead of feeling uplifted after meeting your so called friends, you are deflated and wish you had never agreed to the meeting in the first place.

Working with old people has taught me that there are many other alternatives to friendships, if like us, you are very picky about who to welcome into your life. For example, neighbours are increasingly playing the role of surrogate families and the good thing about neighbours is that you don’t have to be actively involved in each other’s lives. Just being on friendly terms is enough for them to watch out for you and vice versa.

We live at a time when we are led to believe that we should all aim to live similar lives. Having friends is the socially accepted way of life and anything other than that is seen as socially awkward. Showing a high level of independence can be quite intimidating to others, as we have found out for ourselves. As I have said many times before, to be yourself in a world that wants to make you into someone else, takes courage.

My belief in self-reliance has been strengthened through my work with old people. I have seen for myself what happens when you pin your hopes on other people, and then they fail to live up to your expectations. For the truth is, circumstances do change and the people you are sure will be there for you one day when you need them, may not and then what do you do?

Better be prepared than not, by for example, saving enough money to pay for help later in life, if needed. We live in a fast changing world and it is my view that if there was ever a time when the advice never to take anything for granted made sense, it is this one.

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