Childless? Have You Considered Adopting a Foster Child?

People often suggest adoption as an option for those of us who can’t have children for whatever reason. They don’t realize that it’s a long hard process, that some of us don’t want somebody else’s child, and that partners opposed to biological parenthood aren’t likely to want to adopt children either.

One option to consider is becoming a foster parent with the possibility of adoption down the road. Fostering is not an easy way to go. In many cases, the hope is that the child will eventually be able to go home to his biological parents. But nearly half never go home, which makes them available for adoption. Whether it’s temporary or forever, becoming a foster parent is a way to use your parenting energy to help a child, a way to become a mom or dad. Not the same as raising your own? No, but it can come close.

Two of my late husband’s three children were adopted as infants. They are as much a part of the family as their little brother. They don’t look the same. They don’t carry the same genes, but they are Licks just the same. Last year, my stepdaughter found her biological mother and a large biological family. This doesn’t always turn out well, but Gretchen had a wonderful reunion with her birth family, gaining a mom, brothers and sisters, cousins and more. That doesn’t take away from the parents and siblings she grew up with.

My brother adopted his wife’s son after his father gave up his parental rights. I constantly forget that he’s not biologically related to me.

Yesterday my niece’s adoption of a little boy she named Bobby became official. It has been a long process. Single, working full time, she jumped through lots of hoops to become a foster parent, with the hope of eventually adopting a child. After a year of waiting, the first child placed with her, a boy about three years old whose mother was on drugs during the pregnancy, had major behavioral problems. He didn’t speak, he rarely slept, and he threw violent tantrums. She gave him up to another family and became foster mother to Bobby, an infant. This was a much better match. The legal process took another year. Home inspections, court appearances. His biological mother had to give up her rights to the child. But it finally happened. My brother and his wife have a new grandchild. I have a great-nephew.

My father doesn’t understand why my niece didn’t just get married and have children in the usual way. How is she going to take care of a child when she works full-time? Well, she didn’t have a man, and she wanted to be a mother. Bobby needed a mother. Like any single parent, she’s making it work. I’m proud of her.

Could I have done it alone like she has? Probably not. I’m a workaholic. I have trouble taking care of my dog. I would only want a biological child. But for others, fostering and/or adopting can be a wonderful thing.

The articles below offer information and debunk some of the myths about foster adoptions. Did you know that you do not have to married, it does not cost a fortune, and almost half of foster kids wind up becoming available for adoption?

I welcome your comments as always.

“About Adoption from Foster Care”

“Curious About Adopting from Foster Care? Here’s What It’s Really Like?”

“Adopting from Foster Care” 

“5 Reasons Why You Won’t Adopt from Foster Care, and Why They’re Wrong” 

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When people assume we have children

I sit in a windowless conference room at a Doubletree Inn listening to yet another speaker talk about finding time to write. Children, especially little ones, seem to be the biggest obstacle for most. So needy, so 24/7. You can get up before sunrise or write late at night. Write while they’re at school or napping. Write in waiting rooms or on the bleachers during their sports events. Hire a babysitter for an hour. Steal whatever time you can.

My mind wanders off. I know all that. I just never needed to worry about it. I never had a baby to take care of. By the time my youngest stepson moved in, he was old enough to take care of himself—and he preferred it that way. In one of my favorite memories, Michael trooped through the house with his friends. As they passed my office, where I was writing, he said, “There’s my mom. She’s a writer.”

Sure, there were school activities, Boy Scouts and such, but they were no big intrusion on my work. I wrote for three different newspapers and worked on the novel du-jour unfettered. Ironically, the walls of my office those first few years of full-time step-motherhood were wallpapered with Care Bears. I suppose the room was intended as a nursery. I enjoyed looking at the bears while I nurtured words instead of babies.

Husbands can be a bigger interruption. They need attention, too, but for me, husband number one was never around, and husband number two found it amusing when I raced off to throw words on paper. He had his own work during the week and on weekends, it was football all day long. When he got sick with Alzheimer’s Disease, finding time was more difficult. I wrote after he went to bed, while he was watching football, or while his caregivers took him to lunch. I talked my stories into a voice recorder in the car. I got it done.

Back at the Doubletree, the speaker drones on and on. He assumes we all have children and spouses to care for, that we are all just like him, but we’re not. We might wish we were, but we didn’t ease into a “normal” family situation like he did. We don’t have family dinners, soccer games, and trips to the beach. We don’t buy school clothes, throw kid birthday parties, or nurse children with chicken pox. It’s just us, writing, and we’d like him to please change the subject.

People assume. A childless Facebook friend recently told about how an older woman started talking to her at a coffee shop. The woman gushed about her six grandchildren, then asked the writer how many grandchildren she had. She had to admit she had none, which brought the conversation to an awkward halt. She found the encounter terribly unsetting. You all would understand. But the grandmother didn’t mean any harm. She just assumed that all women of a certain age have grandchildren.

We don’t. With one out of five of women not having children, there are a lot of us who don’t have grandchildren either. Hey world, stop assuming.

A few days before Easter, I made the mistake of going out to lunch at one of our most popular local diners. It was spring break, and people were lined up waiting for tables. Lots of kids. So many kids. When I went to the restroom, I found myself waiting with a woman in her 30s. We could hear a mom in one of the two stalls talking to her kids. We heard yelling and whining. It took forever. When they came out, the other woman and I stared. She had three girls under the age of four in that little stall.

When the door shut behind them, the woman said, “My worst nightmare.”

I nodded. “Really.” This was not the time to explain my childless situation.

We rushed to use the empty stalls. She probably assumed I was a mom. I assumed she didn’t want children, but when I came out, her husband and son were waiting for her.

Never assume.

The good news is I’m free to write here in my bathrobe for as long as I choose and then share it with you while my dog takes a nap . . . Oops. Here’s the dog, needing attention. Yesterday she chewed half a pen, and I still don’t know where the other half went. Gotta go.

Is This Our Choice: Mother or Workaholic?

“Just Because a Woman is Childless Doesn’t Mean She wants to Be a Workaholic” by Rachelle Hampton, Slate, March 30, 2018

This article set off all kinds of bells in my head. When I read it, I was doing my 10th hour at my desk, which tells you something. Today, I got up early today and watered the plants, mopped the floors, and organized my church music before settling down to write all day, followed by playing music at church.

There’s so much to do, I could argue. No matter how hard I work, I never catch up because I’m the one and only worker keeping the Lick family ship afloat. I can’t delegate tasks, say mowing lawns or grocery shopping, to a husband or even to helpful offspring because I don’t have any. Some days, I want to burn it all down, writing, music, house and yard, and walk away.

But am I a workaholic? Probably. I’m not good at relaxing. Am I workaholic because I don’t have children? That’s a harder question. Sometimes I think I work all the time so I don’t have to face being alone. Does that ring any bells for you?

I might work even harder if I had children because I’d want to do things for them, whether it’s making their lunches and driving them to soccer practice when they’re young or planning special birthdays and taking care of their kids when they’re grown. But that would be a different kind of work, work inspired by love and focused on other people’s needs. And they might in turn do things for me. At least that’s the theory.

I believe I was born to write and play music. If anyone asked me to stop writing or doing music, I would refuse. I would leave a man before I’d do that. So am I a workaholic? Would I choose my work over my children? I’m probably lucky I’ll never find out.

Hampton is talking more about younger people with regular jobs, about how some employers assume women without children, like the men, are totally free to take on extra tasks and extra hours while the moms have to run home to the kids. They mistakenly assume that those of us without children don’t have lives away from work.

She’s also talking about this wrestler, John Cena, who believes that husbands are free to be married to their work, but wives have to put home, husband and children first. It’s kids or the job, not both, a mindset that goes back to the 1950s and my own parents. My mother and others of her generation gave up their own aspirations to raise the children. But hey, dude, it’s 2018. Time to share the load.

Hampton quotes a study that shows 40 percent of managers don’t want to hire women in their 20s and 30s because they might get pregnant and because mothers aren’t as good at their jobs. Grr. Those of us who are childless not by choice would love the chance to prove them wrong.

So what do you think? If we aren’t moms, are we destined to be workaholics? I welcome your comments and your experiences with this. That includes any men reading this. I want to hear your thoughts, too.

 

 

Easter is not just for folks with kids

12470942 - dog holding easter basket with colorful eggs“This Sunday is Easter,” I told my Dad on the phone the other day.

“Is it? Well, it’s just another day for me.”

I resisted the urge to explain the religious significance, which as a Catholic, he ought to know as well as I do. He says the same thing about Christmas and his birthday. Maybe it’s a self-protective mechanism. If he doesn’t expect anything, he won’t be disappointed.

Me, I expect everything, and I’m always disappointed. That’s why it felt easier this year to spend my March 9 birthday at a Best Western in Blythe, California on my way to Tucson. I ate leftover pizza in my room and chocolate lava cake at Denny’s. No candles, no singing, no gifts. Which is exactly what would have happened at home because I don’t have children and grandchildren to gather around on my birthday, just a dog who doesn’t do birthdays.

Anyway, Easter. For Christians, it’s the most important event of the year, commemorating Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. When I was a kid, our daily newspaper would print a full-page picture of a cross, a risen Jesus or a field of lilies with a headline like, “He is risen!” They wouldn’t dare do that now; religion is kept separate from everything else.

I would wake up to Easter baskets sitting on my dresser. The Easter Bunny came during the night! Of course it was my mother, delivering the goodies from herself and my grandparents. Those baskets were full of candy and toys. After a quick look, we all went to Mass, came home to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and linguiça sausage, and dove into the baskets. Soon we were eating the ears off our chocolate bunnies.

Grownups don’t get Easter baskets. If you’re not religious, it looks like Easter is for kids: making color-crayoned pictures of rabbits or papier-mache eggs at school, dyeing hard-boiled eggs, egg hunts at dawn, encounters with adults dressed in rabbit costumes. Candy, toys, parties. Fun!

It’s another one of those holidays that may sting if we don’t have children, especially if we desperately want to have them. Whether you spend a quiet day with adults or watch everyone else’s kids having fun, it can be hard. Hang on. It doesn’t last long.

But there is much to celebrate. Before Easter came about as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, people celebrated the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s a time of rebirth. Out my office window, the robins and jays are back. Daffodils wave their yellow heads. The berry vines are loaded with new green leaves, and the trillium are blooming in the woods. The grass is tall and lush. People may disappoint you, but spring comes every year.

You can tell yourself it’s just another day and try to ignore the whole thing. But why not celebrate? Buy yourself a chocolate bunny. Dye some eggs. Go to church. Or go for a hike. Weep if you must, then go on.

Happy Easter, my friends.

For more information on Easter traditions, click here.

Is it tougher being childless if you’re Jewish?

Dear friends:

I just got back from a trip to Tucson. You can read about it here. I’m exhausted and suffering from the post-trip blahs. So I am sharing some links today that you may find interesting.

1. Is it harder to be childless if you’re Jewish? This article, “No Kids, No Service” by Jodie Shupac suggests that it is:

“’You’re next’” is a phrase that is often murmured furtively at brises and baby namings. The sentiment–while often well intentioned, though sometimes patronizing–may well be familiar to many Jewish adults who don’t have children, especially those in more traditional subsets of the community.

“The operating assumption in our community seems to be that every person not only wants a baby, but should have one, and that this is the only way to lead a full and happy Jewish life.”

Read the rest.

2. Jacinda Ardern was thrashed because she got pregnant just before becoming prime minister of New Zealand. How could she possibly do the job with a baby? Former Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard and British Prime Minister Theresa May were vilified for not having children. How could they possibly understand the needs of their people if they weren’t mothers? It appears you can’t win. Read these two articles for more on the subject.

“The baby trap: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

“Why are so many of our political leaders childless?”

3. Finally, here’s a study that shows we might live a little longer because we haven’t had children. I don’t know about the science of this, but it’s something to ponder.

“Having children ages a woman faster than smoking and being overweight

Happy spring! I promise to be back with something new next week.

Sue

Is it worse to lose a child or to never have one?

Bialosky, Jill. Poetry Will Save Your Life. New York: Atria Books, 2017.

I just finished this book, and it made me think about some things I want to share here. Jill Bialosky takes an unusual approach to memoir in this book. She pairs short passages about her own life with poems that she connects with those times. After each poem, she offers information and interpretation of the poet and the poem.

If poetry is not your thing, don’t worry. That’s not my point today. Although the book covers a lifetime of other topics, Bialosky includes a chapter on motherhood that sparked two ideas I want to talk about here.

1) Bialosky offers Irish poet Eavan Boland’s poem “The Pomegranate” and quotes Boland as saying that motherhood changed her whole perspective as a poet. “I no longer felt I was observing nature in some Romantic-poet way. I felt I was right at the center of it: a participant in the whole world of change and renewal.”

To be honest, I barely understand the poem, but I do understand the point Boland made about motherhood and finding our place in what one of my college professors called “the great chain of being.” Being a child and then having a child secures our place in that chain, but if we don’t have children, where do we fit? A lot of people who choose to be childfree poo-poo the whole “becoming a parent changed my life” conversation, but I disagree. How could creating a new human being in your body not change everything?

What do you think?

2) Bialosky’s own story of motherhood was not all joy and poetry. Her first daughter and son were both born prematurely and died shortly after birth. This section of her book is heartbreaking. Imagine feeling a baby grow inside month after month. Imagine talking to it, planning for it, dreaming of all that child will become, and then watching it die shortly after it leaves the womb. Awful. After the first baby dies, Bialosky is constantly afraid she will lose the second one as well. And then she does. She and her husband use a surrogate for their third child. He is born on time and healthy. But they are so afraid, they don’t buy anything or prepare a nursery for fear they will lose this baby, too. It takes them a long time to believe they might get to keep this one.

After her babies die and before her son is born, Bialosky feels the loss of her children constantly. Perhaps you can identify with this quote: “For years, I burn with envy every time I see a newborn child. It is impossible to be around friends with young children without inhabiting the spaces where my own losses and desires lay. . . . It’s like being hungry all the time and never invited to the feast.”

I know some of you have struggled with infertility and miscarriages, and these words hurt. I can’t imagine going through that. I think it might be easier to have never been pregnant at all than to lose one’s babies during pregnancy or at birth. Perhaps I am lucky that, having never had a child, I will never suffer the grief of losing a child.

It goes back to that famous quote, “It is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.” Does the same thing apply to having children?

What do you think? Have I just ripped off all the scabs and left you bleeding? I’m so sorry, but it’s an important question. Is the desire for children worth the pain of possible loss? Most pregnancies in the developed world turn out fine, but there’s always that chance.

Tell me what you think. And if you like poetry, check out this book.

Can a childless novelist write about moms?

An early reader of my new novel Up Beaver Creek, coming out in June, thanked me for writing about a woman who has no children. My protagonist, who calls herself PD, is unable to conceive with her husband. They are starting to look into adoption when he is diagnosed with cancer. He dies, and she moves west to the Oregon coast to start a new life as a musician. Lots of things happen along the way to make it interesting, but none of it is about having babies.

PD meets a colorful group of new friends, including a lesbian couple, a bipolar man who has created a garden out of glass and cast-offs, a young soprano who becomes her best friend, and a music store owner who likes to jam.

Most of the characters don’t have children. Even for those who do, the children do not play a big role in this book. Did I do this on purpose? No, I think it’s the just the way I see life. I do not live in the circle of mothers and grandmothers. I occupy the circle of women who live alone. Occasionally those circles cross. Is this a handicap? Can I write about something I have never experienced? I worry about that sometimes.

Ages ago, I wrote a never-to-be-published novel titled Alice in Babyland. I was still fertile back then. Our main character, Alice, is surrounded by people having babies. It’s driving her nuts. It’s not a very good novel, but it’s how I was feeling at the time.

My published novel Azorean Dreams ends with Chelsea and Simão getting married and preparing to “start a family.” You just know they’re going to have a flock of Portuguese kids. But readers will have to imagine that part.

I have been rewriting another novel I’m calling Rum and Coke. The characters do have children. One of them is pregnant. I’m struggling to get it right, to make the children real people and the relationships and challenges among parents, grandparents and kids authentic. I will never know how it feels from the inside, only from the outside. There are a lot of other things I have never experienced. I count on research, observation, and imagination to write about them. Can I do that with motherhood? I sure hope so.

Think about the books you have read or, if you don’t read books, the movies and TV shows you watch. How often are people portrayed as permanently childless by choice or by chance? We see a lot of single parents and a lot of couples with kids, but how many do we see without children?

The book I just finished reading yesterday, Hot Season by Susan DeFreitas, has no children, but the characters are mostly college students under age 25. Presumably, they’ll think about that later. In the book before that, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, nobody was talking about babies, either, but Louisa was very young, and Will was a quadriplegic contemplating suicide. The focus was on making him want to stay alive. I have ordered the sequel, After You. We’ll see if babies show up there. (If you have read it, don’t tell me.)

Is the tide turning? Are we getting more books where the characters are not moms and dads? Is fiction beginning to reflect the fact that one out of five women in the U.S. and other developed nations is not having children and the number seems to be growing?

I’m pleased to offer PD as a strong, childless woman. I hope that not being a mother doesn’t mean I can’t write about mothers or anyone else.

Your thoughts?