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Lisette’s Story: I have always preferred work over children

Lisette SchuitemakerI’m 64, childless and now also grandchildless, and I still love to work. It suits me well that I am not asked, like many of my peers, to have a fixed grandma day a week so the young parents can continue their two track lives of family and career. I am delighted that I need not worry about children or grandchildren who are laid off, go through a heartbreaking divorce or prove not to be able to conceive when all they ever dreamt of was being a parent one day. Family life with its regular hours dictated by the schedule of the children never appealed to me and once I landed my first job, I knew in my bones that I was born to work.

To be honest, I am quite proud of the fact that I didn’t marry in my late twenties or early thirties when most of my university friends did, as the pressure from home was certainly there. My mother had found her destiny in being the wife of one and the mother of four. She assumed her eldest daughter would find the man, tie the knot and present my parents with their first adorable grandchildren. I, however, broke my engagement, moved to Amsterdam and started my own business in communications.

Loving the fact that I could take a peek in many of the major Dutch corporations and find way for them to communicate to their staff what they were up to, I and the growing circle of young people I employed worked all hours. From the start, though, I made it a rule never to work on Saturdays. That still is my day to go to pilates, linger over coffee with a friend, go to the farmers’ market, read the newspapers and cook our favorite meal for dinner with just friends or just me and my partner of the past 25 years. Who wouldn’t want such a life?

Many of my ‘old’ friends didn’t. They had children and moved to the suburbs. I didn’t find it easy at the time to be the odd one out in endless conversations on pregnancies and motherhood. Over time I have let many of those friendships from my university days go. Most of my new friends I made through work.

I’ve had several careers. I had to sell my communications business in the mid-nineties, after I had woken up to the plight of the earth. The men, yes, mostly men high up in the international businesses that were my clients, were not amused when I began to ask questions about the sustainability of their products and practices.

With some money in the bank and without teenagers at home who needed daily care and caressing, I decided to embark on a part-time healing study for which I travelled back and forth to the United States for four years. With a BSc in Brennan Healing Science I opened a private practice. I still marvel at the miracles my clients and I could work as we identified limiting beliefs to let go off and found ways for them to stand in their power. Men referred each other, most of them grappling with the question of how they could be as successful in their love life at home as they were in their professional life at work.

A good many evenings I sat cooped up in papers to read for boards I had been asked to sit on, or I was away attending meetings, lectures or conferences. How blessed I felt to be involved in organizations like the Social Venture Network, the Center for Human Emergence and the Findhorn Foundation where we pioneered new ways of conscious living, self-organizing governance and sustainable ways. Again, who wouldn’t want such a life full of personal and professional growth?

I still see people on an occasional basis and facilitate staff gatherings for a few organizations that are close to my heart, but mostly these days I am writing. My latest book is on the topic at hand, childless living. For the past two years I have immersed myself in the variety of reasons why so many of us say ‘thank you, but no thank you’ to becoming a parent. Of course, I have also spoken to many who would have loved to raise a family of their own and who have had to come to terms with the way their cookie crumbled when that didn’t happen.

The major surprise of the international online survey I conducted was that the 711 people from 30 countries who took it, were, as my researcher called it ‘bizarrely happy’. The vast majority of them were happy or very happy with the contribution they made to society at large and to their family as well. Another surprise.

Had I found this website before, I might not have written the book as there is so much here from the sharing of so many of us without children. As is, I am happy I did write the book as it showed me personally that I am not an exception. Even if I and my partner, too, are utterly content with our life without children, I still looked upon myself as bit of an exception. We aren’t, though. We are many. We are at least one fifth of the population.

Counting from age 15, as the Americans do, to age 44 as the limit for procreation, we are half the entire population. I am still getting used to that fact – that I am not weird or exceptional, but quite normal for this day and age in which many youngsters are making their choice whether or not to parent very consciously.

I had no idea that a writer’s life was as busy as it proves to be. With four books out in five languages, interviews and lectures to be given, proofs to be read, articles to be written and no end to ways of promoting the book and myself as an author, my days are full. Young people from international publishing houses make me stay current with the way business is being conducted today. I would not wish my life any other way than it is. I still work all hours. I love it.

My book Childless Living – the Joys and Challenges of Life without Children was published by Findhorn Press and is available on Amazon, Waterstones and the bookstore around the corner who can order it for you if they haven’t stocked it.

With a master’s degree in the Classics, Lisette Schuitemaker started and sold her own communications agency and then obtained a BSc in Brennan Healing Science, working as a healer and coach. She is Chair of Trustees of the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland and a happily childless aunt of eleven. The author of Childless Living -The Joys and Challenges of Life without Children, The Childhood Conclusions Fix and co-author of The Eldest Daughter Effect, Lisette lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

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Comments

  1. Hi Lisette, thanks for sharing your story, and for being an inspiration to others. It always amazes me how varied our stories are. Reading yours gave me another insight into this subject and I am immensely grateful to you for it.

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