Can You Compromise on the Childless Issue?

Sacrifice. Compromise. Surrender.

These words have all become dirty words in our society. Now the key words are happiness, self-fulfillment, and success.

I’m feeling like a cranky old lady today, but hear me out. I listened to a podcast called “We’re not Childless, We’re Childfree” the other day. It’s not our usual bailiwick; most of us here have not chosen to be “childfree.” But I was curious, and honestly, these three women were very entertaining. Childfree by choice, they talked about women they admired who are childless and the way childless women are portrayed in the media (not well). They shared the reasons they don’t want to have children. One prefers her solitude. Another wants to continue her career. The third hates that children are always “sticky.” Overall, they just prefer not to have children.

They are not willing to sacrifice, compromise or surrender their time, money, or bodies to be mothers. They want to be happy, self-fulfilled, and successful. They have the right to choose, and that’s their choice.

What will make me happy, Kathleen Guthrie Woods asks herself in the book I’m reading now, The Mother of All Dilemmas: Dreams of Motherhood and the Internship That Changed Everything. Single and 40, she’s trying to decide whether to get pregnant with donor sperm and become a mom. Seeking answers, she undertakes a two-week “internship” caring for her 15-month-old nephew full-time while his parents go on vacation. She loves it, but she loses most of her “me time.” She struggles to work, barely has time to eat or take a shower. Is motherhood worth it? Is single parenting just too hard? I still have a hundred pages to read. We’ll see what she decides.

Some of you who are wondering whether to leave a childless relationship are asking the same questions. Should you try to become a parent on your own? Kathleen will be making a guest appearance here at the blog soon to help us find some answers.

Here at Childless by Marriage, most of us have a partner, married or not, who plays a big role in whether or not we have children. We need to consider their happiness, self-fulfillment and success as well as our own. Ideally, it works both ways. At church, our pastor Fr. Joseph, who is of course single and childless himself, preaches that relationships require sacrifice, compromise and surrender to succeed. You give up some of what you want to make the other happy, and they do the same.

In the Catholic church, parenthood is not considered optional. Married people are supposed to welcome all the children God gives them. But do they? Not so much. That’s a whole other discussion, but the need for partners to compromise is not just for Catholics. For any relationship to succeed, sacrifices will be made. You want to go out to dinner. He wants to order pizza and watch football. Maybe you order the pizza and agree to eat out tomorrow night. You want to visit your parents at Christmas; he insists on visiting his. Maybe you agree to alternate years. You want to get pregnant. He isn’t ready for a baby. Maybe you . . .

I don’t know. I can see both sides. We’re not saints. We don’t want to be martyrs. Everyone wants to be happy, self-fulfilled and successful. Everyone wants freedom. Everyone wants love. Many of us want children so bad it hurts while our partners see parenthood as a cage coming down over their heads locking them into a life they’re not sure they want. Everyone wants to avoid stickiness and poopy diapers, but sometimes people have to say, “All right, I’ll do this because I love you and I want you to be happy.”

Sacrifice, compromise, surrender. These are not dirty words; they are the keys to having a successful relationship. Without them, the relationship is not going to work.

What do you think? Have I lost my mind? Do you see a possible compromise in your situation? How much are you willing to sacrifice for love or to avoid being alone? Let’s talk about it.

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One thought on “Can You Compromise on the Childless Issue?

  1. Hi Sue. I hope you are feeling better after your injury last week.

    Compromise is about both sides giving a little ground in order to meet the other person halfway. So you agree to do something the other person wants to do, but you do that knowing that you can do what you would prefer at a later date. Or you agree to live in the area that the other person prefers, but you get to choose the size of the house. That kind of thing. If one person always gets their own way regardless of what the other person thinks, that’s a dictatorship.

    I don’t think you can compromise on whether or not you have children. You either have them or you don’t. If you agree to have a family when one person didn’t want that kind of life, well they may come round to the idea in time and may enjoy being a parent. But they may not and may feel deep resentment about being forced into living a life they did not want. They may be a terrible parent and the children then suffer. Or it’s the other way round – you agree not to have a family when one person really wanted that life. We all know how that feels… Either way, one person gets to live the life they wanted and the other doesn’t. One side makes a huge sacrifice so that the other can feel ‘happiness, self-fulfillment, and success’. It’s hard to imagine that that would be the case, though, if the other person is so deeply unhappy after surrendering their dreams. It sounds like the recipe for an ultimately unhappy relationship to me.

    My partner made it clear that he did not want marriage and a family. If I did, then I would have to find someone else to have that life with. I made my decision to leave but could not go through with it as my health failed me at the pivotal moment. Now neither of us has happiness, self-fulfillment or success.

    Like

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