What Should This Childless Woman Do?

Dear friends, 
Every day I receive comments from readers about their childless situations. More than 230 people, mostly anonymous, have responded to a 2007 post titled “Are You Grieving Over Your Lack of Children?” It is the most popular post on this blog, and there’s an ocean of tears behind these comments. Sometimes the comments are so troubling I don’t know what to say, and I hate to see them buried in the comments of a seven-year-old post. Today I’m offering this comment and my response. I hope that you readers will chime in with your own experiences and advice.

Anonymous said…
I’ve just turned 35 and have been with my partner for 13 years. I always knew he didn’t want children, and I always said that I did (although in practice I feel like I’ve never really decided either way, because my opinion has never mattered). We talked about it, on and off, for years, never finding a solution to our different wishes, but staying together anyway.

Then last year I met a wonderful (but emotionally damaged) man who I fell in love with, much to my distress. I felt strongly that I wanted to have children with him (despite some really obvious, serious flaws in his suitability as a partner!) and although he says he couldn’t have a relationship with me while he’s so emotionally messed up, we did once have a quiet, nervous conversation about how we would both like to have children and… maybe… together.

I haven’t started a relationship with this man, although I still long to, however misguided I know it would be. But the feelings have overwhelmed me and the relationship I have with my partner. I’ve talked to my partner again this weekend about the long-term issues in our relationship, including children. He’s adamant he doesn’t want them and is prepared for me to leave him if I feel I have to. I’m left with trying to decide whether to stay in a good but definitely imperfect relationship with a man who I love, without children, forever, whether to leave him and pursue the man I know will break my heart, but who *might* just give me children in the meantime, or whether to give up on all of it and live in a little house on my own with a cat. I have time left, but not much, and the pressure is making me insane. If anyone has tips on making childlessness feel like your own decision… those would be very welcome.

Sue Fagalde Licksaid…

Anonymous June 15, it sounds like the relationship you have and the one you are considering are both unhealthy and destined to give you lots of heartache. I know you want children, but I wouldn’t advise pursuing a relationship with a man who says himself that he’s too messed up just because you might have a child together. As for making childlessness feel like your own decision, you can’t force that. Either it is your decision or you do your best to accept that circumstances didn’t work out for you.
I’m feeling old and cranky this morning. Anybody else have more encouraging advice?

Dear readers, what do you think?

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5 thoughts on “What Should This Childless Woman Do?

  1. Well I don't think it will be very popular but here is my 2 cents. There is no guarantee the new man will be able to have children either. Both my first husband and I are infertile, not just 1 of us. We did not know this information when we married 24 years ago. Honestly, while I understand the pull at the author's heart and the exciting potential for a dream come true, man #2 sounds like a train wreck. He is mature enough to admit he is not ready. The man the author is with now knows exactly what he wants and where he stands, which is more than a lot of people out there. No relationship is perfect; there will always be frustrations, aggravations, disagreements and hurts. It is how we respond to those things that matters. Also there is a comment that a relationship has not yet been started with man #2. This is not true at all. An emotional affair is very real, and it has already begun with him. If the conversations with man #2 cannot be made in front of man #1, there is already a problem. There is dishonesty; trust has been broken. I have tried for 24 yrs to get pregnant and carry full term. I understand the author's longing, but she is not in a neutral, unbiased and unemotional state to make such a life changing decision. Her emotions are running high. I hate using man #1 and man #2 but not sure how else to convey what I'm trying to say. I would like to go out on a limb and suggest counseling over the childlessness issue so that fewer people get hurt in this journey. If man #2 leaves the scene for whatever reason, will there be man #3 to replace him and start the fantasy all over again? That is what I mean by fewer people getting hurt. Also nerves/stress play a huge factor in getting pregnant, so even if she does leave to pursue this dream, her nerves will need to relax, calm down, and come to some level of peace about where she is in life. The sooner the author can come to some measure of peace concerning childlessness the better off she will be and the fewer people will be hurt. Hopefully if counseling is pursued, she will see –whether she has children or not —that her *identity* is not in having a child/children at all but rather in who she is as a person, her personality, her belief system, her choices in life, and so many other important things like accomplishments, but her identity is not in her child/children or lack thereof. It's almost like someone is pressuring her to have a baby, which is ridiculous, but in this particular scenario, I would not throw away a 13 year relationship with all the up's and down's, sacrifices and lessons not to mention the love that entails. There would have to be more contributing factors than what has been brought up here for me to leave.

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  2. Man #1 makes Her feel like her opinion about having children doesn't matter? I wonder if any bells went off in her head when she wrote that. Clearly her current relationship is not one based on mutual respect. But don't rush into having choldren with mentally unstable because much of that stuff depending on how sever is hereditary and you wouldn't want to rush into having a child with just anyone and sable a potential child with possibly having mental illness too. I think she may want to decide who SHE really is. On her own even. The clock is ticking but rushing against a timeline without doing some soul searching spells disaster

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  3. You have a similar situation to me, except I've only been with my partner for 2 years and he has a 12 year old son. I have always had a wish to have children and I feel it makes it worse cos we have his 12 year old every other weekend and some holidays. I'm sure you have some very similar feelings to me. I'm surprised you have been with him so long and still thinking like that, however, maybe you have tried to accept it as you love this man. I am actually trying to decide whether to stay or go at the moment as I don't want to resent him and we're not getting on at all at the moment. I tried to accept it a year ago and bought a house with him. Now I'm having those feelings again. I guess the reason I stayed with him is due to my age (I'm 41). I don't know if I would ever conceive at my age and then I've thrown it all away. It's a really tricky one isn't it. I would say you just need to decide what's more important, a child or your present partner. You may even find another guy, other than the one you have mentioned. It's definitely a gamble though isn't it! Good luck with your decision. It will be interesting to see what you decide.

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  4. While I'm not exactly in the same situation, I can most definitely relate on my own personal level.

    I've been with my current partner for two years, but we've been the very best of friends for almost 5 years.

    When both of our marriages failed, we decided to give a relationship a shot. We both have children from our prior relationships and were in agreement about not wanting future children.

    Somewhere along the lines, my feelings changed. As I fell deeper and deeper in love with this man, my best friend, my soulmate, these feelings of wanting his child began.

    The parenting situations with our ex's are less than ideal. Our time with our children is divided and it's a rare occasion that we're all together at the same time.

    My ex is keeping one of my children from me and I feel as if this may be part of why these feelings started.

    Then again, I'm in love with this man. We're planning a future together. Part of marrying the man of your dreams is to have his child.

    But, no matter how much I want to share in the joy of parenting with him, he does not want another child.

    My point is, you cannot expect him to change his mind because of something you want. I'd give anything in the world to experience parenthood with the love of my life…but, it isn't going to happen.

    If he were to “change his mind” tomorrow, I still couldn't in good conscience, have a child with him because I'd feel like he was only doing so to try to please me.

    Man #2 sounds like a complete nightmare to be in a relationship with, I highly doubt he'd be dependable as a parent. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience when I say that just because he can, doesn't mean you should!

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  5. I agree with ruthie, there is no guarantee that the new man will be able to have children. Likewise, there is not guarantee that the guy she is with will be able to have children, even if he did change his mind and give in. But what really concerns me is that the guy she is with makes this woman feel like her opinion does not matter. Seriously, a lot of men who think they don't want any more kids meet someone who wants kids and then change their mind for her – and it does not destroy their relationship. But no, she cannot expect him to, though the fact that he won't is concerning.

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