by Laura Scott
When I was interviewing people for my book Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, I noted that the only concern people had about their choice to remain childfree was the end-of-life issue. More specifically, would they be alone in the twilight of their life? And who was going to inherit their stuff?
In response to these concerns, I did some research on happiness at end-of-life, some of which is published in Two is Enough, and a Childless by Choice Project blog post I wrote in response to these concerns. Recent studies on happiness at end-of-life show that childless folks are as happy, or more, at end-of-life than are parents. Researchers have noted that the childfree folks have done a really good job of nurturing friendships throughout their life that carry them through until they die.
I call this my family of affinity, or my tribe. These people are not relatives by blood or by marriage; these people are friends and companions who stick by you, not out of obligation or family responsibility, but because they like you and really care about you. And this is the type of family that elderly childless and childfree folks point to as the reason for their continued happiness, even through old-age and less-than-perfect health.
I’m very fortunate to have childfree friends all over North America. Even though we are very busy, we make an effort to visit and call regularly. The photo above is a picture of me and my childfree friends Karen and Claudia dressed as pirates for Tampa’s annual Gasparilla Festival. Karen helped me pack my stuff and move out of my home in Virginia when I divorced and moved to Tampa. Claudia was waiting for me in Florida and was brave enough to skydive with me two months later when I celebrated my fiftieth birthday.
Kat is another one of my childfree tribe. Kat became my first friend in Tampa, and is a new pawrent of a rescue Great Dane mix named Buddha. Patty and Lynn are the childfree members of a group of awesome ladies I call the Grape Girls, a reference to an Italian wine and food tour I organized a number of years ago, in which myself and five women toured the Piedmont wine country, including the Spa International Cheese Festival. My childfree friends include a number of other terrific people I have been privileged to meet in the course of my life—far too many to mention here—and the tribe keeps on expanding.
Building a tribe is not easy. It takes a lot of time and attention to nurture these relationships and to carve out time in my calendar to make sure that we keep in contact and celebrate the milestones of our lives together. It takes money and days off work to travel to concerts, funerals, charity events, birthday parties, or to help a friend in need. But more often the maintenance costs of a solid tribe is just a phone call to say, “I miss you and let’s find some time in our calendars to get together soon.”
Recently, Lynn organized a tour of a transitional living facility in Florida for her childfree and single friends. This facility has a 10 year waiting list for its independent living condos and I’m too young to put a deposit down yet. However, we dream of the day when we can be together in a facility like this, organizing happy hours by the pool, dinners out, and game and movie nights. By then we will have traveled the world together, and apart. We will have shared memories of weekend trips, pirate festivals, misadventures, and inside jokes. Most of all we will have shared love and laughter, which endures, even when our dentures fall out and our pearly smile drops into our soup.
Thank you, Laura!
As part of the 2017 awards collection, winners will receive a signed copy of Laura’s book, Two is Enough, and a copy of her documentary, The Childless by Choice Project.