Being without children is not always a bad thing

I sat alone at a table at Georgie’s restaurant yesterday reading a book and occasionally looking out at the ocean as the waves roared and crashed not far away. My salmon sandwich on focaccia bread was delicious. I didn’t mind the mayonnaise-pesto sauce running down my fingers. The iced tea was crisp and cold, and my waiter was handsome and helpful.

At the two big tables nearby, mothers and grandmothers wrangled children under age four, talking them through the menu, then entertaining them as they waited for their food. The men admired the view or talked about sports while the women played 20 questions with the kids. “Shall we color a picture?” “What color do you want? Red? Blue?” “Do you want French fries with your hot dog?” “After we eat, do you want to go look at boats or go play on the beach?”

At one table, the kids were pretty well behaved, but at the other with one infant and two high-chair kids, it got a little noisy. One boy screamed as he was lowered into the high chair. As soon as he quieted down, his brother or cousin started screeching “I want! I want!” every 30 seconds. Nobody shushed him or suggested he say, “Please.” Meanwhile, I enjoyed my lunch and my book and my ocean view. I did not wish for one second that one of those kids was mine.

After lunch, I drove to the nearby Yaquina Bay State Park, where I settled with my notebook at a warm picnic table overlooking the beach and wrote for a while. I could see a large family having a picnic at another table. All ages, lots of food. I do miss family picnics. But I was glad to have my quiet time in the sun.

Sometimes I wonder if I ever had the patience to do the mom thing. I’m sure I would have figured out how to handle my children’s needs along with my own, and I know kids don’t remain toddlers forever. With luck they grow up into self-sufficient adults with their own children, and they go live in their own houses. But maybe God knew what he was doing.

I cried a lot about not having children back in my 30s and 40s, the ages of most of you who write to me here. It hurt. Still does sometimes. But I can assure you from the perspective of almost a decade past menopause, that it’s okay. Life without children can be good, especially if you have other interests that keep you happy and busy. And there are other ways to mother.

If you’re in a decision-making mode, go with your gut. Great life partners are not that easy to find. If you have one and all is well except for not agreeing about babies, consider that life can be all right even if you don’t have children. But if the relationship is not good, for God’s sake, get out of it and look for someone who will make you happy and, with luck, also have children with you.

I welcome your comments. 

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11 thoughts on “Being without children is not always a bad thing

  1. This post is so timely for me. At 43 I recently had my hopes raised that my dream of a baby might come to fruition as my health insurance at a new job actually covered fertility testing and even a portion of IVF. Given my age our chance of a live baby was 11% but our blood work indicated my husband and I were younger than our biological years so I was optimistic although still ambivalent primarily for financial reasons. Well, something in my gut told me to call the office to verify our out of pocket before our appt. with the IVF coordinator tomorrow and come to find out the out of pocket quote the doctor gave us was incorrect which meant our out of pocket would take every $ of our savings for one try. For me, this was enough to decide not to do it. I already had so many doubts and this was enough to tip me to the other side. I may regret not trying over a few thousand dollars but I just think it is not a wise decision and I'm not willing to take the risk. I am concerned about our future since my husband's three children are just beginning to have babies and it does seem like a reminder of that which I don't have and admittedly causes me to feel resentment and jealousy that I didn't make different choices when I was younger. During the past six months while on the IVF track I was so hopeful that this was the silver lining at the end of a not so good year but I'm starting to accept that life isn't a fairy tale and some things don't work out as we hope. I am so happy to be married to the love of my life for the past 10 years and am definitely not going to leave him to go into debt and do IVF with a sperm donor. My husband takes care of me and loves me in a way I have never experienced in my life, not even from my own mother, it has been very healing to experience his loving, nurturing ways. Unfortunately my husband is not open to adoption, if I pushed him, he would agree to use our entire savings for the IVF as he wants so badly to make me happy but deep down something is holding me back. I married a man with a vasectomy and didn't think I wanted kids at the time or thought I would be ok without them as I love my animals dearly.

    Thank you for your blog so I don't feel so alone as a woman without children and I hope that if I live long enough, I will get to a point where I can embrace the life I have instead of focusing on not experiencing motherhood.

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  2. Anonymous, thank you for sharing this with us. Life gets awfully complicated, doesn't it? And it's a shame that money plays any part in these decisions, but I think you have made the right choice. Your husband sounds like a good guy, like mine was. You are definitely not alone. There are a lot of us, and we're great women. Hang in there.

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  3. I hope to get there one day. I'm still so young (25), and I cannot picture my life without being a mother yet. I love my step kids, but they don't fill the need I feel. My husband tells me when his kids have kids it will be better for me, but I think it will be worse.

    Thank you for this site, and for your book. As someone who is really struggling with that pivotal question “do I love him enough to give this up”, this site has really comforted me.

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  4. I have recently gone from one bad marriage with an infertile man to one older wonderful man who has had the V done and has 2 grown daughters (who currently hate me). I think of how I have been blessed with having come across your blog a few years ago, and how I am still waiting for the library to get your book (that I asked them to last year)
    and how I actually now know what you mean about a good man is hard to come by. But they are so worth the disappointment of not wanting kids.
    Physically i am now not in a position to want kids. I tire so easily and have no energy on a good day. Not to mention the physical pain i am in. To care for a child of almost any age for me now would be a hardship.
    But I am looking forward to a long life with my new partner. He is wonderful and I am grateful for your blog and a few others and books. I wish I had saught them out 7 years ago.

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  5. Dear Anonymous and Jelly Fish, thank you for your kind words. Keep bugging libraries and such to order my book. I could use the sales.
    Anon, you're still very young, and anything could happen. You have zeroed in on the key question: Do I love him enough? Only you can answer that. Jelly Fish has said yes. So did I with my second husband.
    Sometimes step-grandchildren really do help fill the gap. They grow up thinking of you as “Grandma,” and if you embrace the role, it can be a beautiful thing.
    I wish you both all the best. Let us know how things are working out.

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  6. Annonymous (25)
    I just finished re-reading “I'm taking my eggs and going home” by Lisa Manterfield.
    She goes through the whole thing but her husband (his 2nd marriage) was willing to try and for 5 years they tried it all. but still nada.
    Yet the last 2 chapters are very helpful to reach for acceptance.
    Hope it helps.

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  7. Hi Anonymous. Good question. To be honest, I don't have much connection with my stepchildren (all in their late 30s or mid-40s) or step-grandchildren. There's a step-great-granddaughter, but I suspect I will never meet her. I have a cordial Facebook relationship with a couple of them,and I have visited my stepdaughter in California, but not very much. I send cards for Christmas and birthdays. The stepsons don't seem to want anything to do with me. This makes me sad and I feel guilty for not reaching out enough, but it's just too uncomfortable, especially without my husband around to help make the connection.

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  8. Anonymous, I am not going to beat around the bush. I have had 3 miscarriages. While grateful to get preggers at all, devastated at the miscarriages. I married a man 7 yrs my senior with 2 kids. They are 35 and 32. I have 7 grandkids and I can tell you unequivocally it is harder not easier on my heart. Your husband means well but will not be able to get his mind around your loss. I am fairly active in my grandkids lives, keep them overnight, go camping et al but they do not fill the hole in my heart. God bless you.

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  9. Thanks for answering that question about your stepchildren and step-grandchildren. Sorry to hear that, especially because in reading your book, I know that you played a part in raising one of your stepsons.

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  10. Anon, it does hurt not to have that connection. I have not seen my youngest stepson since my husband's funeral, even though I was his live-in mom for a long time. Sometimes you become family and sometimes you don't.

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