What Do the Childless and Childfree Have in Common?

A friend who never wanted to have children said the other night that she knew I wrote about childlessness, but that had nothing to do with her because she chose not to have children. But we actually have quite a lot in common, I said. When I started naming some of those things, she responded, “I never thought of that.” 

Let’s think about it today. How do the childfree and the childless differ and what do we have in common? 

The obvious difference is that the “childfree” have chosen not to be parents. Their reasons vary. They want their freedom, they don’t think they’d be good parents, they can’t afford it, they’re giving their all to their career, or they’re doing their part to save the planet from overpopulation. They reject the term “childless” because they don’t feel “less” anything. 

The childless also come to their state in different ways, from infertility to disability to lack of a willing partner. Some spend years trying and failing to give birth. Some agonize over whether to leave their partner and try on their own or with someone new. They grieve the loss of the life they might have had. They dream about having babies and ache when they see families with children. They do feel “less” a great deal.

These two groups sound very different. But there is a gray area. Some of us chose partners we knew would not give us children. Consciously or not, we made a choice. In some cases, we may even come to feel “childfree.”

What do we have in common? More than you might think. 

  • Most of us do not hate children. We may or may not want to be raising them, but we find them lovable and entertaining and don’t mind hanging out with them.
  • We get bombarded with questions and comments, particularly in our fertile years. “When are you going to have children?” “Why don’t you have children?” “You’ll change your mind.” “Who’s going to take care of you in old age?” “You’re not getting any younger.”
  • We find that our old friends are so preoccupied with their children and later their grandchildren that they don’t have time for us. Besides, they have new friends they met at their children’s schools, soccer team, ballet classes, etc., friends with whom they have more in common now. 
  • We have more freedom because our lives are not tied to the school schedule unless we work in the schools. We never need a babysitter, although we may need a pet-sitter.
  • People ask us how many children we have because it doesn’t occur to them we might not have any. 
  • We worry about who will care for us in old age. My friend is in the process of setting up her will and advance directives. Single and childfree, she is not sure whom to entrust with her health-care and financial decisions when she is incapacitated. She has half-siblings whom she does not feel close to. I have a brother I love dearly, and I have given him the power on all my documents, but I know we think differently about some things. Will he do what I want in the end? What happens if he dies first? 
  • We all hate Mother’s Day. 

A few years ago, I attended the NotMom Summit in Cleveland. NotMom founder Karen Malone Wright had the radical idea that women who are not mothers, whether by choice or by chance, could congregate in an atmosphere of mutual love and acceptance. It worked beautifully. By the end, I had made new friends, some of whom never wanted to be moms. I sat with one of these new friends on the plane ride home and we talked all the way back to the West Coast about everything but motherhood. It was a joy, and we are still friends. The fact that we came to be NotMoms in different ways doesn’t matter. 

I don’t want to downplay the horrible pain of infertility or the rudeness of some people who are militantly anti-parenting, but we do have quite a bit in common, whether we’re childless by choice or not. As for those of us who are childless by marriage, aren’t we making a choice not to have children every day we stay with a partner who can’t or doesn’t want to give us children?

Let’s talk about it in the comments. What do the childless and childfree have in common? What is different?

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Your Man’s Extra X Chromosome Can Make You Infertile by Marriage

Way back in 2015, I posted about Klinefelter Syndrome, a condition in which a male baby is born with an extra X chromosome, sometimes more than one extra. That results in a serious shortage of testosterone. In some cases, the issues are obvious, while in other cases, they might not find out they have it until they try to father a child and discover they can’t. 

KS occurs in approximately one in 500 male births. That’s quite a few. Usually males have one X and one Y chromosome. Females have two X’s. That extra X wreaks havoc with the boy’s system. The sexual characteristics that usually come with puberty come late, if at all. They have small testicles, sometimes grow breasts, sometimes have higher voices and don’t grow facial hair. They may seem more feminine than other boys. There are other aspects of the syndrome, such as emotional and cognitive delays, personality problems, weak muscles and a tendency to develop osteoporosis and bad teeth. The symptoms can be treated to a certain extent with high doses of testosterone, but hormone treatment does not restore the ability to produce sperm.

That six-year-old post is still receiving comments. This week, Denise wrote that she and her husband had no idea he had KS until he went in for hernia surgery. The doctor asked if they were planning to have children. When they said yes, he told them it was highly unlikely because the husband had Klinefelter’s. The husband began taking large doses of testosterone to combat the KS. They adopted two kids, but the hormones turned him into such a moody, angry person that their marriage did not survive. 

I had no idea this post would inspire so many comments. KS is tough. I couldn’t say so at the time, but I was in a relationship with a man who had this syndrome. From our first lunch together, I knew he was different. He had never been married, claimed to have never had sex, and he often acted like a child, even though he was a few years old than me. I kept trying to end the relationship, but he claimed he loved me and wouldn’t back off. It was only after a neighbor who often took care of him explained about the KS that I began to understand.

Over the years, my friend often called to chat, tell lame jokes, and ask how I was. We shared meals, watched movies, and played Monopoly together. When my father was dying, this man offered soothing comfort over the phone. I told him honestly that I didn’t feel the same way he felt about me, but I treasured his innocent love, even though he called too often at all hours of day and night and even though I had to tell him he was pushing too hard. 

My friend had persistent heart problems. He had moved into an assisted living facility in a city north of here, but he was always “crying wolf.” One day he’d tell me he was dying; the next day, he’d claim to be absolutely fine. I felt a guilty relief when COVID made it impossible for him to have visitors. Too many times, I had been suckered into rushing to his side only to find out nothing was really wrong. He just wanted to see me. But the last time he told me he was very ill, I should have believed him.

The calls stopped coming before Christmas 2020. I called him repeatedly, but he never answered, and his voicemail was always full. When I phoned the place where he lived, they could only tell me that he didn’t live there anymore. I joined the people asking on his Facebook page: “Where are you? We miss you?” Eventually his sister called me from California to tell me my friend had died of heart disease.  

It is not easy to love a man with Klinefelter Syndrome. Some seem perfectly normal while others have behavioral issues and don’t do well with relationships. They will never father your children. It’s terribly sad, especially when it comes as a surprise. 

My heart goes out to Denise, Jessica, Melissa, and all the women and men dealing with this. I hadn’t expected to write about this today, but clearly there’s a need to talk about it.

Have you had any experience with Klinefelter Syndrome? Would you marry a man who had it? Let’s continue the conversation.  

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When Your Friends Talk Nonstop About Their Kids . . .

In the Jan. 6 episode of the new Sex and the City series on HBO Max, Miranda’s professor, Nya, and her husband have been struggling to have a baby. Their attempts at IVF have failed and they are taking a break. It’s a painful subject. The last thing they want to talk about is babies. But when they go out to dinner with another couple, their friends can’t stop talking about their children. Every time the professor tries to steer the conversation to other subjects, it always comes right back to the kids. It turns out their friends are pregnant with yet another child. More baby talk. This parent couple, totally clueless about what the professor and her husband have been going through, keep bugging them about why they don’t have kids yet and how they won’t know real love until they have them.

At The Childless Life Facebook group recently, a long discussion centered on the problem of not being able to talk to your friends once they have children. Suddenly, former best friends have nothing to say to each other.

Ah, the mom club. Their lives are wrapped around their kids, and yours isn’t, so it becomes difficult to have a conversation about anything else. You feel abandoned and left out. Dads do it, too, but not as much.

I still remember when the moms in the church choir would gather to talk about their kids and school stuff and I was suddenly outside the circle with nothing to do but sort sheet music. Some of these moms are now obsessed with their grandchildren, so it’s still not a good fit, but others have come out of the mommy cloud.

Not long ago, I had a great exchange with a female friend about football. Did you see the game yesterday? How could he have missed that kick? Etc. Yes, girls can talk about football. This friend has children, and she’s about to move away from here to go live with them, but they’re all grown up, and she has plenty else to talk about, especially when her Kansas teams are playing. Maybe the key is just to wait it out. Someday the kids will be gone, and your friends will rediscover that there are other things in the world.

But that’s a long time to wait. Meanwhile, what can you do?

  • You can just try to be interested in your friends’ families and join the conversation as much as you are able, even though you don’t have your own children to talk about. Talk about your nieces and nephews or other kids in your life. Remember your own childhood. Smile. Pet the dog. Excuse yourself to go home early.
  • You can seek out other childless people with whom you share other interests, whether it’s a book club, yoga class, softball team, writers group, or whatever. They might have children, but you have this other thing in common.
  • You can keep trying to direct your parent friends’ attention to things other than babies, to remind them that they need to hold onto the person they were before the little ones took over their lives.

I understand how children can become the main thing parents think and talk about and how they would gravitate toward other parents. I was that way about my puppies when Annie and her brother were small. Annie s still a central concern, and I enjoy a good conversation about dogs. But the best way to be a friend is to take a genuine interest in your friend’s concerns, whether it be babies, cooking, or working out at the gym.

If you’re at the age where most of your friends are having babies, try to be interested in their families, but also insist that they listen to you when you talk about what’s on your mind. Maybe they don’t even realize they’re obsessing until you point it out. Or maybe you’ll need to find other friends until the kids are at least in kindergarten.

How do you deal with friends who can’t talk about anything but their children? Do you have any advice on how to handle it? I welcome your comments.

***

Good news. The pathology report on my dog Annie’s tumor said she does not have cancer. It’s a bloody ugly thing and we’re still dealing with the big collar, but after the vet cuts out the tumor, we should be able to go on with our lives. Thank you for all your loving comments of concern last week.

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Old photos show the family life I could have had

Back in the 80s being “Grandma Sue” with Stephanie while baby Brandon snoozes. What are we looking at? I don’t remember.

You know how you move one thing in the house and then you have to move something else to make room for it, and pretty soon you have all this stuff that needs a new home and then you sit down in the middle of the mess to sort through old photos? Yeah. That’s what I was doing last night.  

I’m trying to thin out my possessions, so there was a point in sorting through packets of photos from the 70, 80s, and 90s that I never put into albums. They were all pre-digital, taken with cameras that used film.

I was rearranging my stuff because I didn’t feel like writing. I didn’t feel like doing anything. I got some bad news from the vet the other day about Annie–that bump on her butt isn’t just a bump. It’s cancer, and there’s a problem with her heart, too.

We don’t have a lot of details yet, but I have been in near-constant caregiver mode with this dog since she almost died right after Christmas 2020, and now it’s getting bad again. As she wanders around with the big e-collar, running into everything and leaving blood wherever she sits, she interrupts my sleep, my meals, and my work. Crash, boom, Mom! Oh, wait, I’m not her mom, but I do call myself that. Don’t tell anyone. So, there’s that, and I’ve had a cold, and the weather here has been one disaster after another. We have had floods, snow, landslides, hurricane-force winds, and now there’s another flood watch. I’m ready to get in my car and drive to Arizona. 

Back to the old photos. I found quite a few that I could throw away, bland scenery shots, an endless stream of ocean photos, flowers, somebody’s cat. When I took them, I thought they were artistic, but the ones I want to keep are the ones with people in them, especially family. I had a family once upon a time. I had my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, my brother and his wife and kids, and my husband, his parents, his kids and his grandkids. For a while, they were my kids and grandkids, too. The difference between me and friends my age is that their family photos go on as the babies keep coming while mine stopped around the time I switched to digital photos.

What happened? People died, lots of people died. But also, we moved to Oregon, 700 miles away from all but one of Fred’s kids. Plus, my sweet husband put out zero effort to keep in touch. It was always me saying, “Hey, it’s Michael’s birthday. We should call him.” or “Hey, what shall we get the grandkids for Christmas?” Beyond things like gifts and cards, I didn’t know how to go about getting close to the step-family. But I look at these photos of these gorgeous human beings and I remember days when I thanked Fred for giving me a family. If we hadn’t moved to Oregon, if we had tried harder, would they still be in my life now that he is gone? Maybe. Maybe not. I feel like I flunked step-parenting.

When you have your own children, the connection is made by biology. Even if you don’t get along, they are always your children. As the older generation passes on to the next life, there’s another group of young people coming up to fill the hole they leave behind. A person my age shouldn’t be sitting on the hearth looking at old pictures with no one for company but a deaf dog with a cone on her head.

Did I make two huge mistakes in my life, committing to a life without children of my own and moving away from the family I had, or is this the way it was meant to be? Life in Oregon has been good. I have had experiences and made friends I wouldn’t have had if we had stayed in San Jose doing the same things forever. We make choices, and then we have to live with them.

I had fun looking at the pictures. I see in the old ones that I was pretty in my 20s, 30s and even 40s–and a lot skinnier. I need to go on a diet! But I’m glad I have these photos, every one of them attached to a memory, a time I enjoyed with our combined families. It just ended too soon.

Working as a reporter at the Milpitas Post in California in the 1970s

What will happen to these pictures when I die? They’ll probably end up in a dumpster, but I have them to enjoy now, and that matters. 

You know that old Crosby, Stills & Nash song “Love the One You’re With?” Maybe that’s the key. Whatever family you have around, in-laws, stepchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins, friends, whatever, treasure them. Love them. They will not be perfect. But they’re yours, at least for now. As you go into a new year, think about what you always wanted to be when you grew up. Was it a mom or dad or was that just an assumed detour from what you really wanted? What photos do you want to be looking at when you’re looking 70 in the face like me?

BTW, I love this photo of me at one of my first newspaper jobs. I was HAPPY. Perhaps that was a clue to where I was headed all along. I loved mothering my dolls when I was a kid, but my Barbie was always going to be a writer or a singer. I never considered making her a mom. Go figure.  

Happy New Year. Forgive me for being a little nuts. As always, your comments are welcome.  

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Childless by Marriage looks ahead to 2022

What a year. Fires, floods, tornadoes, Trump fans storming the capital, racial unrest, pulling out of Afghani, new anti-abortion laws, and COVID. Didn’t we all think the pandemic would be over a year ago? At least we have vaccines now, but it’s far from gone. Crazy times. My yard is full of snow–and I live at the beach. Crazy!

Meanwhile, we are still here talking about being childless by marriage. Can you believe this is post number 779? What could possibly be left to talk about? But there’s always more because the fact that we don’t have children colors every aspect of our lives. 

My older friends all seem to be moving away to be near their kids. I can’t do that. If I am suddenly incapacitated, who will be here to talk to the doctors, pay the bills and bring all those little necessities you might need in the hospital or, God forbid, a nursing home? Who will take care of my dog? One of my friends who has a grown son she really can’t count on just keeps saying she needs to keep exercising and eating healthy foods so she can continue to take care of herself. But we both know we need to get some safeguards in place. Make that my resolution for 2022. Make a plan. 

You are probably much younger and in a completely different situation. Are you still trying to figure out whether or not you will have children, whether you dare ask your reluctant partner one more time or seek one more medical intervention? Are you watching your friends become parents and feeling jealous, angry, sad, or left out? What are you going to do? Maybe you need a plan, too. Look at your day-to-day life, just one regular day. Is it good? Would it be okay without children for all the rest of your days or is the thought unbearable? No one should have to make this choice, but that’s how it is.

If your partner is unwilling, the trick is to find out whether this is a firm and forever no or just temporary anxiety about having a baby. Talk about it. Don’t let it fester. And, dear ones, some people will never change their minds. You can accept their decision or move on. 

Speaking of accepting childlessness or moving on, the book Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both has been out for a year now. It’s a collection of posts from this blog up to 2020. All the subjects are covered, from how one becomes childless by marriage to dealing with snarky comments to facing old age without kids. If you haven’t got your copy, order one, Kindle or paperback, from Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. It’s not very expensive. If you send proof of purchase to me at suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, I will send you a free paperback copy of Childless by Marriage, the book that came first. Free!

New U.S. census results have been published. A couple statistics for you:

  •  In 2021, 34 percent of adults age 15 and over had never been married, up from 23 percent in 1950. Estimated median age for first marriages was 30.4 for men and 28.6 for women, up from ages 23.7 and 20.5 respectively, in 1947. 
  • Of women ages 15 to 50 years old, among married women, 17.5 were childless. Among never married women, 75.8 never had children. That’s a lot of non-moms.

Finally, there’s a great article on the development of fertility treatments, written by the first IVF baby in the United States, in the current issue of the AARP magazine. Borrow a copy from your parents or grandparents or read it online here. First Infant Born Via IVF Turns 40 (aarp.org)

Your comments are not just welcome, but cherished.

May your 2022 be filled with blessings. Happy New Year!

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Let’s Go Into Christmas with Grateful Hearts

Dear friends,

It’s almost Christmas. I know this is a tough time for people who are grieving the loss of the children they might have had. We also miss those who have passed away. I know I would give anything for another hug from my husband or to hear my mother laugh again. But we have to accept things as they are right now, today.

Look around you and see all the good things you do have: your health, your home, the wonderful people in your life, good food, and this beautiful earth on which we live. Just now, I looked out my window and saw wild birds having a party. Bright blue Stellar’s jays, brown-and-orange varied thrushes, and black-hooded Oregon juncos grazed on the lawn while a purple-breasted swallow swooped across the sky. A hint of blue showed through the clouds, and my Sitka spruce stood tall and strong despite decades of harsh wind, rain and frost. The winter solstice has passed, and we will be getting more daylight every day. There is much to be grateful for.

Yes, we are surrounded by people who have children when we don’t. It’s easy to resent them. Don’t. Love them, and love their children. Be glad they are here. If you are meant to be a parent, you will, but meanwhile, don’t blind yourself to everything good in this season of light and joy.

I wrote the words above ten years ago, in December 2011, but they are still true.

One year ago, I pondered whether Joseph was childless by marriage because Mary already had a child fathered by the Holy Spirit and, at least in the Catholic version, they didn’t have any kids together, or whether Jesus couldn’t be a dad because he was God and had other plans. I must have been hitting the eggnog. But it’s something to ponder. Click here to read the whole post.

I was also talking about COVID. Who knew we would still be wearing masks and worrying about the virus? Are you staying home again this year because of the extra-contagious Omicron variant? I hope you stay well and that if the virus does hit you, it comes and goes quickly.

I mentioned that I had just had an online chat with the Childless Elderwomen/aka Nomo Crones, hosted by UK childlessness guru Jody Day. We have been Zooming for over a year now, and we met again yesterday (today in Australia time). It was an amazing talk that started with the topic “Spiritual Malnutrition” and took many fascinating turns. You can watch the video here. [Side note: bangs or no bangs???] One of the things we agreed on was that we older women would like to be available to help younger people who are in the throes of their childless dilemma. Check out Jody Day’s Gateway Women site for ways to network with other childless women.

The book Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both, had just come out. Read about the book here. https://childlessbymarriageblog.com/2020/12/09/announcing-love-or-children-when-you-cant-have-both/ The book is made up of posts from this very blog with some added introductions from me. So, in a way, it’s your book, too. Grab a copy here.

They’re talking about snow here on the Oregon coast. It would be a nice change from floods and mud. Wherever you are and whatever the weather, Merry Christmas, and may God bless you all.
Hugs,
Sue

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Duck and Cover! It’s Christmastime Again

Photo by Goochie Poochie Grooming on Pexels.com

Christmas is 10 days away. Yikes. Are you ready? I’ve mailed my gifts, sent my Christmas cards, and decorated the house. Now all I need to do is bake cookies and buy eggnog . . . oh wait. I don’t expect any company, so I don’t have to do that. I just have to figure out where I’ll be and with whom when I’m not singing and playing music at church.

Last Christmas, my friend Pat and I ordered a full meal from a local restaurant and spent the day together at my house. The food was so-so, but we had fun opening all the little packets and trying to figure out what everything was. Gravy? Ranch dressing? Um, some kind of vegetable? Bread pudding? No, that’s chocolate mousse. Maybe.

The day went south when my dog Annie suddenly started vomiting and couldn’t stand up. She was very ill, and I wound up driving 50 miles of mountain roads through wind and rain to the veterinary hospital in Corvallis, then sitting in my car for hours because pet owners were not allowed inside due to COVID. Not fun.

Annie spent two weeks in the hospital with Vestibular Disease, and it’s a miracle she recovered. I have asked her to please stay well this Christmas. She says she’ll try, but she’s almost 98 in people years, so no guarantees.

But back to my Christmas plans. Pat has moved to California to be near her kids. So many of my friends have done the same thing, so they won’t be alone in their old age. It makes sense. But I have no kids to move close to. If they can, my friends who are parents will spend the holidays with their children and grandchildren. Those of us without offspring can’t do that, but we do have many other choices: Celebrate with friends. Go to a restaurant. Stay home and binge-watch your favorite show. Go for a hike. Climb a mountain. Stay in bed. Do a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Many of you are younger than me. You may spend Christmas with your parents and your siblings. And their kids. I remember those days. When I was married to my first husband, we had to visit my parents, his parents, his sister’s in-laws, and my aunt and uncle, all in the two days of Christmas Eve and Christmas. Wherever we went, we got scolded for being late. And yes, we had to watch other people’s kids open their presents while their parents asked us when we were going to start our own family. It was crazy. But I did get a lot of presents.

It’s 2021. COVID is still here. People are gathering again but cautiously, hoping their vaccine shots will protect them. My suggestions for Christmas are the same as they are for every year. If it’s going to be horrible, don’t do the usual things, or at least be honest about why they make you feel bad. No sulking in silence. Especially be honest with your partner, who may be the reason you’re the only one without children. Try to enjoy the good parts, the hugs, food, decorations, music, and love. Many of us have been apart too long during this pandemic, so rejoice if you can be together.

Here’s a thought. I know a childless woman who takes her little dog everywhere. If it will make you feel better—and if your dog is reasonably well-behaved—take the dog. The dog will be a diversion. When things get tense, take your puppy for a walk.

Christmas is an important day for Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus, but if that’s not your jam, do whatever you want. It will all be over on Dec. 26. You can be grateful that you won’t have to listen to a child’s annoying new game that dings or sings or quacks incessantly.

At some point between Christmas Eve and Dec. 26, I will probably cry because Christmas is not what it used to be when my husband and parents were alive, and it’s not what it could be if I had children and grandchildren. It’s okay to grieve our losses. If you need to weep, let the tears fall. Then move on. Find the Christmas fudge and enjoy every bite.

Your presence here is a gift to me. Please share how you’re doing this Christmas, if you do Christmas. Tell us about the good parts and the parts that make you crazy. You have a sympathetic audience here.  

Big holiday hug,

Sue

*******************

The Nomo Crones aka childless elderwomen are having another Zoom chat on Dec. 21. The topic is “Spiritual Malnutrition.” I’m not on the panel this time to make room for some new members, but I’ll be listening and commenting in the chat. I guarantee a good time. For information and what time it’s happening where you live, click bit.ly/gw-solstice.

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Workplace Conflicts Up, Birth Rates Down, More Holiday Survival Tips

Today’s post is a shiny gift bag full of interesting events and posts in the childless community.

1) On the Childless by Marriage Facebook page, I recently shared a post that riled some readers. Let’s see what you think.

“This Mom Ran Out Of Vacation Days, Asked Her Kid-Free Coworker To Give Her Some, And Now The Co-Worker Is Asking If She’s An A**hole For Saying No”

Before you go crazy, you should know that the mom used up her paid time off dealing with her brother’s death and her daughter’s illness. I don’t know why the company didn’t offer some kind of bereavement leave. I mean, she lost her brother. But should she expect a co-worker to give up her paid time off because she doesn’t have children and presumably doesn’t need those days as much as someone with kids? If you read past the annoying ads to the end of the story, you’ll see that her co-workers came up with a pretty good solution.

But what do you think? Have you ever been asked to sacrifice your time off because a co-worker with kids needed a break? What is or would be your reaction? Does your employer have policies to deal with these situations? All of us have times when we need to take off to deal with family emergencies or our own needs, not to mention needing a vacation now and then. How can companies make it fair?

2) A recent Pew Survey found that 44% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49 who aren’t parents say it is not too likely or not at all likely that they will have children—an increase of 7 percentage points from 2018. That’s a big percentage. You might want to read this axios piece for the details, but here are some highlights.

  • 19.6 percent of Americans between 55 and 64 reported being childless, compared to 15.9 percent of those 65-74 and 10.98 percent of those over 75.
  • There are more dogs than children in San Francisco.
  • Fears about the environment and the general state of the world are seriously impacting fertility rates.

A related article, “Poll: More Americans Don’t Plan on Having Kids,” looks at the reasons people stated for not having children. A surprising 56 percent said they “just didn’t want to.” Here are their other reasons:

  • Medical reasons: 19%
  • Financial reasons: 17%
  • Don’t have a partner: 15%
  • Age or partner’s age: 10%
  • State of the world: 9%
  • Environmental reasons: 5%
  • Partner doesn’t want kids: 2%

What would you or your partner say to this question?

3) I heard a great podcast last week. “Single, Childless, and/or Struggling? 10 Tips for Surviving the Holidays,” offered at the Sara Avant Stover podcast, gives some great suggestions. It’s only 20 minutes. Give it a listen.

Have I given you too much this week? Maybe I have. It’s almost Christmas. I’m feeling generous. As always, I welcome your comments. Feel free to be as opinionated as you please. And if you want to write something longer than a paragraph, how about submitting a guest post for the blog?

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It’s Okay to Enjoy Other People’s Kids During the Holidays

Hanging out with cousin Francis and the offspring of my cousins Rob and Candace.

Dear friends,

I survived Thanksgiving. 1636 miles of driving. Four different motels. Some much-needed hugs and talks with loved ones, too much good food, and getting reacquainted with my niece, nephew, cousins, and six children ranging from five months to six years old, and two dogs. Exhausting but also wonderful. Three of the little ones were my brother’s grandchildren. The other three belong to my cousin. Thanks to Covid, the kids hadn’t seen me in two years. They weren’t quite sure who I was at first, but we worked that out. I have precious memories of playing in the sandbox, making pretend meals, snuggling, and talking. So sweet. So fun. So loud and messy. 🙂 And no, I didn’t feel bad about not having children. Maybe it’s my age, but I was able to just enjoy the children for the magical beings they are. 

Being an aunt rocks. I hope I don’t have to stay away so long next time. One of the little cousins has been video-chatting with me on Facebook messenger. It’s so fun to see her gap-toothed smile on the screen. I think I need to do more online visits. Aunt Sue is tired of driving. 

Will they come to Oregon to visit me? Maybe, maybe not. Young families are not as portable as single adults like me. Watching their struggles for a few days has opened my eyes to the challenges of parenthood that come between the cute baby phase and sending them off to college. I need to make the effort because they just don’t have the time or the energy right now. That may be true in your family, too. 

Only now that I’m back at home do I feel lonely and miss the company and the commotion. If you are finding the holidays very painful right now, believe me when I say that they will become easier as you pass menopause and move on to other possibilities. 

So, tell me. How did your Thanksgiving go? Are there things you did this year that you will not do next year? Did you try my suggestions from last week about speaking up when people say stupid things about you not having children? Please share in the comments. Thanksgiving was just the warmup. Hanukkah is happening now, and Christmas is coming at us like a runaway stagecoach. We need all the support we can get.

Hugs from Aunt Sue 

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Don’t Let the Holidays Get You Down This Year

Thanksgiving is upon us again. Maybe, like me, you have already left home and are among the people with whom you’re going to celebrate the holiday. Maybe, like me, you will be seeing people you haven’t seen since the pandemic started. Now, masked and vaccinated, you’re hoping it’s safe, at least from Covid-19.

You may already be facing the questions from friends and family that drive you crazy. “Hey, when are you going to have kids? “Don’t you want to have kids?” “I want to be a grandmother. Where are my grandkids?” “You’re looking a little chubby. Are you pregnant?”

You could spend the whole holiday sulking. But don’t. I hope we have learned something in our time of isolation. My prescription for this year is to be honest. Don’t just think it; say it. Don’t mutter to yourself or your partner. Tell people how you feel. “Mom, those questions really hurt.” “We are trying.” “No, we haven’t decided yet.” “My partner does not want to have children, and I have decided to support him in that.” “We’re having trouble getting pregnant.” “I just don’t want to talk about it.” “Please don’t say things like that; it hurts.” “It’s hard for me to be around your kids when I may never have any of my own.” Tell the truth. If people don’t take it well, that’s their problem. If they love you, they will do their best to understand and support you. Maybe next time someone says something hurtful, a family member will say, “Hey, get off her back. She’s working on it.”

There’s always the option to skip the turkey fest and go eat burritos somewhere nobody knows you. Or stay home and watch Netflix. But why miss the good parts of the holiday? I know there are things you are thankful for. If you get to hang out with other people’s kids, enjoy them. If you like pumpkin pie, enjoy the pie.

Don’t silently fume and go cry in the bathroom. Share your burden. it will be lighter if you do.

I dictated this post while driving south on I-5 in California. I know there will be less than perfect moments. My niece’s kids haven’t seen me in so long they won’t know who I am. But I’ll just have to get to know them because they are magical little people.

If you are grieving, think about a woman at my church who has suffered many losses, including the death of a daughter and the loss of her eyesight. She allows herself to cry for five minutes a day, then says, “Shirley, get on with it,” and moves on. Take your five minutes, then let it go for a while.

I am thankful for you. Last week when I was falling apart, you were on my side. Together, we can do this.

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