Love or Children: the Flip Side of the Story

Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both is the title of my new book which came out Dec. 7. In my mind, this book, based on the Childless by Marriage blog, is totally about being childless because your partner is unable or unwilling. If you insist on having babies, you will have to leave and find someone else. It’s one or the other; you can’t have both.

But when a friend who has children saw the title and said, “I need that book,” I realized a whole other set of people might be looking here for answers they may not find. What if you were the one who had children? What if you were a single parent? Would that make it difficult to date or remarry? That’s not the subject of this blog, but a lot of us have dated or married single parents. Suddenly our relationship is complicated with babysitters, custody arrangements, a lack of privacy, child support payments, and the growing awareness that those kids will always come first in the parent’s heart. The kids may be resentful of any potential mother or father substitute or so eager for a new mommy or daddy that it’s all a bit overwhelming. You may like the person you’re dating, but that’s a lot of baggage to take on.

When the woman says, “I have two kids,” does the guy say, “Oh, great. I love kids,” or “Whoa, that’s a deal breaker”? When the guy says, “I have three kids and they’re with me this weekend,” do you get excited or nervous? Is your new girlfriend or boyfriend terrified their kids will scare you away?

In the few cases I dated men with children, they did not have custody, so it was a little easier to deal with. In one case, I got along better with my boyfriend’s sons than I did with my boyfriend. With Fred’s kids, it was easy with Michael, the youngest, but the teenagers came with massive chips on their shoulders. I wanted so bad to be a mom, but it never got as warm and fuzzy as I wanted it to. Would I rather Fred didn’t have children at all? Well, then I’d wonder why not. At his age, don’t most men have children?  

Since I’ve been a widow, I have thought about what it would be like to remarry. The man would probably have children and grandchildren, and they might not accept me at all. I certainly wouldn’t replace “Mom” or “Nana.” If they loved me, how wonderful, but I fear I’d be coming in way too late for that.

What about leaving a childless relationship to have children on your own, via sperm donor, adoption, or another relationship? If you have these kids by yourself, will that sour your chances for love later on? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’d love to hear what you think about this.

The book Love or Children is not a dating guide for single parents. There are other books on that subject. But it is interesting to look at the flip side of the childless by marriage equation. What if you were the one with the kids? Many of us have married people with children from previous relationships. In the early days, was that an attraction or a potential problem? Did you foresee the existence of those children preventing you from having your own? Would you rather they did not have kids? You’re anonymous here; you can be honest.

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Annie Update:

My sweet Annie, whom I wrote about on both my blogs last week (read my posts here and here), is home. After two weeks in the veterinary hospital when she was unable to stand or walk on her own, she’s up and driving me crazy. She’s still a bit wobbly, but getting stronger every day. I hopeful she’ll be back to normal in another week. I really didn’t know whether she would survive. I’m so grateful. Thank you all for your loving comments and prayers.

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Next week, I’m going to be interviewed for the UnRipe podcast for childless and childfree women. Click here to check out some of the previous episodes. Host Jo Vraca is in Australia, but we’re recording at a civilized 6 p.m. Oregon time next Tuesday. as soon as I find out, I will let you know where and when you can hear it. The most recent episode, “Four Childless Women Walk into a Bar,” offers a wonderful discussion from varying points of view, including having a partner who doesn’t want kids, having trouble conceiving, and simply waiting too late.

5 thoughts on “Love or Children: the Flip Side of the Story

  1. Yay for Annie and her return home. ENJOY!

    Now for the question at hand. I would not leave my marriage to have children on my own. For better or worse, we’re in this together. Our situation is mutually agreed upon. After everything we’ve been through, based on what we think we’re capable of, we’ve sort of accepted that we’re living the life God wants for us. Even if it’s sometimes sad. Bottom line, I want my marriage. I want HIM as my family more than the pull to have a child.

    Now, if he passes away and I’m on my own? I would not use medical intervention to have a child at my age. Aside from personal opinions on the matter, I do not have the funds to pull something like this off nor am I interested in being a single mother. Would I adopt or foster? Probably not. I’m a bit of a loner. It would have to be a special child, special situation or a special nudge from God to point me in that direction.

    Another relationship? Maybe. I’m young enough that I could slide in as a mom figure to kids of various ages. But, I don’t know if I have the personality to deal with the challenges of that role. I’m not assertive enough to be an authority figure with young children. I’m too passive to succeed with surly teens. I’d probably become a glorified “maid with benefits” to some lucky man. Not a good career path for me.

    If I had to guess, I’d probably be drawn to an older man with grown children, ones who wouldn’t care if I was around or not. We’d probably get a dog. I’d probably still expect to rely on my brother’s children to get me through my old age. I’d count on my friends to keep me happy and I’d continue to make more as the years go by. Of all ages. Maybe even a few children as friends. But I won’t be a mother. Maybe I just don’t need to be.

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  2. When I was single, I would never have started a relationship with a man who already had children. I would not even have gone out on a date with him if I’d known. If I’d found out on the first date, then there wouldn’t have been a second date. My life has been blighted by my parents’ divorce when I was seven and the subsequent acquisition of a toxic stepmother. It still affects me to this day and I’m 45.

    There is no way I would have imposed myself on his children. And there is no way I would have wanted to play second fiddle to his children and found that my own needs and desires were never met. Basically, I would not have respected a man who did not put his children first and yet I would not have respected a man who did not put me or our relationship first. It’s a no-win situation and I would never have gone there. So yes, for me it absolutely would have been a deal breaker. And that’s before I even considered whether or not he would have wanted to have a family with me.

    I’m so pleased to hear that sweet little Annie is home and is doing well. I’m sorry I’ve not commented on any of your posts since before Christmas. I read all the posts and each time I wanted to respond but I get so overwhelmed with the preparation and have no time or energy left for anything else on top. As a childless and disabled person, I’m so glad that the Christmas torture is over for another year.

    I wish you and Annie a healthy new year, dear Sue.

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    • Jo, thank you for this comment. This is what I was getting at with my post. It really is a no-win situation when you hook up with someone who already has kids–most of the time. For a lucky few, the stepparent situation works well, but for the rest of us, not so much.
      Annie is feeling a little wimpy today. I think we did too much yesterday. But we’re awfully glad to be together again.
      And yes, it’s great that Christmas is over.

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  3. What a great topic. I married young so this never came up for me . The idea seems so complex and each case so different from the next. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d fallen for someone with kids. Thank you for writing about it.

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