I have been following up on what happened to some of the women in my Childless by Marriage book. Today we hear from Lee Ann. I first met Lee Ann in a choir where we sang together here on the Oregoncoast. She met me for a heartfelt interview way back in 1999. Highly educated, working as a social service administrator, she had been married twice and had no biological children. But when her second husband’s two daughters showed up mistreated and abandoned, she took them in as her own. The marriage ended, but she has continued to have a close relationship with her stepdaughters.
She is now 61, retired and living in Portland. Although I already knew what she would say to some of these questions, she patiently answered them all.
Did you wind up having children after all?
When people ask you now why you don’t have children, what do you tell them?
No one’s ever asked that, so I guess I’m lucky. Probably I would make some vague remark about it not being in the cards.
Do you regret the choices that led to you not having children?
If you could go back and change things, would you?
Are there stepchildren or other children in your life that fill the gap?
There are stepchildren with whom I remain close, even though I often wonder if biological children would be more attentive to me when I’m feeling neglected. But I know that biological parents often feel neglected by their kids, too . . .
Are you worried about being alone in old age?
No, but I do worry about being a burden—and having enough money to live comfortably.
What are you proudest of doing in your life so far? Could you have done this if you had children?
Lots of little things I’m proud of doing, including “saving” my stepdaughters from their extremely neglectful mother. Most things I could have done regardless of having biological children. Could have done a whole lot more, probably, if I hadn’t had to save (and support) my stepdaughters.
What would you say to others who are dealing with partners or spouses who can’t/don’t want to have children?
See a therapist to work it out. If I’d started therapy before taking on my stepdaughters and their father, I would have had to deal with the issue of what it is in my personality that makes me sacrifice so much of my own needs for the sake of others. My final decision about staying or leaving would have had a much more solid basis had I made it with the clarity about myself that I gained in therapy much later in life.