What Would You Change If You Could?

I have been watching a show on Amazon Prime called “Being Erica.” It’s about a young woman who meets this charismatic therapist who makes her write a list of all the things she regrets in her life and then sends her back in time to redo those parts of her life. Most of the time it doesn’t work out the way she thought it would, but it’s always fun to watch.

Erica is 32 years old, single and childless, and not doing well with her career. In the episode I watched last night, she throws a baby shower for her best friend but finds she is clueless about babies, and her friends don’t include her in that part of their lives. She does not get chosen to be godmother, which she really wanted, because she has never been a mom. Her friends think she should be happy being “wacky Aunt Erica.” Sound familiar?

In that same episode, Erica is sent back to her bat mizvah, a Jewish coming-of-age rite. Although she looks 13, she knows she’s 32, single and childless, but nobody else does. Her mother sits her down to talk about her future, which will of course include marriage and children. What if that doesn’t happen, Erica asks. What if I’m 32 and still single without children? Oh, don’t think such terrible thoughts. That will never happen, says her clueless mom. But we know it did. As it did for many of us

Of course, this is part of the stereotype of Jewish mothers, but in my generation, it was really all mothers. Of course you’re going to get married and have children. You might work a while, but your family will be the most important thing in your life.

Then there’s the book I’m reading by a much older woman, Sue William Silverman. In How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, a memoir that takes us back to her early years—more time travel—she has no plan to have children. As for husbands, well, she’s had two so far, and I have quite a few pages left to read. But she never saw herself as the motherly type.

Here are two views of women without children and trips into the past to rethink their choices. So far, neither Erica nor Sue has changed the ultimate outcome for anything, only her attitude about it.

What about you? If Erica’s therapist, Dr. Tom, demanded you write a list of regrets, what would be on it? What would you want to go back and change? What would you do differently? Would it be worth it? Something to think about.

For me, everything I think about changing in my past leads to thoughts of what I would have missed, and I don’t think I want to risk that. How about you?

****

IMPORTANT NOTICE: As I have mentioned before, I’m putting together a “Best of Childless by Marriage” book from the blog. I am including many of your comments, all anonymous or by first names only. Many of you are better writers than I am. If you have any objection to having those comments in a book, both print and online, please let me know at sufalick@gmail.com, and I will remove them. I don’t want this to be an issue later, so please speak up by the end of June. Thank you. 

Childless by Marriage on Prime Time

          In the olden days, babies were a given, but lately sitcom couples don’t always agree on whether they want to procreate. Almost like real life.
         On “Mom,” Jill is in a panic because she is starting to have symptoms of peri-menopause. Of course the hot flashes and mood swings are exaggerated because the show is a comedy. Now that she is sober and has a great boyfriend, she wants to have a baby while she still has time. But she is already 41, so she needs to put a rush on the babymaking. Enter the boyfriend, a truly wonderful teddy bear of a guy. When she surprises him with “I want to have a baby,” he kind of stutters and stumbles and finally tells her he just isn’t ready, that their relationship hasn’t reached the baby-making place yet. Jill, who is unconscionably rich, decides to freeze her eggs. Good idea, says the boyfriend. He isn’t averse to having children someday, just not right now. After hormone shots and more mood swings, the fertility doctor harvests her eggs. None of them are viable. No baby for Jill. Sad ending.
         Switch channels to “The Connors.” There are already plenty of children in that house, but now that Darlene and Ben are getting serious, he wants to have a baby. The thing is, Darlene already has two nearly grown kids from her marriage to David, who left her to take care of them alone. She does not want to start over at this point. Familiar story, right? Ah, but this is a sitcom, so by the end, Darlene gives in, with a caveat. She will have another baby, but if the relationship ends, Ben will be totally responsible for them. Okay, he says. They write and sign a contract to that effect.
         Backtrack to “The Big Bang Theory.” By the end, there are three married couples. Howard and Bernadette have two toddlers. Sheldon and Amy do not have children yet, but they plan to. The situation is different for Penny and Leonard. For years, Penny has told Leonard she does not want to have children. She doesn’t see herself as the mom type. Leonard really wants children, but he says he will give them up for Penny. But as the series finale approaches, aha, somehow she gets pregnant, and she is as happy as he is. Visit those people a decade later, and there will be oodles of nerdy kids.
        At least some shows are touching on the subject these days. You didn’t used to ever hear someone say they didn’t want to have children. Nor did they talk about infertility. All those Disney and Doris Day movies I grew up with ended with the usual marriage and baby carriage. As we know all too well, some people never have children. Some people never marry. Our culture makes us feel like weirdos if we haven’t done both of those things. But it does seem to be slowly changing.
        And maybe those shows, comedies though they are, can spark a conversation that needs to be had.
        Have you seen more of the childless by marriage issue on TV lately? I’d love to hear about some more examples.

With "The Bachelor," you get babies

I was watching “The Bachelor” on TV the other night. Is it just me or has it become sleazier than ever? So why am I watching it? But that’s not why I bring it up. I noticed that every woman there professes not only to love, love, love the hunky bachelor Sean but to want to have babies with him. He has repeatedly said that he is anxious to “start a family.” So it’s all happy, right?

But what if he chooses his dream girl and it turns out they’re infertile? No babies. What if she decides she’d rather keep her perfect bikini body and skip baby-making?

This year, the candidates are a diverse lot. Apparently the producers heard the complaints, so now Sean can pick from a smorgasbord of women who are white, black, Asian, Hispanic and even disabled–one girl was born without a left arm. No fat girls, of course, no one who isn’t beautiful, and no one who is not gung ho about having children. I bet if one of the girls said, “You know, I really don’t want to have children,” old Sean would vote her out in a heartbeat.

But it’s not a realistic situation, is it? It’s the old Cinderella story. She’ll marry Prince Charming and they’ll have beautiful children together. That’s about as real as their big breasts and their claims that they adore this guy they just met when all they really want is to be on TV and maybe get famous.

The night after “The Bachelor,” I watched the second-to-last episode of “Private Practice.” And what did we see? Babies everywhere. Charlotte gave birth to triplets, Addison’s adoption of Henry was finalized, and Amelia announced to the hunky new ER doc that she wants to have his babies. He was fine with that. By the end of that show, I was suffering some serious baby lust which holding the dog did not satisfy.

In the real world, we may be seeing one in five women never having children, but prime time TV rarely reflects that reality.

What do you think?