If You Can Change It, Do. If You Cannot Change It, Accept.

by childless stepparent

self This post is inspired by reader Trigirl, who commented on my recent post The Hardest Thing I’ve Done as a Childless Stepparent. I wrote about how I must accept that my husband will deal with his former wife in his own way and that whatever dynamic exists between them does not involve me (Manifesto #5).

Trigirl asked: “How did you come to accept that you will not have a child of your own? For me that is the hardest issue to come to peace with.”

That is a very good question. And if I dig deep, I’m with Trigirl. The hardest thing I’ve done is accept that I’m not a mom and that the part of myself I thought I would give my child – as a mom – has nowhere to go (Manifesto #3). That’s where the heartbreak is, that’s where the longing and loss is.

After I read Trigirl’s thoughtful comment, I wondered: why has dealing with my husband’s former wife been so difficult when I’m faced with the great grief of my life – that I have no children? Wouldn’t that grief overshadow everything else? The answer is: yes. It does. But it doesn’t drive me crazy in the same way.

I think the answer lies in a lesson my teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche once shared with me. He told me this: “When you suffer, you have two choices: if you can change things, you must try; if you cannot change things, you must accept.”

Allowing my husband to handle his former wife in his own way? Well, there my ego tells me, “Ooh, I can change this! Look how important I am!” It’s my higher self that has to step in and say, “No, actually, you can’t. It’s not yours to change. This, too, you must accept.” But lurking in the background, there’s a tantalizing ego-driven impulse to insert myself and “fix” it.

Having no children of my own? That’s different. That I must accept. There is deep grief in that acceptance but less turbulence – because I’m not dealing with my ego telling me I can change things.

I sit with my grief. I watch it. I let it come and go.

Manifesto #3 | I am not a mom. The part of myself I thought I would give my child – as a mom – has nowhere to go, and that’s okay.